ARLINGTON, Texas -- In 2017, the Dallas Cowboys were the victim of what owner Jerry Jones calls "The Burning of Atlanta," when Dak Prescott was sacked a total of eight times en route to a 27-7 loss. In 2021, the tables didn't simply turn, they were picked up by the Cowboys and used as a weapon to bludgeon the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium, in a 43-3 dismembering that can only be labeled as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" -- Dallas having sent a message to the rest of the league that rookie first-round pick Micah Parsons hopes lands with a visceral delivery.
It was an onslaught Matt Ryan and Co. were ill-prepared for, and one that not only saw Prescott and the offense have their way, but also special teams and the defense, the latter using a masterful outing to hold the Falcons to only three points through four quarters and grabbing three interceptions in the process. For his part, Parsons was his usually dominant self in adding a sack, a forced fumble and a team-high six combined tackles (all six of them being solo) and making sure the Falcons waved the white flag on their way back to North Georgia.
"It feels tremendous," Parsons told media after the blowout victory. "It always feels good to win especially to come back after we didn't play up to the standard. Today, I think everybody played up to the standard."
In all, the Cowboys added two sacks to the aforementioned forced fumble and three interceptions -- reeled in by Anthony Brown, Trevon Diggs and Jourdan Lewis -- along with 10 pass deflections, frustrating Ryan all afternoon in a game that saw the Dallas defense step up in a big way following the loss of just ahead of the matchup.
"Obviously, turnovers are huge," said Parsons. "It's really exciting to see them. I know how guys are hungry for the ball. Each one of them talk about getting to the ball."
And with many ready to write the Cowboys off after their embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos, Parsons would like a word.
"I don't think one game will ever define you," he said. "So, the fact we can bounce back and be dominant, that should put everyone on notice that ... we are not to be 'F'd' with right now."
Currently sitting at 7-2 on the season and in full control of their fate at the moment, the Cowboys are using a mix of prolific offensive play with a defensive output that's nearly matching serve despite being anything but whole at the moment, and tossing in game-changing special teams plays (read: punt blocks) that make them as formidable as they've ever been. The pill they were forced to swallow at the hands of the Broncos appears to have done its job, as Prescott himself made clear following the victory over the Falcons, and the mission must now be to stay the course and away from the proverbial cheese.
This will be key with big tests to come over the next three (arguably four) weeks, as they ready to face the Kansas City Chiefs (away), Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints (away) before their first 2021 matchup against a Washington team that just handed Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a loss.
No team can be overlooked, and the Cowboys know that now.
"Obviously, all of those teams are really, really good," said Parsons of the coming slate of games. "I think that we had a tough stretch earlier in the season. We have another one coming up here. We're going to have to really hunker down and really lock in and hit on all the details.
"You've got a Super Bowl contender in the Chiefs. The Raiders are really good this year. New Orleans is a thorn in our side. So, we want to show what we've got and try to go 3-0 in this stretch."
Likely to enter Arrowhead Stadium as underdogs to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Cowboys find themselves in familiar air for Week 11: a club with a good record that many still aren't completely bought into yet. Parsons doesn't care about the noise outside of the building, though. His only goal is to stick to the weekly assignment given to him by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and to help lead the charge for a fiery and opportunistic defensive unit.
But what exactly is that assignment, you ask? Well, it's to be the Cowboys version of Leatherface.
"[It's the same] every week: just cause havoc."