Dallas Cowboys: The running game is the key to success

. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

After losing Dak Prescott for several weeks due to a broken thumb, the Dallas Cowboys have surprisingly won three consecutive games with Cooper Rush running the show and appears to have found their mojo with their journeyman backup signal caller.

Nobody expected the Cowboys to be 3-1 without Dak. And nobody expected the Cowboys to be keeping opponents under 20 points and allowing just one touchdown in each contest. The Cowboys’ defense is not only keeping opponents out of the end zone, but they are beating down opponents in the process with old fashioned, hard-hitting tacklefest with players flying all over the field.

With Rush keeping the offense afloat and the defense setting the tone, the Cowboys are hitting on all cylinders and using every offensive weapon in their arsenal to win games. However, it is the Cowboys running game that is the secret weapon to its recent success.

The key to the Dallas Cowboys success is running the ball effectively, keeping defenses honest, and deploying the play action pass.

In a pass-happy league, every fan loves to see their favorite quarterback pass for 500 yards, a bunch of touchdowns and win a high scoring game. The fans love it, the NFL loves it, and the network surely loves it because of the high ratings.

That notion doesn’t apply with this offense. For a Dallas team that is playing with a backup quarterback, the best option is to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. In reality, it’s the main reason why Dallas has won three consecutive games, and another reason why Rush looks good as a complementary piece. A successful running game has allowed Rush to use play action pass and plays to Rush’s strengths.

In other words, the running game simplifies and slows the game down for Rush to be best quarterback he can be. In two of Dallas’ victories (Cincinnati Bengals and New York Giants), Dallas rushed for 107 yards and 167 yards with two rushing touchdowns to boot. Against the Giants, Pollard had long runs of 46 and 14 yards, and Zeke had a long run of 27 yards. Both backs had several runs that went for big yardage.

Those positive runs are why play action worked to perfection against the Giants, especially when Rush hit CeeDee Lamb in stride (only for it to be a dropped pass). Regardless, Dallas’ wideouts were wide open because of the success of the running game. As a result, each and every pass completed breeds more confidence in Rush to lead this team to victory.

What must be noted about the Dallas Cowboys having a successful running game is how it can sustain long drives, take time off the clock, wear out opposing defenses, and most importantly, allows Dallas’ own defense to rest. It would be ideal for Dallas’ offense to finish those long drives with a touchdown, but a field goal will suffice because Dallas’ defense is more than capable of getting the ball back to its offense. Rinse and repeat.

If you need any proof running the ball is beneficial at the moment, just look at two of Dallas’ long-time archrivals- the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. Those divisional-leading buzzards lead the league in rushing with 163 yards a game, and the 49ers have already had two games of rushing for 176 and 189 yards with three touchdowns (the 49ers other two games yielded 88 yards per game respectively).

It’s ironic how Dallas’ offense mirrors their archrivals, and why it would be wise to follow suit moving forward. For example, Jimmy Garoppolo leans on the 49ers running game to set up the play action pass and to make timely throws without turning the ball over. Plus, it depends on its league leading defense in points allowed (11.5 a game) to get the offense the ball back in good field position.

Dallas and 49ers are both tied for 27th in the league in scoring with 17.8 points per game. 

Hmmm…. that’s exactly what head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore are doing with Rush. The similarities are eerie because Dallas’ defense is carrying the offense the same way the running game makes the play action pass possible.

Yes, Garoppolo is better than Rush, but the drop off isn’t as far as one might expect because Jimmy G can be as inconsistent as a toddler being potty trained. Jalen Hurts has the best offensive line in the NFL with the best rushing attack to go with it.

Hurts has improved as a passer, no doubt, but the Eagles ability to run the ball has benefited Hurts to average 9.1 yards a passing attempt and 13.9 yards per completion. Yep, Hurts leads the league in both categories.

Sidenote: Rush is the first quarterback in NFL history to win his first four starts with a 90 plus quarterback rating. Rush has thrown for 673 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 224 yards a game.

Dallas faces the defending Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams and Eagles in its next two games, and they will need the running game more than ever against a Rams team coming off an embarrassing loss to the 49ers. The Eagles are the favorites to win the NFC East and are looking for NFC East supremacy with a defining win over the Dallas Cowboys.

But Dallas’ running game evens the playing field and gives them the best opportunity to upset both opponents. Combine Dallas’ top-ranked defense with Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence to the mix, and Dallas can win either one of those games if not both. The Rams are vulnerable because their offensive line is in shambles, and the Eagles have yet to face a stingy defense like Dallas’. You always throw out records when divisional rivalries play!

Read. How the Dallas Cowboys defense is great, not perfect, yet. light

Next. Credit Kellen Moore for Cooper Rush's success. dark

Eventually, Dak will return, and Dallas should still stick to its running game. I’m not suggesting they run the ball 45 times but utilize it for the benefits it brings to the offense.

Because if the running game is working for Rush, it will work for Dak, too. The NFL is a passing league, but a powerful running game still remains the key for a successful offense to win any game it plays!