MINNEAPOLIS — Micah Parsons spoke of his disgust and made bold claims going forward.
Dak Prescott conceded he hasn’t been as clean as he’d like but rejected the idea that he’s been erratic or taken unnecessary risks with the ball.
Parsons and Prescott found themselves under siege from a combination of internal pressure and external criticism heading into Sunday’s game against Minnesota. Both answered the call after a session between the two that focused on accountability and expectations.
The result: The Cowboys exceeded expectations with a 40-3 win over Minnesota for the largest margin of victory on the road in franchise history. The dismantling of the Vikings was so complete, the dominance of this 8-1 team so thorough, that it had owner Jerry Jones talking Super Bowl contention afterward.
Plenty of weeks remain to determine the Cowboys’ place in the NFL hierarchy. Let’s stay in the moment for now.
Parsons set the fierce, hard-hitting tone for a defense looking for redemption after blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in last week’s loss to Green Bay. His strip sack fumble for the Cowboys on Minnesota’s opening possession got the party started.
Prescott followed by leading the offense to a field goal. Then he kept going. Dallas scored on seven consecutive possessions for the first time since 2014 against Chicago.
It marked the first time Dallas scored on seven consecutive possessions to start a game since the league went to a 16-game schedule 44 years ago.
“Being able to go out and get points on the first seven drives, I was just staying in the moment as all of the guys were,” Prescott said. “I honestly couldn’t have told you that.
“I think that’s a credit to us being dialed in, staying within each player, taking each play, giving it our best and resulting in points on those drives. Gives us the lead and it lets the defense go and hunt.”
Prescott spoke about Parsons and his teammates more than he did himself after Sunday’s beat down. He felt the team’s pass rush specialist was poised for a big game after a discussion between the two Saturday evening that addressed accountability and setting individual and team standards.
Could the quarterback be a little more specific?
“Chasing greatness, honestly,” Prescott said. “He has an opportunity to be one of the best to play this game.
“It was a conversation with me and him and a couple of other guys, challenging him to do that. That’s obviously what he wants to do. We weren’t challenging him to do anything he doesn’t believe in.”
Parsons led the way with two sacks and forced fumble. His strip sack of quarterback Kirk Cousins came three plays into the game and set up the first of four field goals for Brett Maher.
“Power to the outside and I was able to get the edge,” Parsons said. “He tried to extend the play. Obviously, we’re hunting. You ain’t getting far if we’re coming from the backside.
“We were able to get the ball loose, recover it and made a statement for the game.”
It was a statement Parsons needed to make, saying what he did about the play of the defense in the loss to the Packers and how if this group didn’t put out the fires that were burning on defense it would be a tough second half of the season.
“Micah was extremely productive today,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “His urgency was at a different level.
“He has the ability to be elite. This is another standard-type game for him that he will continue to play to.”
Prescott didn’t have a good game against Green Bay. He was 4-of-12 for 49 yards with two interceptions on third and fourth downs. He came out of that game completing just 43.3% of his passes on those two downs for the season.
The trend wasn’t restricted to that game or this season.
The quarterback has started 14 games since an overtime win over New England last season. Dallas had been 8-6 in those games and had a quarterback rating below 80 in six of those games.
From the start of the 2018 season through that game against New England — a span of 43 regular season games — guess how many games Prescott had where his quarterback rating sat below 80?
McCarthy and Prescott visit before every game. Sunday’s visit focused on the experience of the Vikings defense, how much zone they play and how the Cowboys quarterback would have to be extremely patient to be effective.
Prescott responded by completing 22 of 25 passes for 276 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 139.3.
Patience? His 68-yard scoring pass to running back Tony Pollard was the last option on that particular call.
“I don’t usually get motivation from what other people say,” Prescott said. “I’m intrinsically inspired.
“But yeah, when you hear some things about your performance, erratic coming from you [media] guys, yeah, things stick and stay.
“You’re as good as your last game. For me, it’s about keeping that at the forefront of my mind and being accountable to each other and building off of how great we can be.”