Midway through the third quarter Sunday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles held a two-score lead on the Dallas Cowboys defense for the first time since Week 1, linebacker Micah Parsons drew a rare unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert after a near-interception on quarterback Jalen Hurts.
A punting situation turned into an automatic first down for Philadelphia.
It was just that kind of night for Parsons and the Cowboys (4-2), whose four-game win streak was snapped by a 26-17 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
"It's just passion of the game. You play the game with passion, you play it with heart, and sometimes you might overdo it," Parsons said. "Football's a game of a talk trash and hitting people. And I thought it (the flag) was a little bit late, but I've got to be accountable for that and not give up the first down for my team."
The penalty sort of embodied the defense's entire night -- "frustrating," Parsons said -- in trying to slow the Eagles' unique, run-pass-option based offense.
Hurts, an early MVP candidate for the NFL's only remaining undefeated team (6-0), posted only 182 total yards but threw two touchdown passes, and the Eagles' fifth-ranked run game piled up 136 yards on the ground from four different rushers.
The Cowboys defense had productive moments. They sacked Hurts four times Sunday and pitched a scoreless third quarter as the Cowboys offense posted 14 unanswered points to cut the Eagles' lead to three early in the fourth quarter.
But Philadelphia answered with a methodical 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive -- featuring 11 runs for 67 yards -- that put the game away in the final minutes.
The Eagles got five first downs on that series alone. Their 22 total first downs tied a season high against the Cowboys, who hadn't given up more than 19 points or one touchdown in their first five games.
"A lot of highs and lows," Parsons said. "It's just more frustrating because I really feel like we beat ourselves, and you play back on the mistakes that I made and some other guys might have made and just know we could play a much cleaner football game. That's the frustrating part.
"We just told ourselves, and I told them, 'We're too good to beat ourselves and we're too good to try to make a play.' The play is going to come to us. We're too good. We've just got to win our one-on-ones. And sometimes in games like this we tend to try to do more just to make that splash play or something like that. We've just all got to take accountability, watch this film and get better from it."
The Eagles' RPO attack has been a puzzle for every opposing defense this season, and while the Cowboys got four sacks Sunday, the threat of the run did appear to slow their vaunted pass rush in certain situations. Both of Hurts' touchdown passes stemmed from RPO looks.
Parsons entered the game tied for the league lead in sacks (6.0) but did not record one Sunday. He was credited with seven tackles (one for loss) and two pass breakups while alternating between edge rusher and linebacker.
"Yeah, if you look at the game and watch the film, there wasn't a lot of rush opportunities. It was more everything was RPO," Parsons said. "I think they did a great job (with) scheme. They executed better than us today."
First-half turnovers didn't help the defense's circumstances. The Eagles jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter. They got 13 points on drives that began in Cowboys territory -- the result of two Cooper Rush interceptions and a failed fourth-down play from their own 34-yard line.
All that said, Parsons said the defense could have done more to help the offense.
"We have to do better for them. I felt like we let them down today," he said. "It's weighing on me heavy because the type of pride I hold for this defense, the type of standard that I hold for us, it hurts a lot to lose this type of game."
The defense entered Sunday as arguably the league's best unit, ranked in the top three in points allowed, sacks and red zone defense.
Parsons is confident they'll continue improve in the weeks ahead. And they'll get another crack at the Eagles at home on Christmas Eve.
"Really looking forward to it. We're going to get better from this," Parsons said. "The things that we did, our mistakes, we're going to learn from them, and we've got a long way to go but you don't win championships in six games. We've got a long road."