Last season marked the third time in a row the Dallas Cowboys lost in the final week of the season with a trip to the playoffs on the line.
Last season was different, though, as most wouldn’t believe the team had a shot at the playoffs. Jerry Jones’ defense gave up the third-most yards in NFL history and played without guys like Sean Lee, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff. The defense is still an issue this season considering it is filled with young talent and injuries continue to cripple the roster. However, there is one guy who can give the team and its fans another interesting season.
That guy is DeMarco Murray.
It is really the running game itself with Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams showing some promise. The majority of the workload will go to Murray and his impact will do more than just march the ‘Boys down the field.
The former Oklahoma Sooner was playing superbly in 2013, rushing for nine touchdowns. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry which was tops for any ball carrier with at least 120 rushes. Murray’s 53 receptions were also the ninth most out of running backs.
With a depleted, inexperienced defense, the Cowboys must work on giving Murray the ball more. While somewhat fragile, Murray is a punishing rusher who also has good elusiveness. He has a knack for breaking tackles and gaining yards after contact. It is what this team needs to keep the defense on the bench and Tony Romo and the rest of the offense on the gridiron.
Since his rookie season in 2011, Dallas is 11-0 when Murray rushes the ball 20 or more times. Three of those wins came last season and were the only games he surpassed the 20-rush mark.
The game against the Green Bay Packers last season is a perfect example. The ‘Boys failed to hold a 23-point halftime lead and lost the game by a single point. Murray finished the game with 18 carries and 136 yards. Just three of those carries came in the fourth quarter when his team still held a 12-point lead. If the team continued to feed Murray the ball, there is no way the Packers come back and win the game.
It is those mistakes that haunt this team and especially Romo. New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan must make sure to eliminate them.
Even though Dallas possesses a sketchy defense, there is still a shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys are going to need to depend on more Murray and less Romo.