The Cowboys defense has done it again. The unit held their opponent- this time the Washington Commanders- to under 20 points for the fourth week in a row.
The last time Dallas started a season with a string like that was 1973. Led by legends like Bob Lilly, Cliff Harris, Mel Renfro, Jethro Pugh, Larry Cole, and Lee Roy Jordan, they were known as the “Doomsday defense,” and they allowed just 44 points through their first four outings.
In 2022, the group features Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Trevon Diggs, along with a host of others all looking to become household names as well. They’ve given up a total of 62 points over three wins and a loss, and while they don’t have a catchy collective nickname, they’re looking to do something that not even that storied 1973 crew could do. (More on that later.)
Despite their early success this season, Parsons is setting the bar even higher for his defensive mates. Or, lower, as the case may be.
“You see the numbers. It went from 19 to 17,” Parsons said, recounting the Cowboys’ points allowed each week, beginning with the season opener.
“Sixteen, 10,” he finished. “So next week? Seven. You know what I’m saying? That’s the type of standard, and [we’re] hungry. Every week we’ve
got to [keep] getting better.”
While it will be a tough task to bottle up the reigning Super Bowl champs in their own house, the Rams, who are 2-1 heading into a Monday Night meeting with the 49ers to close out the Week 4 slate, haven’t been their usual explosive selves. After mustering just 10 points in a Week 1 loss, they’ve scored 31 and 20 in subsequent wins.
Los Angeles will be coming off a short week when the Cowboys come to call, but holding Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp in check will nevertheless take a team effort from the Dallas defense.
Parsons says that’s exactly what this group is built for.
“It’s not just one guy. I think we’ve got a load of guys who can make the play,” he explained. “We’re about eight deep in this room right now of guys who can get it.”
Count Diggs among that subset. The cornerback nabbed his second pick of the season and made a pair of big-time pass breakups as Carson Wentz and the Commanders tried to mount a late comeback.
“I feel like we’re just clicking. The chemistry is good,” last year’s interception leader said. “Everything is finally coming together. We’ve just got to keep doing it. Keep doing the team chemistry and keep moving forward.”
Defensive tackle Neville Gallimore credits the work the unit puts in during the week with how they perform on gameday.
“It’s the things we harp on at practice and [in] our day-to-day. That’s kind of our mentality going into the game,” he said. “We know that every time we step on the field, we have an opportunity to change a game. And that’s just kind of our mindset [when] we go into it. And that’s our mindset across the board.”
So far it’s paid off, with the fewest points allowed among NFC teams who have played four games.
Head coach Mike McCarthy says the defense has been building gradually toward this level of sustained excellence.
“It’s very difficult. We all talk about 17 or less as a goal, but we all know how the rules have changed in the last 10 to 12 years,” McCarthy remarked in his postgame press conference. “I think it’s a real credit to our coaches and our players. You could see this really building in the second half of the season last year. As we stated throughout the OTAs and the training camp, this is
a group that has a complete understanding of how we want to play. We’ve got a lot of depth, [and I] really love their competitive spirit.”
That spirit- and the level of play- will need to be flying high at SoFi Stadium next Sunday if this iteration of the Dallas D is to accomplish something that not even the Doomsday defense was able to do.
See, the ’73 Cowboys visited Los Angeles in Week 5, too. They gave up 37 points to the Rams, breaking their streak of holding opponents to under 20. They came home with an L.
The way this current group is playing, though, it feels like they’re capable of keeping their point streak- and their winning ways- going.
“I feel like there is no ceiling,” Gallimore said. “At the end of the day, we know what we’ve got in that room. Again, it’s just an opportunity that we’ve
got to use to get that much better. We know we’re not nearly where we want to be yet, but we’re getting there.”