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Offseason | 2024

Mick Shots: Micah gets some Love at Super Bowl


FRISCO, Texas – This should come as no surprise. Not as if some shocking revelation to those of us watching the 2023 Dallas Cowboys.

Because as reminded for probably the 50th time – at least – the Cowboys' overall run defense was severely lacking, especially against those teams with winning records. Because –again – in all six of the Cowboys losses, the five in the regular season, though still allowing the Cowboys to claim the NFC East title for the second time in three years under head coach Mike McCarthy, and the utterly painful one in the wild-card round of the playoffs, 48-32 to the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys defense gave up at least 109 yards rushing.

Why, they finished 16th against the run, rather mediocre, its meaning of "only ordinary or moderate quality." Not bad, then again not good.

And that lack of quality spread into that playoff loss to Green Bay, the Packers rushing for 143 yards and three touchdowns, lead back Aaron Jones carrying the ball 21 times for a playoff career-high 121 yards, a robust 5.6 yards-per-carry average. And all three of his touchdowns (3, 1, 9 yards), tying the NFL all-time record for rushing touchdowns in a road playoff game, in a wild-card round game and Packers' single-game playoff record. Those 143 yards were but the fourth most in the 18 games the Cowboys played in the 2023 season. Let that sink in.

So give Cowboys lionbacker/defensive end Micah Parsons credit for having the nerve last week on his The Edge with Micah Parsons podcast on radio row from Super Bowl LVIII to ask guest Jordan Love, he the Packers quarterback who engineered that playoff dagger of a loss, what the Packers did to win the game.

Credit to Love for not immediately pointing out how he completed 16 of only 21 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns (from 20, 38 and 3 yards) to finish with a 157.2 QB rating, just 1.1 points from perfect. All including seven completions for at least 20 yards, with highs of 46, 39, the 38 and 26. He averaged a Green Bay playoff record of 13 yards per attempt. And let's remember that would be more than Bart Starr, Lynn Dickey, Brett Favre and, uh, Aaron Rodgers.

That likely would have been for a guest quite unpolite to take all the credit. Instead, he very courteously said this:

"The key for us going into the game was we needed to run the ball," Love said. "That was a huge thing. Obviously, we played you all the year before, and I feel like we ran the ball pretty well."

No kidding, in the Packers' 31-28 overtime victory during the 2022 season at Lambeau Field, Jones on 24 carries went for 138 of the Packers 159 yards rushing, along with a 12-yard rushing touchdown.

"Just going against you all," Love continued, "I'm not trying to talk, but your linebackers (in the playoff game), I think you had a defensive back playing linebacker (Markquese Bell, converted out of necessity from safety to linebacker). That was our goal, to run the ball. That was going to set everything else up."

Sure did.

Put this No. 1 on new/old defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's to do list.

  • Super Defense: There had been so much attention entering the playoffs paid to the Kansas City Chiefs' 11-6 regular season record and their 4-5 finish to the season that their defensive performance had been overlooked. The Chiefs finished ranked No. 2 in both total defense and scoring defense. Look inside those rankings provides this, too. In 13 of their 17 regular-season games the Chefs yielded no more than 20 points and only two games giving up more than 21 points, a 27-19 loss to Green Bay and a 24-9 loss to Denver. And then this: After giving up an average of 17.3 points a game during the regular season, they gave up just 15.7 in their four playoff games, the 22 to San Francisco needing overtime to establish the high. Conversely, the Cowboys gave up at least 28 points in five of their six losses, the lone exception the 22 in the loss to Miami (22-20).
  • Be Like Mike: This was pretty prescient on Michael Irvin's part during the NFL Network's Super Bowl pregame show. When asked for an MVP candidate, and he took some grief for this, picking Niners wide receiver Jauan Jennings after catching just 19 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown during the season. Michael figured the Chiefs defense would concentrate on stopping Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.  Well, Jennings had the game of his career, finishing with four catches for 42 yards, one 10-yard touchdown reception and on a trick play, catching a backward pass from quarterback Brock Purdy, then throwing a screen pass all the way back across the field to running back Christian McCaffrey that turned into a 21-yard touchdown. If only the Niners had won. Even so, Jennings became the first wide receiver in 58 Super Bowls to catch a touchdown pass and throw a touchdown pass, and the first overall to do so since Philadelphia's Nick Foles. Also, he was only the sixth non-quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. Remember, one of those six is the late Cowboys running back Robert Newhouse in Super Bowl XII against Denver in the Cowboys' 27-10 victory, a 29-yarder to Golden Richards.
  • Work To Do: While Cowboys recently named new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has only been on the job for two days, he and head coach Mike McCarthy have work to do repairing a depleted Cowboys defensive staff. They must replace secondary/defensive pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr., who went to Washington with Dan Quinn, defensive line coach Aden Durde, on to Seattle as new head coach Mike Macdonald's defensive coordinator, and defensive assistant Sharrif Floyd, also going to Washington with Quinn. According to McCarthy, they're in the process of filling those positions and that there is "no timeline" to complete the staff.
  • Super Leftovers: Another Chiefs stat forgotten: Since four of their losses were by the scores of 21-20, 21-17, 20-17 and 20-14, they lost four of their six games by a grand total of 14 points …. Did you catch Andy Reid on one of the postgame TV shows? Being interviewed with his wife alongside, he extolled her virtues of being a coach's wife, saying, "Yeah, she had five kids, and it ruined my body." … And while there was a delay in getting Zimmer signed to his contract after Jerry Jones said during his red carpet interview he had been talking to the Cowboys new defensive coordinator all day Thursday, it wasn't because they were having second thoughts after talking with Rex Ryan about the job. It was for two reasons: The contract had yet to be batted out, and as Zimmer said during Wednesday's media conference, his daughter living with him got sick for three days and then he was under the weather, too.

Last word or at least the last story goes to Dave Campo, recalling the end of the Cowboys' 27-17 victory over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX, Camps' first year as the Cowboys defensive coordinator and Zimmer's second year with the Cowboys but first year as the defensive backs coach. Campo is in the coaches box and Zimmer is on the sideline.

"You know, that game we were standing on one leg," Campo begins. "It was a tough ball game, and after that onside kick it was a struggle because (the Steelers) had just gone on a long drive for a field goal, then (recovered) the onside kick and had another (scoring) drive. So Larry (Brown) intercepts the ball and runs it down and Emmitt (Smith) scores."

Now Dallas was leading, 27-17, with 3:43 left. The Cowboys were in the process of eventually stopping the Steelers on downs. Pittsburgh was out of timeouts and at the Cowboys' 40-yard line following the two-minute warning.

"So Zimmer is on the phone with me," Campo recalls, "and I said, 'OK, Zimm, I'm coming down because I wanted to be in on the celebration because I knew we had the game won. He (screamed) at me on the phone, 'Stay up there! This game is not over!' That's the kind of competitor he is, OK. He had that ring in his grasp, but he wasn't about to (let it go) knowing we had to finish the game off.

"And we hardly talked in the locker room afterward."

As Zimmer was walking off from the media session Wednesday, told him Camps said to say hi, and that he told me the story about the end of Super Bowl XXX. Zimm confirmed.

"We were really mad at each other for a while," Zimm said.

 That's the kind of guy Zimm was back then, and you can bet the kind of guy he still is today.

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