Why the Dallas Cowboys became a running team

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys are a running team. Effective or not, they like to run they rock. It’s part of their identity this season and it’s largely served them well. In fact, it may have saved their season.

When Dak Prescott fell to injury in Week 1, the Cowboys had to change. Without a franchise signal caller under center, they didn’t have much of a choice. The Cooper Rush era had begun in Dallas and if the Cowboys wanted to stay afloat while Prescott recovered, they needed the running game to carry them.

The running game saved the Dallas Cowboys season and masked many of their deficiencies.

Cooper Rush, the passer, was operating at a negative EPA/play clip. This means when you factor in all throws, the bad outweighed the good. Luckily for Dallas, they had the NFL’s best defense early in the season and only needed a couple big plays from their offense to win most games.

This became the formula for success. Run the ball to tread water. Protect the ball and let the defense go to work. Then, when the opportunity was right, take a shot. It’s safe to say the strategy paid off, the Cowboys went 4-1 with Rush at the helm.

When Prescott returned in Week 7, the playbook opened, albeit not as wide as it once was. The Dallas Cowboys liked their little formula and as long as the defense was dominant, saw little need in going back to the pass-happy look of before.

Perhaps the biggest reason the Cowboys wanted to stay run-heavy was the performance of their offensive line. The Cowboys offensive line was one of the best in the NFL in run blocking but consistently at the bottom in pass protection. Most of the season they were dead last in pass-rush win-rate.

For sake of Prescott’s survival, they needed to keep the number of dropbacks down. Even if the passing game was becoming more productive than the running game, they didn’t want their QB1 getting killed behind a porous O-line.

As time wore on and injuries mounted, the defense started to slip. No longer could the offense ride their coattails, it had to do some heavy lifting and that required a more aggressive attack. Which brings us to where we stand today: a balanced offense that should probably be more pass-heavy than they are. 

Why were the Cowboys a run heavy team early: No QB and a poor offensive line.

Why are the Cowboys throwing more now: No running game and a porous defense.

Sports Dallas Fort-Worth
Sports Dallas Fort-Worth /

Want your voice heard? Join the Sports Dallas Fort-Worth team!

Write for us!

If the defense can regain some footing and the offensive line can bounce back, it opens up the entire offense to be as efficient as they want. But until that happens, the strategy is equal parts avoiding risk and doing the less bad option