Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Cowboys’ Micah Parsons doesn’t think 49ers are ‘really a level higher than us’ after 42-10 loss

What transpired in the Dallas Cowboys Week 5 “Sunday Night Football” showdown against the San Francisco 49ers, a 42-10 49ers victory, was an absolute debacle. They lost the turnover battle (four to one), only mustered eight first downs to the 49ers’ 25, were outgained 421 to 197 in total yards and lost the time of possession battle by just under 15 minutes, an entire quarter, 37:05-22:55. It was in the words of Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy “a kick in the ass.”

“It’s a punch in the gut, it’s a kick in the ass, whatever phrase you want to put on it,” McCarthy said Sunday night after the loss to the 49ers. “I think it’s clearly … you look at how the season has gone. We’ve been knocked down…  They beat us in all three phases. We will clearly acknowledge it. I’m not a burn the tape guy, I think that is a crock of shit. We’re going to go through it and make sure we are clear on what the expectations are and giving the players what they need to be successful. They played extremely well and we did not… I thought we had taken a step as a team. Clearly, I didn’t see this coming. I thought the prep was good this week. I thought we had one of our better Friday and Saturdays of the year. But it’s like we talked about before, sometimes you have a great week of preparation and it doesn’t go so well…. We did not hit the mark at all today.”

However, one of the Cowboys best players and locker room leaders, two-time First Team All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons doesn’t see it the same way. 

“I don’t think they’re really a higher level than us,” Parsons said postgame on Sunday. “I think we’re the same caliber playoff team, if not the same talent standard as them. I just feel like we really need to really reconsider some things, get together and fix some things. I feel like the score don’t really shape what really happened out there. … I just feel like there was nothing that they did besides us beating ourselves. If you look at the third downs, I jumped offsides and then they get seven [points] five plays later. … That’s the thing with good teams like this: if you beat yourself it will show to this magnitude. Today, we were the four-turnover team and the team that couldn’t get off the field on third down. I don’t think we’re off the same caliber at all.” 

It’s a curious statement given the defense allowed 42 points as 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy totaled four passing touchdowns and 252 yards on 17 of 24 passing. Even worse, Parsons and the pass rush couldn’t do much of anything. Dallas entered Week 5 leading the NFL with 55.6% quarterback pressure rate, the best in the NFL by over 10 percentage points. On Sunday, they pressured Purdy on 23.1% of his dropbacks, ranked as the fifth-lowest of Week 5 entering “Monday Night Football”. Safety Jayron Kearse accounted for the only sack of the night. 

The combined record of the Cowboys’ first four 2023 foes was 5-15, and they outscored them by nearly 100 points, 124-41. That is the mark of what looked to be dominant team. San Francisco has now improved to 5-0, and they outscored Dallas 42-10. The Cowboys allowed more points in Week 5 than they had all season, calling into question if they have what it takes to hang in the playoffs this season. That makes Dallas the first team since the 1990 Raiders to surrender more points in their fifth game of a season than they allowed in their first four games combined, according to ESPN Stats and Info. Those Raiders reached the AFC Championship Game, but they were destroyed by Jim Kelly’s and Marv Levy’s Buffalo Bills, 51-3. Dallas has lost both of their last two playoff games against the 49ers by one possession, but at this point, a similar multi-score defeat feels likely if these two teams meet again in January, calling into question the caliber of the Cowboys. 

Dallas Cowboys this season

WEEKS 1-4 WEEK 5 AT 49ERS

W-L

3-1

L, 42-10

Points scored

124

10

Points Allowed

41

42

Opponent W-L

5-15*

5-0

* Giants, Jets, Cardinals, Patriots

“You have to learn how to take a punch,” Parsons said. “We got punched in the face tonight. That’s just the reality of it. I’m not shying from it. We got beat up in all phases. The psyche — it can’t really drop [off] because I think I understand it. No champion hasn’t been battle tested. Sometimes you get knocked down. Sometimes you lose a couple rounds. It’s about how you return after. How do you face adversity? How do you get better? How do you not let this control you? That’s the thing, I get tomorrow. Today’s what it is. I get tomorrow.”  

Even after the defeat on a night in which there wasn’t much to brag about, Parsons still remains one of the NFL’s best at getting after the quarterback. His 29 quarterback pressures are the second-most in the NFL as is his 22.3% quarterback pressure percentage among the 92 players with 100 or more pass rushes this season. He will, however, readily admit their run defense needs work as everything the 49ers offense does comes off of what they do with Pro Bowler Christian McCaffrey

“I thought they played at a high level,” McCarthy said. “It starts with the run and the things that come off of that. I think they do an excellent job with the motions, the double shifts and motions. I thought he [Purdy] played extremely well and made some big-time throws tonight.”

San Francisco racked up 170 rushing yards for a robust 4.1 yards per carry. Against a team like the 49ers that utilizes motion at a 71.4% rate, the second-highest in the NFL, Parsons knows the team has to be more disciplined in slowing down the run if they want to be able to hang in there and not get ripped apart against the pass. 

“I don’t know, that’s something that there’s only so much I can do from where I’m standing at,” Parsons said when asked about the team’s run defense. “Like, I don’t know what’s going on inside. I just set the edge, bro. Like, I don’t know things that the interior or whatever needs to get addressed. It’s just something the coaches need to look at.”

After two stunning losses, a 28-16 upset defeat in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals in which they ran for 222 yards, and the faceplant against the 49ers, the Cowboys know some things have to be adjusted. As for what, that’s what this week leading up their “Monday Night Football” matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers and former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will be all about. 

“I don’t think there’s a person not frustrated in this locker room,” Parsons said. “I feel like we need to change some things. When we’re on, we’re on, but I feel like I have never seen a champion not be battle-tested… We’re just getting tested early. First it was Trevon [Diggs going out with a season-ending ACL tear], and we have in some games where we should have won and games where we beat ourselves with the penalties and things like that. We are just getting tested right now…. It’s still early in the season. I need to help bring these guys together. We just need to get better. There is no such thing as losing if you learn. Tonight we learned a lesson… tonight wasn’t us. Sometimes we have to look at these losses as a blessing and say thank you.”

Given that the Cowboys learned many valuable lessons about how much farther they have to go on both offense and defense, quarterback Dak Prescott, six years Parsons senior, made sure that Dallas was also giving the team that just embarrassed them in primetime the proper amount of respect. 

“You have to give them credit, a team like that,” Prescott said postgame on Sunday. “Powerful, powerful offense. Disciplined defense. When you start out with two three-and-out drives and a turnover on the first three possessions and just give them, opportunity after opportunity, it’s always going to be tough. To speak on what Micah is saying, yeah, there’s a lot of self-inflicted things but we can’t do that in a game like this, against a team like this. So, that’s part of being far off and that’s part of closing the gap and getting better.”

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