Dennis Green once told a story about Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys. Essentially he said that he was coaching the Minnesota Vikings and the Cowboys got the ball back with roughly 6 minutes on the clock. Internally he thought, “If we stop them here, we can get the ball back with roughly 4 minutes to go.” 3 timeouts later and 6 minutes off the clock the game was OVER.
The Cowboys were up 24 to 10 early in the fourth quarter against the NY Jets. Later in the quarter, the Cowboys had a 7 point lead and possession of the football with 12 minutes remaining in the game and subsequently had the ball at the Jets’ 3 yard line with 10 minutes remaining. The Cowboys of the 90′s would have given the ball to Emmitt Smith who would have ran behind a powerful “awe-fensive” line until they got the touchdown. The 2011 version of the Cowboys ran once with a speed back (Felix Jones) and then proceeded to call two passing plays. We know how this series ends – with fans calling for Romo’s head (and for those who didn’t watch the game, Romo fumbled trying to scramble for a touchdown).
This is self-evident, but the Cowboys missed Marion Barber. Well, they missed the Marion Barber of the past who ran physically. Even in the previous red-zone opportunity, the Cowboys ran a sweep to the left. That is not a power running play.
Fast forward to the 6 minute mark. McCray forces a fumble and the Cowboys offense has an opportunity to close out the game. With a 7 point lead and 6 minutes in the game, the Cowboys need a closer, they needed a football version of Mariano Rivera. The plays that are called are: pitch left with Jones (net gain, -2); incomplete pass down the sideline to either Bryant or Austin; delay of game (but the play that was called was a WR screen); false start with Romo in the shotgun; and finally on 3rd and 22, an incomplete pass to Dez Bryant.
Yes it should be argued that a run on 3rd and 22 is a give up play. Yes it can be argued that the Cowboys running game was stifled for much of the game by the Jets defense. But, the Cowboys essentially were willing to give the ball back to the Jets with 5 minutes remaining. Emmitt would have closed out the game. A young Marion would have closed out the game. Mariano Rivera would have been injured by the linebackers and forced to retire. The Cowboys lead by Jason Garrett simply do not appreciate the effectiveness of the running game when it comes to finishing the game. Garrett should give Coach Green or Jimmy Johnson a call.
Addendum: I was doing research in response to a post. I thought the results of which support the above. When the Cowboys were ahead by 7 with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter and then later tied (after the blocked punt), we ran the ball six times for about 11 yards (1.83 yards per carry). If you take away the extremes (Felix for -2 and Felix for 8), then you wind up with 4 runs for 5 yards total (1.25 yards per carry average). Either average is simply unacceptable.