FRISCO, Texas – There are certain games in Cowboys history that can be referred to by the player.
Like the "Clint Longley Game" in 1974 when the backup QB hurled a long TD pass to beat Washington. Or the "Jason Garrett Game" when he out-dueled Brett Favre on Thanksgiving Day in 1994. And there's the "Emmitt Smith Game" when he basically willed the team to beat the Giants with one shoulder in a 1993 season-finale win.
At this point, you could call last year's win over the Vikings as the "Cooper Rush Game" since it was first and only start at the time. Rush replaced an injured Dak Prescott and figured out how to beat the Vikings on the road in a hostile environment, using a last-minute drive.
In reality, we could have very easily called it the "Micah Parsons Game." Of course, that's hard to pinpoint just one game for the unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year. Parsons certainly had more great games than bad ones as a rookie. It's expected that he will have much more in the future.
But in that particular win over the Vikings on Oct. 31, Parsons arguably had his best game of his career. He was all over the place, harassing Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and the rest of the offense. Parsons registered four tackles for loss and was credited by the NFL stat crew with 11 tackles. That made Parsons the first rookie in league history to record 10+ tackles with four for loss.
Sounds a lot like the "Micah Parsons Game." But the point is, Parsons and that Cowboys defense came alive that night in Minnesota.
When Rush and the offense struggled out of the game, scoring just three points in the first half, it was the Cowboys defense – led by Parsons – that kept the Cowboys in the game.
By the end, Rush not only had the offense moving the ball, racking up over 400 yards, but got them in the end zone for the winning score.
But it started with the defense, which seems to be the best recipe for success come Sunday.
"Dak's been out before – against Minnesota last year – and we still held our weight," Parsons said. "We just have to do what we have to do and hold them to as minimum amount of points as possible. Make sure we give (our offense) the ball as many times as possible."
Parsons added that "nothing can drop off" from last week's performance against the Bucs, that saw the defense allow just one touchdown, 19 points and record two sacks – both by Parsons.
And while the Cowboys aren't facing arguably the NFL's best all-time quarterback in Tom Brady, they are going up against perhaps the next-great start in Joe Burrow. The Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl in just his second season, and Burrow has a talented group of offensive weapons, including receiver Ja'Marr Chase and running back Joe Mixon.
But the Cowboys saw that last year in Minnesota as well with Cousins throwing the ball to Justin Jefferson and handing it to Dalvin Cook.
The Cowboys defense rose to the challenge that day, thanks to Parsons. It has to do the same once again Sunday, especially to avoid starting the season 0-2.
The Cowboys have started a season with an 0-2 mark seven times in franchise history, but only made the playoffs once – winning the Super Bowl in 1993.
But in that case, the Cowboys gained a player back from a contract dispute in Emmitt Smith. This time, they've lost their key player and will try to find a way to rally around him.
And they'll have to do that with defense, particularly their best player on that side of the ball.