Sep 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) on the sideline during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

3rd Down Efficiency Key to Victory for the Dallas Cowboys

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Taking to twitter this week to find out what fans think, compared to their Dallas Cowboys Valley Ranch media counterparts, are the key or keys to a Cowboys victory over this week’s opponents the Cincinnati Bengals. While there are many aspects and keys to a victory such as turnovers, time of possession, both red zone and third efficiency. One Cowboys faithful fan believes one key to victory for the Cowboys is the run game.

@GregRector1 tweets, “Demarco Murray will need to be very effective tomorrow, if not a long day for Romo,dealing with a very good #Bengals pass rush #CowboysNation.”

Greg is correct. As fans kept hoping for a return from Cowboys Center Phil Costa to help shore up the o-line issues and help add to the boost DeMarco Murray seemed to provide after a return last week against division rival Philadelphia. Those hopes were dashed when the Cowboys placed Costa on injured reserve Wednesday essentially ending the second year players season.

Nonetheless, DeMarco Murray and the patch work offensive line will need piece together a solid day running the ball in order to help keep offset the Bengals pass rush and keep Tony Romo upright. Murray took part on only 56% of the offensive snaps last week versus the Eagles and still managed 102 total yards and a touchdown. Entering week 14 the Cincinnati Bengals are number one in the NFL with 39 team sacks, rank 10th in passing offense and 11th in rushing defense but allow an 4.4 yards per carry average.

Murray is averaging a 4.2 yards per carry average and maintaining a strong run game against an over aggressive pass rush by mixing in draw and counter plays along with play action should keep the Cowboys in manageable third down situations.  Third down efficiency is not a complicated philosophy. Simply convert third downs into first downs in an attempt to sustain drives. The longer the drives or more overall plays during a game lead to more opportunities for big plays and less plays from the opposing team.

In every game this season, the Cincinnati Bengals have game away with a loss when they have had a lower third down efficiency than the opposing team. And as you may imagine the Dallas Cowboys have won every game, with the exception of the Cleveland Browns match-up, when they out performed the opposing team on third downs. Except for games against the Seattle Seahawks and the week eight rematch with the New York Giants, games in which the Dallas Cowboys allowed a blocked punt touchdown or a defensive touchdown, you guessed it the Cowboys have lost every game this season when they have allowed the opposition to win the third down efficiency battle.

Is third down efficiency the end all be all for end game results? Not quite as both the Seattle and New York game proves but if the Cowboys can manage to minimize turnovers for scores, keep Tony Romo upright with a solid run game and dominate on third downs while getting the Cincinnati Bengals offense off the field then the Dallas Cowboys should leave Paul Brown Stadium with a victory and a glimmering of playoff hopes.

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray Phil Costa Tony Romo

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