Starvation doesn't care what you feed it. That was the mindset for linebacker Micah Parsons when he squared off against former sixth-overall pick Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2. In the absence of All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, who was moved to injured reserve after fracturing his foot in practice last week, the plan for the Dallas Cowboys and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was to use Parsons as a key pass rusher alongside veteran backup Dorance Armstrong and a band of unusual suspects.
It was a blueprint that worked masterfully, because while Armstrong logged more snaps (40) than did Parsons (39) -- the two being near-equal in playing time -- what Parsons was able to do swung the game in favor of the Cowboys. A former pass rusher turned stand-up linebacker at Penn State, the after-practice teachings with Quinn and future Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence were put on full display at SoFi Stadium.
"After practice, [Dan Quinn] came up to me and was like, 'Man, we're going to need you to step up big for us this week,'" Parsons told media after the gutsy victory in LA, per the team's website. "I just said 'Alright, Coach. Let's play.'"
And play he did.
Parsons finished with only two tackles, but (prior to one final NFL game on Monday night) finished tied for first in the league for most pressures in Week 2 (8 total) and his 90.8 pass rush grade was second-best among all defenders -- per PFF. But it wasn't simply that he landed one of the only two sacks on the 2020 Rookie of the Year, it's when he delivered it, finally getting home on Herbert with the Cowboys clinging to a narrow three-point lead on second-and-7 with just under six minutes remaining in regulation, and on the Cowboys seven-yard line.
The 18-yard loss ultimately forced the Chargers into a game-tying field goal that knotted things up at 17-17, keeping four additional points off of the scoreboard in the process, and kicking the door wide open for a game-winning drive by Dak Prescott -- capped by a 56-yard boot from Greg Zuerlein that carried its own level of controversy.
Herbert takes a huge sack from Micah Parsons. pic.twitter.com/kDo4baVkvZ— The GIF Guy (@IHaveFourBalls) September 19, 2021
"A lot of it was natural," Parsons said. "Some people had a long day out there."
It was a contest wherein many predicted All-Pro pass rusher Joey Bosa to have his way with backup right tackle Terence Steele, but it was Parsons stealing the show, and Bosa going home with a loss and no sacks, no pressures registered, and no quarterback hurries. When it came to putting hands on Herbert, all Parsons saw was red -- a bull in a blind rage keyed in on doing nothing more than putting his horns in the target.
"I was chasing him all day," Parsons said. "I really wanted Herbert, so when I finally got to him I was happy about that."
Needless to say, the Cowboys were as well. His next test as a hybrid player will be to help reel in Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles passing attack in Week 3, as the Cowboys begin a three-game homestand at AT&T Stadium. Only two games into his rookie season, Parsons is already a frontrunner for Rookie Defensive Player of the Year.
"My main mindset is to be dominant throughout the whole game," Parsons added. "Play at a high level, and every time I'm out there, make a play -- whether I'm rushing the quarterback or stuffing the run. That's what I want to do is be as dominant as possible."
What number does Micah Parsons wear for the Cowboys?
Parsons wears No. 11, the same number he wore at Penn State. If you're a Cowboys fan, it's time to get a new jersey featuring the team's up-and-coming rookie. Shop navy and white jerseys, t-shirts, helmets, and more here.
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