One-armed Knife Sharpener
- Apr 7, 2013
By Saad Yousuf
After the Dallas Cowboys cruised to a 30-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday, Jayron Kearse stood in front of his locker at AT&T Stadium and fielded a question about what it’s like to play with a talent like Micah Parsons.
“He owe me some money,” Parsons said, matter-of-factly with a smile, as he returned to his locker a few feet away.
Parsons was lined up over the center at the snap of the ball. Connor McGovern (not the former Cowboy) had the unenviable task of serving as the barrier between Parsons and Wilson. McGovern could barely make contact. Parsons led off with an aggressive shuffle and followed quickly with a swim move with his hands. One second, McGovern stood squared, facing Parsons:
The next second, McGovern was diving backward, desperately making a final gasp at trying to stop Parsons.
Before Wilson could plant his back foot on his dropback, Parsons was coming right up the middle, forcing Wilson to flush out to his right. As Parsons gained speed and closed on Wilson, he let loose the errant pass that Kearse intercepted.
“It’s a tall task for anyone, no matter who it is, when you’re one-on-one with that guy,” said Cowboys guard Zack Martin, who is arguably the best at his position and has gone against Parsons in practice for the last three years. “It’s pretty hard to stop. He’s got pretty much every rush in the book that you’ve got to be ready for.”
McGovern was ready for it; there was just nothing he could do about it. He wasn’t alone in that regard Sunday. Jets tackle Duane Brown had a rough day trying to contain Parsons, just like All-Pro talent Tyron Smith did routinely in Cowboys training camp. This feeling of helplessness has become commonplace for those going against Parsons.
“I have never gotten anything but trouble when I’ve ever made a comparison with a player, OK,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said when asked if he’s ever had a more dominant defensive player than Parsons. “But I have never seen anybody with his skill, with his motor and his overachieving and how he is planning ahead of how to get better. He is the entire package. No, I can’t remember.”
The numbers are impressive, as one would expect. A game-high six quarterback pressures; aside from DeMarcus Lawrence’s four, no other player had more than two. A game-high four quarterback hits; the Jets defense had three, and the Cowboys totaled five. Parsons recorded a game-high two sacks.
It also doesn’t include what was arguably the most impressive play, one that made many just shake their head and tip their cap. In the third quarter, Dalvin Cook ran the ball wide to the left. Parsons, engaged in a block, kept pushing the edge and shadowing the Jets’ running back. He quickly shed the block and made what would have been an impressive tackle for loss. Instead, he found the ball mid-tackle, stripped it, recovered it and got up to return it for a touchdown, though he was ruled down by contact.
“Man, I’m just hungry,” Parsons said. “To me, it don’t matter where I’m at, I’m coming. I don’t care if I’m gassed out, my lungs hurt, mind over matter. I think every time I’m out there, I seize every opportunity, unlike some guys (that) take this opportunity for granted. I take this extremely to the heart. This organization changed my life so I’m just trying to give everything I have back to the fans, to Mr. (Jerry) Jones and all of my teammates.”
There are also intangible elements to Parsons’ game, which were on display Sunday. There’s something to be said about the timing of the plays that are being made. Are they coming in the heat of battle or in late-game garbage time?
In the case of Parsons against the Jets, they were tone-setters and daggers.
On the Jets’ first offensive drive, they faced third-and-5 after Wilson hung in and delivered a solid 9-yard pass to Allen Lazard. Parsons began the play on top of the left tackle. Within two seconds of the snap, Parsons shot up the middle and sacked Wilson.
“I think the Atlanta one might have been a little faster, from my rookie year,” Parsons said. “But it was close to it.”
On the next very next offensive play for the Jets, which came on the ensuing drive, Cook was limited to a 3-yard run on first down. The play had no chance at success because by the time Cook took the handoff, Parsons was already deep in the backfield, with two Jets unsuccessfully attempting to prevent him from inflicting damage.
“This offseason, we committed,” Parsons said. “We said we’re going to make these guys pass the ball. We’re going to force them to let us rush. When we come out and set the tone that you won’t run on us, and then we go get our sacks, now that’s what changes everything. To all of the teams with them game plans, come on. Run at me. Run at whoever. We coming.”
Those plays set the tone early for the Cowboys, and even when the Jets made things interesting in the first half, it always felt like an uphill climb. Then, in a five-minute span in the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys guarding a comfortable lead and the Jets making any last attempt at a miracle, Parsons provided the daggers.
First, there was the pressure he made that led to the Kearse interception. The Cowboys extended their lead to 30-10 after that. On the Jets’ next drive, they began to march down the field. On their first play in Dallas territory, Parsons switched things up and got a more conventional sack off the edge.
On the next play, Wilson threw the ball deep and was picked off by Malik Hooker.
Parsons had a great performance in Week 1 and consistently wrecks game plans and creates opportunities for his teammates to succeed. Sunday, though, felt different. It felt like a different level, even for his usual dominance. It was the kind of game that proves why Parsons was the odds-on favorite for Defensive Player of the Year entering the season.
“When I talk about Defensive Player of the Year, I don’t look at the subject of the award,” Parsons said. “I look at the subject and when I say I want to be the best player in the NFL, so whatever comes with that. I don’t think just qualifying myself as just a defensive player — I think I’m a Most Valuable Player.”
After the game, a reporter told Parsons that Jets head coach Robert Saleh said that Parsons was one of the most destructive players in the NFL. The reporter asked Parsons who, in his opinion, was the most destructive player in the league.
“I’m not going to answer that,” Parsons said. “I’m just going to let the people answer that. Let me know what y’all think, see what I face and what other guys face. Y’all tell me.”
The answer, of course, is Parsons.