The Dallas Cowboys new-found commitment to the run game is the talk of the NFL. For years, there's been a large contingent of Cowboys followers clamoring for just this type of commitment even though conventional wisdom says the NFL is now a passing league. That may be true in a lot of ways, but without going through all the permutations of when and how teams run or pass and how much of their success you can credit to it, there is still a belief that running the ball effectively is one of the simplest routes to winning football.
When the Cowboys were down big against the St. Louis Rams (21 points), new play-caller Scott Linehan did not abandon the run. He stuck with it and the Cowboys eventually found their way back to the lead and a win. Based on that evidence, you had to believe that the Cowboys were going to give running the ball against the league's best run defense a shot. That's exactly what they did.
Over the course of the first half, the Cowboys had some success running the ball, more than any other team that had faced the Seahawks defense this year. But starting in the second half, the Seahawks defense clamped down on the Cowboys running game. After a brief amount of success on their first drive of the second half, Murray's gains looked like this on running plays - 0, 0, 1, 0, 0 yds. From halftime until 4:55 left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had run the ball 10 times and gained a grand total of 18 yards.
During the all-important drive that started with 8:16 left in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were losing 23-20, you could have excused the Cowboys and Scott Linehan if they finally gave up on the run and went to the air. In fact, I'll admit it, at that point I said give up the run, put it on Tony Romo. But Dallas didn't do that. Even when Murray's first couple of runs ended up going nowhere, they still didn't abandon it. It's a good thing, too. Starting with a first and 10 at the Seahawks 46-yard line, Murray ran for 25 yards, 6 yards and 15 yards, the last one being a touchdown.
No one can question Scott Linehan's commitment to the run, or Jason Garrett's, or anybody in the Cowboys organization. Even when it doesn't seem to be working, if you keep pounding the rock, eventually the opposition will break. Everyone talked about how physical a game it was in Seattle, and that the Cowboys had finally shed the finesse label. We tend to think about defenses when we talk about being physical, but it's the Cowboys offense that is setting the physical tone.