The Dallas Cowboys held onto their playoff dreams for dear life, with a second half comeback against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night. The 38 – 33 victory brought the Cowboys to an even 6 – 6 record for the season. Monday night the Cowboys got even more help from the rival Washington Redskins, when the Redskins beat the New York Giants, pulling the Cowboys to a single game behind the Giants for first place in NFC East. The Cowboys now continue to control their own destiny this coming Sunday when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals.
There were many reasons the Cowboys were able to defeat the Eagles last weekend, but none was more apparent than the return of Running Back DeMarco Murray. Murray ran for 83 yards and a touchdown, but more importantly he carried the ball 23 times. Murray’s return gave balance to a Cowboys offense that had been overwhelmingly one sided during his absence. While Murray was out the offense centered around quarterback Tony Romo dropping back to pass on more occasions than they ran the ball. The Dallas offense has always been better when they can mix the run and the pass and keep the defense guessing which type of play would be called.
In the six games without Murray the Cowboys never once had a running back with more than 20 carries in a single game. The level of balance with Murray was a great reason that the Cowboys were able to come back against the Eagles. The use of the running game not only gashed the Eagles defense for big plays, but it also wore down the defense to allow the Cowboys to move the ball at will in the fourth quarter.
Murray suffered a foot injury in the first half of the Cowboys Week 6 match up with the Baltimore Ravens. Murray left that game with 93 yards rushing to lead the Cowboys. In the six games Murray was inactive the Cowboys never rushed for over 75 yards, the closest to that number was Felix Jones with 71 yards in their Week 10 game against Philadelphia. The ability for the Cowboys to run the ball effectively, not only wears down the defense, but it also allows Romo to utilize the play action pass. The threat of a running game opens up holes in the passing zones, and allows the Cowboys receivers to beat one-on-one coverage against defensive backs. The play action pass also slows down the defensive pass rush, giving the Dallas offensive line an easier time blocking for the quarterback.
Murray’s second quarter touchdown was a rare sight for Cowboy fans as the Cowboys scored a rushing touchdown. They had just two rushing touchdowns in the six weeks Murray was not in the line up. Murray is not only a big play back, but he can slam the ball between the tackles, which is a much needed asset for the Cowboys when they are deep in the redzone.
On Sunday the Cowboys will face a Bengals team that ranks 11th in the NFL in rushing defense and 7th in total defense. Needless to say, the Cowboys will have be able to run the ball effectively to come out of Cincinnati with a win. The Cowboys will have to run a balanced offense to be able to move the ball. The Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has always been a defensive guru from his days as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator to his current coaching position. The running game will also help keep the Bengals high powered Sophomore duo of quarterback Andy Dalton and AJ Green on the sidelines.
The Cowboys kept their season alive with a win over the Eagles last week. They now sit one game behind the Giants for the NFC East Division Title. They also sit just one game behind the Seattle Seahawks for the final Wild Card spot. The return of DeMarco Murray gives hope to all in Cowboys Nation that the offense can be productive. If the Cowboys are to make a December push to the playoffs, they will need to ride Murray all the way home. Head coach Jason Garrett has been pass happy in his tenure of calling plays for the Cowboys, but with a horse like Murray in the backfield he will have to “feed the beast” at least 20 times for the Cowboys to be successful. If Murray gets his carries and is as productive as he has been when healthy this season, the Cowboys might just pull off a late season rush to the playoffs.