Running on Empty

No love for running game means trouble for Dallas Cowboys

No love for running game means trouble for Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo
Tony Romo passed for 337 yards in the Cowboys win against Minnesota.  Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant hauls in a catch for the Cowboys. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Jason Garrett
Head coach Jason Garrett no longer calls the plays for Dallas. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Cole Beasley
Cole Beasley and other wide receivers were on full display as Dallas chose passing over running nearly every play. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten
Jason Witten caught eight passes for 102 yards. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray
DeMarco Murray barely got any touches in Dallas' win over Minnesota.  Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
Dallas defeated Minnesota the hard way on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson and the Vikings used the running game heavily. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Christian Ponder
Quarterback Christian Ponder gets harassed by Dallas' defensive line. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo
Dez Bryant
Jason Garrett
Cole Beasley
Jason Witten
DeMarco Murray
Dallas Cowboys
Adrian Peterson
Christian Ponder

The Dallas Cowboys achieved a first in their 27-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday: fewest carries in a single game in team history. There's no excuse for putting up a pitiful nine rushes in the first game back for DeMarco Murray, who had missed the previous two games due to a knee injuries.

Nine rushes for 36 yards. Twenty-seven of the Cowboys’ final 28 plays were passes. This happened in a game in which the Cowboys were never down by more than four points.

Murray was shown walking around the sideline at different points in the game. The look on his face said, “I hurried back for this?”

"You'd certainly like to have more balance than that, obviously," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said after the game. "We'll keep striving for that. We did run the ball a little bit fairly well early on. DeMarco looked like he was going to have a good day, but as it wore on there were some minus runs that happened that got us behind the sticks a little bit. Hard for us to get into a rhythm."

 DeMarco Murray is a key to this team’s success. When he carries the football 20 or more times in a game, the Cowboys are 10-0. 

Even though the Cowboys won, Murray is a key to this team’s success. After all, when Murray carries the football 20 or more times in a game, the Cowboys are 10-0. 

The Vikings gave the Cowboys a lesson in how the running game makes life easier. Adrian Peterson rushed for 140 yards on 25 carries. But Peterson didn’t truly break one until his 22nd carry, when he gained 52 yards.

The Vikings spent all day softening up the Cowboys’ defensive line for that moment in the fourth quarter when Peterson broke one. The Vikings still lost, but Peterson’s rushing made the day better for quarterback Christian Ponder.

Even though the Cowboys won, quarterback Tony Romo had to work a heck of a lot harder. And it wasn’t his fault.

This time you have to blame the game plan and the offensive coordinator, Bill Callahan, who seemed to stubbornly refuse to run the football, despite the 27-yard gain that Murray broke off on the Cowboys’ first drive of the game.

Bizarrely, the Cowboys ran the football better without Murray the past two games than they did with him on Sunday. And by better I mean that they actually ran the football in those games.

But it wasn’t Murray’s fault, either. He can’t affect the game if he’s not given the football.

Wanna try the offensive line? You’re getting warm, but this is practically the same offensive line that helped the Cowboys rush for 193 yards against St. Louis just a few weeks ago.

Maybe the Cowboys need a better back than Murray? It’s hard to make that case when you look at some of the other NFL backs that had 100-yard rushing days on Sunday: C.J. Spiller, Buffalo: 116 yards; Chris Ivory, New Orleans: 139 yards; Zac Stacy, St. Louis: 127 yards; Alfred Morris, Washington: 121 yards; Rashad Jennings, Oakland: 102 yards; Mike James, Tampa Bay: 158 yards; Stevan Ridley, New England: 115 yards.

Do any of those backs strike you as being better than Murray? And who the heck is Mike James?

This is all symptomatic of the Cowboys’ seeming inability to commit to running the ball since Jason Garrett became the head coach in mid-2010. Need proof?

In 2010, the Cowboys threw the ball 57.3 percent. In 2011 it was 58.2 percent. In 2012 it was 64.9 percent. In nine games in 2013 it is 65.4 percent.

The Cowboys seem intent on ramming Romo down our throats. Although he is talented, sending him out there week after week without a competent run game behind him is just asking for trouble. With the Saints coming up on Sunday night, trouble may be on the way.