Continuing on with the series of " The Cowboys Make The Playoffs If..." articles we've been running recently, my turn to add to the conversation has arrived. You can check the previous efforts here:
OCC on the need for better pass defense.
Coty on the need for two-tight end sets to work.
Tom on the need for an injury-free offensive line.
For my effort, I've chosen the theme of the Cowboys running game, or lack thereof. Yes, the NFL is now a passing league. Modern offensive strategy has evolved to use the passing game much more than in decades past, and with rule changes along the way the aerial attack has become the norm. So in no way would I suggest the Cowboys try to become a run-oriented offense. After all, their current passing game is among the most potent in the game. But, if they could just come up with a decent, passable, somewhat-threatening ground attack, they could solve a lot of their woes.
How bad was the Dallas run-game last season? Historically bad. Their 1,256 yards total was the worst by the franchise in a 16-game season, and their 79.1 yards per game stat was the worst for any season. There are plenty of other statistical measures you could look at for the Cowboys in terms of running the ball last year, and almost all are putrid. The only team that was consistently at the bottom of the league in rushing stats for 2012 who made the playoffs was the Atlanta Falcons. And they at least had 12 rushing TDs to the Cowboys 8. All of the other teams at the bottom were either duds or stuck in mediocrity just outside the playoffs.
If the Cowboys would have had a healthy DeMarco Murray last year, and just a little bit better results on average from the run game, they would have probably made the playoffs. If they had established a run game that was worthy of Murray's talents, they might have been able to do more.
The run game would play a huge role in some problems that have bedeviled the 'Boys recently.
Redzone/short-yardage offense: Running the ball on third and 1, or from the goal line, instead of having to pass it, would be a huge relief.
Saving Tony Romo: Defenses are becoming unconcerned about Dallas running the ball and are pinning their ears back in a mad dash to crush Romo. A decent running game would at least make them hold a second before trying to ruin Romo's day.
Dominating mentality: When you can beat a defense running the ball, it means you are physically beating them on the line, and if you do that they mentally wear down.
Basically, the Cowboys offense became one-dimensional last year. Even with only a passing attack to threaten defenses, Dallas almost made the playoffs. Imagine what they could do if DeMarco Murray stays healthy and they manage to establish at least the threat of a running game. I'd imagine they'd make the playoffs.