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This Sunday night, the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys will square off in one of the most consequential games of the young season. San Francisco has knocked Dallas out of the playoffs in each of the last two years, and the Cowboys are certainly looking to exact revenge and prove that they can hang with one of the league's toughest opponents. 

A key factor in that plan is obviously Micah Parsons, who might very well be the best defensive player in football. Parsons has been utterly dominant so far this season, as he is tied for the NFL lead with 27 pressures (sacks plus hits plus hurries) and is lapping the field in pressure rate (25.7%). 

Asked whether the answer to dealing with Parsons is simply to run the ball right at him due to his relatively slight stature compared with other edge rushers (he's listed at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds), 49ers offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster unleashed a soliloquy in which he explained why, well, that is much easier said than done. 

"Yeah, well, you can run at him. We try to run at him and he beats blockers and makes tackles. And you can run away from him, and he's gonna run really, really fast and catch up to you when you run away from him. 

"There's a lot of different things you can do. You just have to make sure you account for him like we have every other good player we play against. And he's a great player. These other great players, you just have to have a plan as to how you're going to deal with them. 

"You can't say, 'Every single play you run away' or 'Every single play you run at him.' That wears itself out as well. There has to be a balance. 

"And you have to decide what kind of plays you run at him, what kind of plays you don't run at him. How he defends things, what position -- they move him all over the place, so the position matters, too. You think, 'Oh, we're going to run this play at Micah Parsons, take advantage of X, Y, or Z,' and then, oh crap, he's lined up at the 3-technique or he's lined up over the center, and you're like, 'Well, so much for that plan.' 

"You just have to have a well-balanced plan to take care of a great player, and that's what we'll hope to try to do. It's really, really hard because he's a great one."

That's a pretty good summation of why Parsons is so difficult to deal with not just as a pass-rusher, but also as a run defender. Among the 124 edge defenders who have played at least 50 snaps so far this season, Parsons has the fifth-best run defense grade at Pro Football Focus, checking in behind only teammate Demarcus Lawrence, SeahawksUchenna Nwosu, 49ers star Nick Bosa and RaidersMaxx Crosby. His nine run stops are 17th-most among that group of players despite the fact that he has played only 67 snaps of run defense so far this season because the Cowboys have been ahead by so much in three of their four games.

San Francisco ranks eighth in the NFL in yards per carry so far this season and second with nine rushing touchdowns, thanks to the play of Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Shanahan's play design, and the way Foerster's group up front clears the way for those things to congeal together. 

The Dallas defense has been gashable in the run game, but also checks in second in the NFL in the share of opponent rushing attempts that have been stopped for no gain or a loss of yards. How the Niners fare running the ball -- whether at Parsons, away from him, or with some sort of misdirection -- will play a massive role in how well they can keep the Dallas pass rush off balance, which in turn will have a significant effect on Sunday night's result.