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Sacks and takeaways keep flowing as the Micah Parsons-fueled Cowboys flourish in a fast start

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons celebrates after sacking New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson during the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Micah Parsons zipped around a couple of his defensive linemen on a stunt and was on Zach Wilson before the New York Jets quarterback knew what hit him.

The sacks and takeaways keep flowing for the Dallas Cowboys, the first team since the 1970s to lead the NFL in turnovers forced for two years in a row and one of the league's top teams in sacks last season.

Parsons, an All-Pro pass rusher each of his first two seasons, is a big reason for the buzz around the Cowboys two weeks into the season.

The numbers are another.

Dallas beat the New York teams by a combined 70-10 in a season-opening sweep, with a 30-10 victory over the Jets that followed a 40-0 rout of the NFC East rival Giants in the opener.

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The Cowboys have 10 sacks and seven takeaways — without a turnover of their own a year after Dak Prescott tied for the NFL lead with 15 interceptions despite missing five games. The plus-7 turnover margin leads the NFL.

“We just feel like we’ve been here before,” defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. “It’s not something to get excited about. We know who we are. We just feel like the world is just starting to figure out who we are. Just keep watching.”

Parsons had two of the three sacks of Wilson, his 10th game with at least two sacks in his first three seasons. He's the sixth player to do that since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

Parsons also had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, which he thought he had turned into a touchdown by running to the end zone after ripping the ball out of Dalvin Cook's arms. A replay review showed he made contact with a lineman while still on the ground.

“I definitely think I’ve still got my running back skills,” Parsons said. “It’s a little rusty. I want to be more fluent in my cutbacks and my jukes.”

The Cowboys are the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 70 points while allowing 10 or fewer in the first two games.

Three of the previous four made the playoffs, and the 1967 Oakland Raiders reached the Super Bowl, losing to Green Bay. Dallas hasn’t been to the Super Bowl since the 1995 season.

“I am guarded because obviously you’ve been in this thing as long as I have, you know that you can have this thing turn on you,” owner Jerry Jones said. “But I fundamentally like where we are.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Prescott was sharper in the passing game after a sluggish opener against the Giants when the Cowboys really didn't need much from him because the first two touchdowns came on special teams and defense.

He was 31 of 38 for 255 yards against the Jets while No. 1 receiver CeeDee Lamb tied a career high with 11 catches for 143 yards, seven shy of his best.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

While new lead running back Tony Pollard had a career-high 25 carries, his 2.9-yard average per carry told the story of a struggling running game.

All-Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and the Jets' front had plenty to do with that as the Cowboys had to settle for four of their five field goals on trips inside the 20-yard line. The other field goal came without a first down after Parsons' fumble recovery at the New York 37.

STOCK UP

K Brandon Aubrey was on the “down” side of this category in his debut in the opener because the 28-year-old rookie missed his first-ever NFL regular-season kick on an extra point. He has the job in part because of Brett Maher's four consecutive misses on PATs in a wild-card win last season.

Aubrey hasn't missed in 13 kicks since that first one. He has seven field goals, including a 55-yarder against the Jets, and six extra points.

“I think we’ve got us a kicker,” Jones said.

“That’s a far cry from missing that first extra point that we started the season off with, but I’m the kind of guy that will hang in there with them,” Jones, also the team's general manager, said with a laugh.

STOCK DOWN

WR Michael Gallup's role in the offense seems to be fading. Newcomer Brandin Cooks' absence because of a knee injury should have meant more chances for Gallup. Instead, he was targeted just twice with one reception for 3 yards after catching one for 10 against the Giants.

INJURIES

Six-time All-Pro RG Zack Martin injured an ankle when Pollard ran into the back of him on a carry. Coach Mike McCarthy said he thought Martin would be OK. ... LG Chuma Edoga, starting in place of Tyler Smith for a second consecutive week because of Smith's hamstring injury, left with an elbow issue. Undrafted rookie T.J. Bass took Edoga's spot.

KEY NUMBER

9 — The Cowboys have won nine consecutive home games, their longest streak since AT&T Stadium opened in 2009. It's the longest run of home victories since Dallas won 11 straight at Texas Stadium in 1991-92.

NEXT STEPS

The Cowboys are double-digit favorites at Arizona on Sunday, according to FanDuel SportsBook, and might be again the following week at home against New England. Then it's a Week 5 showdown at San Francisco, which has beaten Dallas in the playoffs the past two seasons.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL