Kevin Ogletree and his team can’t get get ahead of themselves after their big win over the New York Giants on Wednesday night. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys played well, but now it’s time to prove their balanced offensive attack and bend-but-don’t-break defense are consistent. It’s still hard for the Dallas faithful not to be excited, especially after taking a look at the numbers from the Cowboys-Giants opening night game.
Since 2007, the Cowboys are 10-3 in games in which quarterback Tony Romo threw less than 30 passes and 3-9 in games in which he threw 40 or more. The conclusion is simple: when Dallas’ offensive attack is balanced, the Cowboys are much more likely to win than when it’s not.
The 2011 season was Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray‘s rookie year and he made his presence felt early by breaking Emmitt Smith‘s franchise single-game rushing record in his first start and then rushing for more yards in a four-game stretch than any other Cowboy. A broken ankle ended his rookie campaign early, but Murray is back with a vengeance in his sophomore season and showed it on Wednesday night by carrying the ball 20 times for 131 yards.
Including the game against the Giants, the Cowboys are 6-0 in games in which when Murray received 20 or more carries and 4-0 when he eclipsed 100 rushing yards. Murray did both of those things against the Giants and Romo only threw 29 passes – the perfect formula for success.
Obviously no NFL game goes exactly as planned. Sometimes teams must pass more than they anticipated and other times the running game is more useful than expected. Thus, the Cowboys cannot just plan on running Murray 20 or more times every game and holding Romo to less than 30 passes. However, when the balance is there, so are the victories.
The key was Romo still threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns, which gave Dallas a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. This was a rocky area for the Cowboys in 2011 as the team collapsed in four games with similar late-game leads. However, Murray ensured that didn’t happen against New York. With a 7-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Murray carried the ball six times for 39 yards on a clock-eating drive that elapsed over seven minutes and resulted in a Romo touchdown pass to Miles Austin.
Murray then carried the ball three times for 11 yards on Dallas’ final drive to ensure the victory. Situations like these are ones in which the Cowboys’ faltered in recent seasons due their lack of a running game and thus an unbalanced offensive attack. If Wednesday night was implication, Dallas could be in for a huge year if this offensive consistency can be maintained throughout the season.