Can the Dallas Cowboys finally beat Tom Brady by embracing a defensive team identity?

FRISCO, Texas – Tom Brady: Dallas Cowboys Slayer.

New York Jets and Buffalo Bills fans have long suffered, as Brady was quarterback for the New England Patriots from 2000 to 2019. Brady won 66 of a possible 76 matches against his former AFC East rivals in his career.

But he’s also tormented the Cowboys—six games, six wins.

The Cowboys’ 2022 season opens the same way as the previous season—against Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in prime time, though it’s the Cowboys’ turn to play host to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC) .

If the Cowboys are ultimately going to defeat Brady and become the first team to repeat as NFC East champions since the 2003–04 Philadelphia Eagles, the defense — not the offense — will have to be the centerpiece.

For much of the past decade, if not more, the Cowboys’ larger-than-life expectations came from a star-led offense that was the envy of many teams in the league. Since Tony Romo became a starter in 2006 (replaced by Dak Prescott in 2016), the Cowboys’ offense has been ranked in the top half of the league in scoring in 12 out of 16 seasons – and in the top seven in eight seasons.

Defense, on the other hand, was mostly told to do enough.

In 2022, it’s about asking the defense to do more – even more than last season, when it exceeded expectations, finishing seventh in allowed points – and maybe, yes, the season against Brady in Week 1. and ideally the playoffs.

“Someone asked me before, ‘What do you think of an encore? Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “The repeat happens after the show. It’s a new tour, a new show, a new group. We ride together.”

Recognition of evidence going toward crime prevention

The last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl, in the 1990s, the stars were triple: wide receiver Michael Irwin, quarterback Troy Ackman, Emmit Smith, and trailing offensive line. Yes, defensive end Charles Haley is in the Hall of Fame and safety Darren Woodson is in the Ring of Honor, but it seems as though the defense played a small part of those three championships in four seasons.

From 2006 to the last season, offensive players Tony Romo, Jason Vuitton, Terrell Owens, Leonard Davis, Miles Austin, Marion Barber, Andre Gurod, Flozel Adams, Deez Bryant, Tyrone Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, DeMarco Murray, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CD Lamb made at least one Pro Bowl appearance.

In the last 10 seasons in which the Pro Bowl was played (2011–19, 2021), the Cowboys had 37 offensive selections for the Pro Bowl and just 14 on defense.

“We always need points, but I think the defense is finally catching up, and we can finally counter the offense with flash play and points and everything, turnovers,” said cornerback Anthony Brown. “I feel like we both mesh together and it’s balanced well.”

However, proof of this season being different comes on the cover of Cowboys Media Guide. This is not Prescott, the $40 million quarterback. It’s not Elliot, the star that’s running after.

It features linebacker Micah Parsons, cornerback Trayvon Diggs and defensive and DeMarcus Lawrence in three different poses.

Parsons and Diggs were All-Pro selections in 2021. Lawrence has been named to the Pro Bowl twice since 2017 and is the sanctioned leader of the group.

Quinn’s defense lets Parsons shine

Parsons is the centerpiece of Quinn’s plan and is set to become the franchise’s most influential defender since Ware, who became the Cowboys’ all-time leader in the sacks from 2005 to 2013. Parsons set a franchise-rookie record in 2021 with 13 sacks. He lined up at the middle linebacker and defensive end. He also took some pictures on the safety and cornerback. He mastered everything he did.

“Last year, I was trying to earn the respect of my fellow teammates and my fellow players in the league,” Parsons said. “This year, I just want to go out there and dominate now.”

In 2022, Parsons envisions being here, there, and everywhere. The Cowboys added four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr over the summer to free Parsons so they could raise the passer more if they wished. They can also leave them in coverage if they want.

“I don’t believe in pressure. Pressure is non-existent,” Parsons said. “You have expectations for yourself and what you want to achieve, and that’s personal. I think pressure can be aspects of other people and how they see you. If it can throw you off your game, you’re probably in the wrong game.”

Beyond the plan, there will be personnel changes. Regulars like Randy Gregory, Damonte Cazi, Keanu Neal and Carlos Watkins are gone from 2021 – but the Cowboys believe they will have a better pass rush with Dorrance Armstrong, Dante Foul RJR. and Sam Williams replaced Gregory; Malik Hooker in place of Qazi; Barr instead of Neil; And several internal players in place of Watkins.

