ARLINGTON, Texas — Don't look now, but the Dallas Cowboys might finally have their run defense figured out and, if so, that could truly make the unit something to fear over the remainder of the 2022 season.
Having shut down both Dalvin Cook and Saquon Barkley in the span of only four days, winning both games in the process, Micah Parsons and Co. enter their mini-bye week feeling good about their improvements.
"I thought we did pretty good," Parsons said after Dallas' defense allowed Barkley to rush for only 39 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown on Thanksgiving Day. "He might have had one, maybe two explosive runs. But, for the most part, we contained him and made sure everything was short. They passed way more than we expected.
"I think we did a pretty good job for the way he's been playing this year."
To his point, Barkley has been resurgent this season, racking up more than 953 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns through the Giants first 10 games of the 2022 season — 1,163 total yards from scrimmage. The Cowboys didn't allow him to get involved in the receiving game either, routinely breaking out passes to the flat to prevent him from finding momentum in that area either, Barkley finishing the day with four grabs for only 13 receiving yards.
Wherever he went, the Cowboys were swarming to meet him. This became key in stopping third-down conversions by the Giants, forcing them to fail on eight of their 11 attempts.
"Just getting off the field [is important]," said Parsons following the 28-20 victory over the Giants that was not as close as the final score would have you believe. "I think that is the key: the more we can get the ball back to the offense, it's better for things to get going. The more drives we can get them, the more they can perfect their rhythm, the more they can put points on the board as you can see towards the end of the game."
It was another slow start for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense but, with the help of a stellar defensive outing, they were able to see their mistakes either lessened or deleted entirely before coming alive in the third quarter to the tune of 21 unanswered points after falling to a 13-7 deficit before halftime.
"Yeah, we had to come out and fight," Parsons said. "Definitely not a pretty first round. Definitely not the way you want to start but, for the most part we came out in that second half and dominated."
The team is now 3-1 since the return of Prescott and using their loss, per Parsons, as fuel to power them forward in having shown them demons they "probably wouldn't have noticed" if they won at Lambeau Field, but were instead forced to confront in gruesome fashion.
Entering their mini-bye week on a two-game win streak, over two of the most competitive teams in the NFC (and one in the NFC East) gives Parsons and the Cowboys a lot to be thankful for.
"We just got to count our blessings and be thankful and having gratitude, we were able to be healthy enough to come out here and play," he said. "[And] healthy enough to leave the field. Just gratitude that we made it to another day, another Thanksgiving. That's what it is really all about.
"It's so special here because I think everyone is here, thankful to be here, representing the cause, and just thankful overall."
Currently sitting at 8-3 on the season, in sole possession of second place in the NFC East and within striking distance of the Philadelphia Eagles atop the division, the Cowboys have everything in front of them heading into the month of December.
"We are building in the right direction," said Parsons.
Right now, that direction is due north.