There is only one NFL team that has recorded multiple sacks in every game played this season. That team is the Dallas Cowboys, who sport such a dominant pass rush at this point that it’s hardly worth mentioning alongside that of other teams.
Dallas generated pressure on 43.7% of opponents’ surrenders, the best in the league, according to TruMedia. This pressure rate is 6% higher than that of the closest team, the New England Patriots (37.7%). The distance between the Cowboys and the Patriots in second place is greater than that between the Patriots and the Buccaneers (32%), who reside in 22nd place. The fact that Dallas accomplished this despite blitzing just 26.2% of the time — a rate slightly below the league average of 26.6% — makes it all the more remarkable.
The Cowboys simply attack their opponents in waves. They have arguably the best passing thrower in all of football in Micah Parsons, another elite thrower in Demarcus Lawrence, plus three other players who rank among the top 40 pressure ratings of the 233 players who have rushed the passer 90 times or more so far this season. Of the seven Dallas defenders who have done so, only Neville Gallimore ranks outside the top 75 (i.e. the top third in the league) in pressure rating, and Gallimore is a defensive tackle at 1 technique that is on the ground primarily to stop the run. .
|Dante Fowler Jr.||144||23||79||16.0%||16|
And of course, Parsons is just a part-time pass thrower. He’s rushed the passer far more often this season than he did a year ago (83.6% of passing snaps vs. 51.8% last season), but he’s still only registering 49th in the NFL in pass rush snaps. Despite that, he’s third in total pressure, largely because he gets to quarterback so often when he’s sent to the backfield.
Parsons and Lawrence have both been among the best pressure players in the league this season despite their double team more often than almost any other top rusher in the NFL. The attention given to them has allowed the other rushmen to consistently work one-on-one, and they are each capable of taking advantage of these situations.
But defensive coordinator Dan Quinn isn’t content to passively let his top guys get doubled. He is aggressive in generating clashes and one-on-one opportunities, varying formations and relying heavily on stunts to get players into the right position. With the exception of Lawrence, who plays almost exclusively on the left side of the line (344 snaps vs. 76 on the right side, per Pro Football Focus), Quinn moves everyone around a decent amount – and he plays them. in all different combinations. (Note that the chart below only includes snaps played while fielding as a defensive lineman, so Parsons’ snaps as an off-ball linebacker are not counted.)
|Dante Fowler Jr.||81||50||8||1||0||2||ten||47||36|
Ask the Vikings how terrifying it is when these guys are chasing you and how badly they can wipe out your entire attack. Minnesota was dead in the water trying to accomplish anything against Dallas, so the Vikings were completely outplayed. Regardless of where Quinn sent the pressure from, it seemingly hit home just as Kirk Cousins was at the peak of his fall. On the rare occasions when this was not the case, the coverage at the back was so good that it still gave the rushers time to get home.
It’s not the only team this group has dominated, and it certainly won’t be the last. The Cowboys have their next opportunity to demolish an offensive line this Sunday night, when they face the Indianapolis Colts — (8:20 p.m. ET on NBC, stream it on FuboTV.) — a team that once featured a dominant offensive line. but now has one who has underperformed throughout this season. Matt Ryan might want to watch his back.