FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Micah Parsons and crew sacked Daniel Jones seven times in the most-lopsided shutout victory in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Now it's on to the New York Jets, but apparently not the other New York quarterback in Aaron Rodgers after a 40-0 victory over the NFC East rival Giants in a startling opener for both teams.
The Jets visit Sunday, but coach Robert Saleh said an MRI should confirm that Rodgers injured his left Achilles tendon early in a 22-16 overtime victory against Buffalo in the Monday night opener. “It's not good,” the coach said.
The Dallas defense — the first since the 1970s to lead the NFL in takeaways in consecutive seasons — intercepted Jones twice and recovered a fumble.
The Cowboys got their first two touchdowns of the season without their offense, which is to say the debut of fourth-year coach Mike McCarthy as Dak Prescott's play-caller turned into an afterthought.
“I think we made the statement which I’ve been trying to make,” said Parsons, who had one sack and drew double teams that created others. “We’re the best defense in the National Football League.”
The two season-opening shutouts topped by this one had something in common. When the Cowboys beat the Baltimore Colts 38-0 in 1978 and the Giants 35-0 in 1995, they were Super Bowl contenders with standout defenses.
No doubt what buzz this latest opening blowout will create coming off consecutive trips to the postseason that ended with losses to San Francisco.
And no doubt how the Cowboys, seeking their first trip past the divisional round of the playoffs in 28 years, will respond.
“I mean, it’s one game,” McCarthy said, echoing his quarterback. “We know where we want to go. I feel like we are fully capable and have an understanding of how to get there. But it’s a long journey.”
If the Jets are without Rodgers, it will be one less thing to worry about for the Cowboys. He has had a way of bringing Dallas back to reality through the years.
Rodgers was with Green Bay and completed an improbable third-down pass to set up the winning field goal in a wild-card game when Prescott had led the Cowboys to the NFC's top seed as a rookie in 2016.
The four-time MVP spoiled McCarthy's return to Lambeau Field last season by erasing a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter of a 31-28 overtime victory that ended the Packers' five-game losing streak.
“It’s a great start,” said Parsons, an All-Pro in each of his first two seasons. “I haven’t seen anything like that since we have been here, but it’s the consistency. We just have to keep it going.”
The new cornerback tandem of Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore, both former All-Pros, didn't disappoint.
Diggs' jarring blindside hit on Saquon Barkley sent the ball floating to DaRon Bland, who returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. Diggs also forced a fumble that Dallas recovered on a long New York completion.
The 30th career interception for Gilmore, acquired in an offseason trade, set up the first of Tony Pollard's two touchdowns for a 26-0 lead just 22 minutes into the game.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Even though the Cowboys didn't need it and it was a rainy night, the passing game was out of sync. Prescott completed 54% of his passes, and there were several drops.
After tying for the NFL lead with 15 interceptions last season, Prescott was lucky he wasn't picked on a throw into double coverage in the end zone before a field goal for a 9-0 lead.
Second-year DB Juanyeh Thomas blocked a field goal, which Noah Igbinoghene returned 58 yards for the game's first touchdown. Thomas, who also had a pass breakup after a stellar preseason, was making his NFL debut. It was Igbinoghene's first game for Dallas after a preseason trade with Miami.
K Brandon Aubrey, a 28-year-old rookie and former Major League Soccer player, actually had his arrow pointing up by the end of the game with two field goals and three extra points. But the missed PAT on his first NFL kick brought back haunting memories for Dallas of the reason Aubrey is even here. Brett Maher missed four in a row in the wild-card win at Tampa Bay last season.
Three players who missed the opener could be ready for Week 2. LG Tyler Smith injured a hamstring in practice last week. S Donovan Wilson missed all of the preseason after straining a calf early in training camp. CB Jourdan Lewis (broken foot last season) avoided the physically unable to perform list, which would have sidelined him the first four games. But he wasn't quite ready for the opener.
2016 — The previous time an NFL team scored its first two touchdowns of the season on defense or special teams. Minnesota did it in a 25-16 victory at Tennessee. The Cowboys had never opened a season with two touchdowns on defense or special teams.
Rodgers won eight of his last nine meetings with the Cowboys while with the Packers. Two of those were in the postseason, including a divisional game with McCarthy as his coach during the 2014 season.
The only loss in that stretch was Prescott's rookie season, a 30-16 Dallas win at Green Bay before Rodgers got the playoff payback.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL
Schuyler Dixon, The Associated Press