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Cowboys ‘Animal House’ Defense Continues to Dominate

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Dallas Cowboys Micah Parsons | Image by Sports Illustrated

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When Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah — the Lion — Parsons referenced the phenomenal 1960s and 1970s unit known as the “Doomsday Defense,” sportswriters climbed over themselves to disprove the idea.

That unit, one of the very best that has ever existed in the National Football League, was known for hard-hitting, fast-paced play that would draw more yellow laundry today than anyone can imagine. Yes, the Doomsday Defense defined Dallas football for generations, but this Cowboys unit is not the equivalent.

Instead, this is a new philosophy, something unique that isn’t a representation of what was, but what can be.

The 2022 Dallas Cowboys defense isn’t a throwback to a bygone era; it is the mold and model that every NFL team will be seeking in the future. It’s not a new idea. It’s power football; aggressive, instinct-based, attacking downhill schemes. It’s about players who instinctively know they are in the right spot, and who have the strength, stamina, and determination to win against all odds.

No, this isn’t Doomsday version three or version four. This is something new, unique, and different. What Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is doing with the mixed-bag players and future Hall of Famers isn’t some fluke. This is special.

The Dallas Cowboys are playing “Animal House” defense. That’s because there isn’t one guy, no matter how much attention gets paid to Parsons, who truly sets the tone.

Block Parsons with a double team and eliminate Trevon Diggs in the secondary. Dorance Armstrong, Demarcus Lawrence, and Neville Gallimore want you to. While the quarterback searches for opportunities, someone somewhere is going to get through. Maybe it’s in deep cover, maybe it’s a failure at the line, or maybe it’s someone in the back who just seems to know your playbook and busts through the gap.

The worst thing for opponents facing Dallas is that you never know who is lining up in any particular position. Players like Leighton Vander Esch, Quinton Bohanna, and Osa Odighizuwa are ready and willing to make you pay the price for underestimating this unit. Parsons moves around. That moves others around. That makes offensive coordinators fidget as they analyze the stats to try and counter what this unit brings.

So, your quarterback gets the ball out of his hands. Good. Every single pass is an opportunity for Donovan Wilson, Anthony Brown, or Jayron Kearse to make you pay, particularly when you’ve made a game plan around Diggs.

Head coach Mike McCarthy put it perfectly ahead of the Week 5 demolition of the Los Angeles Rams: “We are no one’s underdog.”

This Dallas defense has beaten both of last season’s Super Bowl participants. And not by a little bit, either. The Cincinnati Bengals scored 17 points in a failed comeback attempt. That wasn’t as epic as the 22-10 beatdown the Cowboys gave the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5.

This isn’t the doomsday defense your grandparents grew up loving. This is something new for Dallas. This isn’t a core group of players executing perfection; it’s a young group of guys ready to go and lay it all on the line for a cause they believe in fully and completely, “Animal House” style, living the “next man up” philosophy. They beat you with the guy you never saw coming and discounted from the start.

The 1977 movie starred a lot of actors who weren’t known by very many people at the time, but once it dropped, they were the only actors that were talked about for a decade. This was the time when Saturday Night Live became a thing. Animal House was all about a group of young guys bucking tradition to make a name for themselves that wasn’t tied to the past.

The 2022 Cowboys unit has that level of talent: the John Belushis, the Kevin Bacons, the Marie Louis Wellers — minor actors who played major roles and made lasting names. They fly just below the talk, letting opponents think that disrupting one or two players will make a difference. The 2022 Cowboys aren’t playing Doomsday Defense. This is Animal House.

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