When one football team’s strength collides perfectly with another team’s weakness, it can lead to great success for the team with the advantage, or big time headaches for the team with the disadvantage. When the Bears take on the Cowboys this Sunday, they could be in for the latter.
Here are a couple of top line numbers to paint a little picture:
– Justin Fields’ 27 sacks taken are the most in the NFL. The Cowboys defense leads the league with 29 sacks.
Dallas is able to generate pressure from multiple spots. Defensive ends Demarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. all have at least three sacks. So does safety Donovan Wilson. But the man who really wreaks havoc on opposing offensive lines in Micah Parsons.
Here are a few more numbers to drive home the challenge ahead for the Bears:
– Justin Fields is getting pressured on 50% of his drop backs this season. That’s the most in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks.
– Micah Parsons leads the NFL with 36 pressures. He’s also got the third-fastest average time to pressure among players with at least 10 pressures, at 2.21 seconds.
Parsons was an instant success in the NFL, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year and earning First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2021. He finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. Parsons is able to frustrate opponents with a blend of quickness and strength. Those traits helped him tally 13 sacks, 30 QB hits, 20 TFLs, three forced fumbles and three passes defended as an NFL freshman. He’s on pace to improve all those marks this year, with eight sacks, 14 QB hits, nine TFLs, two forced fumbles and two passes defended in just seven games this season.
“He can beat you to the punch,” said Matt Eberflus.
What makes Parsons truly special, however, is his positional versatility in Dan Quinn’s defense.
“The guy literally lines up all over the place,” said Luke Getsy. “There’s not many interior linebackers that can rush the passer in the history of the game the way this guy can… He’s amazing, and the challenge of knowing where he’s at is definitely one of the biggest tasks to be able to have success against these guys.”
Parsons can be slowed down, however. The Eagles did an impressive job minimizing his impact in Week 6. Parsons had seven tackles and one TFL, but he didn’t make much of an impact in the pass rush and never hit Jalen Hurts. The Bears learned some lessons from the Eagles gameplan that could help them in Week 8.
“When I was watching the game, they just didn’t block him,” said Fields. “They just made him the read most of the time, so of course that’s one way to get him to stop the rush.”
The Bears obviously wouldn’t reveal their specific thoughts on how they will try to neutralize Parsons, but they’ve been thinking about it. In fact, they’ve been working ahead on the problem. Eberflus said that the team devoted a good portion of one day during their mini-bye to start preparing for the Cowboys, even though the Patriots were up next on the schedule.
“We definitely have a plan for him,” said Fields. “For sure.”
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