Will the Cowboys finally turn the murderer against Brady?

Maybe that’s right Brady is the first Test to defend the Cowboys this season.

No other quarterback has a better record than Brady with a minimum of five starts against the Cowboys. In fact, according to ESPN Stats and Information Research, only one other quarterback has an undefeated mark with at least five starts against Dallas. Such is the case with Brady’s childhood hero, Joe Montana, who went 5-0 against the Cowboys in his Hall of Fame career.

Brady has won all the way against Dallas. He has been a game manager (2003, no touchdown). He has done the surgical (2007, five touchdowns). He has been meh (2015, sacked five times). He has been poor (2019, one touchdown, 20 imperfections). He’s been lethal (2011, 2021, last-minute, game-winning drives).

Brady retired when the schedule arrived in May. Parsons thought he would never see her again, but then the quarterback retired in June.

“I don’t think I’m going to be facing the same Tom Brady, and he’s not going to face the same Micah Parsons, so it’s going to be a fight,” Parsons said. “It’s not the same defense that we did last year. So the way you look at it, everything has changed. We still have to go out there and play football on Sunday.”

History says Brady will win on Sunday. But maybe there are reasons for the cowboys.

“Every week you’re trying to try and win the game and be the best player you can be,” said safety Jeroen Cares, last year’s lead tackler. “As far as the Tom and Aaron Rodgers of the world are concerned, you know, those guys are getting old, so it’s good to have a win, and when they’re out of the league, you can say you’ve beat them in [what may be] His last year. ,

What is the range of defense?

“I mean, it can be as good as we want it to be,” Lawrence said. “It’s all up to us and DQ to get our stuff together here” [Dan Quinn], You know, we’ll keep going and see where it takes us.

No one knew where the defense would take them until a year earlier in Quinn’s first season. They just knew it would be better than their 2020 debacle under Mike Nolan, when the defense allowed a franchise-record 473 points.

Blame the pandemic. Blame the plan. Blame the talent. Blame what you want. it was bad.

And Quinn fixed it quickly.

The Cowboys went from allowing 29.6 points per game in 2020 to 21.1 points in 2021. The yards allowed per game improved to 35 yards per game. The third-down defense was the second best in the league after the Buffalo Bills.

Most importantly, the Cowboys took the ball farther than any other team in the NFL with 34. He had 26 interceptions—led by Diggs’ 11—which was the most Dallas in a season since 1985.

The defense scored six touchdowns, with five interceptions returning for one touchdown, the most in a season in team history—and Quinn was named Associated Press’s Assistant Coach of the Year.

New Defensive Standard for Cowboys

Quinn doesn’t have to worry about buy-ins. Players bought a year ago

“It’s just the norm,” said Diggs, who wants to be the second player since the 1950s with a consecutive double-digit interception season. “We have to get on top of that. Just keep going.”

Perhaps this identity was coming together.

While the Cowboys have leaned toward the offensive side of the ball because of their stars, owner/general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones have poured more draft capital into the defense. From 2011 to 2022, the Cowboys selected 59 defensive players while 42 were on offense. In the first three rounds of those drafts, the Cowboys selected 20 defensive players, while 13 offensive players were selected.

The Cowboys’ pay-cap makeup still trends toward offense with 60% of the allocation on that side of the ball, as Prescott, Elliott, Martin and Smith are near or top the highest-paid players in their respective positions. , Defense checks at 38.4%. This figure will change over the next few years when Diggs (2023) and Parsons (2024) will be the first eligible to sign contract extensions.

“I feel like when Jerry and those guys drafted us, it felt like they wanted to change the mindset for defense,” said cornerback Jordan Lewis. “We had some changes leading up to this point. Eventually, we got to where we want to be on defense.

“Okay, we’re getting to where we want to protect.”

Beating Brady for the first time would be a sign that the defense could be the difference maker.

“I think we have a chance to break some more records and set a standard for how defense should be played,” Parsons said. “I think we have some old talent. We have some really good young talent and we’ve got some good people coming in.”

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