Cowboys Success Depends On These Two Things


The Dallas Cowboys have to improve their running game and defense quickly or their season will be over very soon.

With a two game losing streak, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves at a crossroads early in the season. Of course, not having Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant has much to do with these recent loses, but other injuries to key starters have contributed as well.

The Cowboys’ success depends on running the ball and playing better defense, especially where sacking the opposing quarterback is concerned. The Cowboys had the NFL’s leading rusher last year in DeMarco Murray and owned time of possession in most games. By having the leading rusher and the best offensive line, the Cowboys went 12-4 and protected Romo.

No longer did Romo have to throw the ball 35 to 50 times to win the game.

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More importantly, the lethal running game made defenses pick their own poison. If teams stacked the box with eight men, Bryant would be in position to beat single coverage against receivers and tight ends. If defenses played dime coverage, Murray would run for glory.

Through four  games this season, the Cowboys rushing attack has been anywhere from obsolete to mediocre at best. Besides a few big runs and a three touchdown performance by Joseph Randle against the Atlanta Falcons, the running game has not been impressive. The Cowboys will not win with a mediocre running game.

The Cowboys must run the ball 30-35 times a game. That’s the only way to keep defenses honest and to open up play action passes. Besides, the running game will only help Brandon Weeden, who obviously needs all he can get at this particular time.

With a talented offensive line and three capable runners, there is no reason why the Cowboys can’t run the ball more. In the last two games, the Cowboys have run the ball a total of 49 times for 242 yards and five touchdowns.  In comparison, Murray had 48 carries, 249 yards and three touchdowns in a two game span last season.

In the first four games of last season, Murray had the same number of rushing touchdowns as the Cowboys do this year, which is five.

The Cowboys rushing stats from the last two games are impressive at first glance, but the problem is they’ve gotten away from the running game after having had early success. Against the Falcons, they completely abandoned the run game like a vacant building in the second half. As soon as the opposing defense stops the run on just a few plays, the Cowboys panic and do everything but run the ball.

Here is an example of how the Cowboys have abandoned the running game. In the third quarter last week, the Cowboys were in the red zone at the Saints nine yard line. Instead of running the ball, Weeden threw two incomplete passes to Terrance Williams and was sacked on third down, resulting in a field goal.

If the Cowboys run the ball, maybe they score a touchdown and put themselves in a better position to win the game.

Furthermore, the Cowboys need to find their featured back and stick with him. Not only does a running back have to get his touches, but he also has to get into a rhythm. Once Randle starts finding his groove, the Cowboys yank him out and replace him with Darren McFadden.

Then the Cowboys do the same with McFadden. How do they expect to have any consistency?

The running back by committee approach means utilizing the runners in an effective manner. If, and when, the Cowboys stick to the running game, then everything will open up and allow them some bigger plays in the air.

The running game will keep the defense off  the field. A 14-play drive represents break time for a defense.

This leads to another problem for the Cowboys, which is that same defense.

Although the Cowboys had three sacks, Drew Brees drove the Saints down the field as if he were driving a car with no traffic, especially on the last drive before overtime.

It’s clear that the Cowboys didn’t have Randy Gregory, Greg Hardy, and Rolando McClain. However, the Cowboys had an 11-point lead against the Falcons and had several opportunities to beat the Saints. The reality is the Cowboys were in position to win both of those games.

With Hardy and McClain now in the mix, the pass rush gets a boost and the run defense will be better. If Sean Lee passes the concussion protocol, the Cowboys will have a better defense overall and help themselves greatly against the New England Patriots.  To be clear, I’m not predicting them to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots.

But if they run the ball effectively, play smart, and sack Brady, they have a chance to win.

Anything is possible with that combination.

That’s the only way the Cowboys will be successful this season.

Next: Dallas Cowboys: Hard Decisions Loom

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