I’m in my office, getting ready for another show on NFL Network in which we’ll ask the question: What’s wrong with the Cowboys? Last week, the question on every show I hosted was: Who’s to blame for the Cowboys? If the Cowboys lose this week to the Houston Texans and head off into their bye week at 0-3, the question may very well be: Who should be the next coach of the Cowboys?
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I think Dallas has quite a chance to right the ship this weekend.
This game reminds me A LOT of last year’s Week 15 NFL Network Saturday edition of Thursday Night Football, when the Cowboys visited undefeated New Orleans in the middle of what appeared to be yet another December swoon. Nobody expected them to win that game. Again, the Cowboys were in New Orleans, one of the toughest road assignments in the NFL. Also, New Orleans was undefeated and the Cowboys had lost two straight. And, don’t forget, it was December, the worst month of the year for the Cowboys in recent years.
And guess what happened? Dallas played desperately and passionately and won the game.
This weekend, Dallas will find the Houston crowd in full throat. The fans there want it. The Texans want it. What better way for the good football folks in Houston to serve notice on the rest of the Cowboys-loving Lone Star State that there’s a new football sheriff in town? The Texans are also undefeated and the Cowboys have lost two in a row. Sure, it’s not December. But, you get the drift. The Cowboys are in a desperate situation. They may just get the same result as last year’s visit to New Orleans and win.
And here’s how they do it: Run. Run often. And when they run, they need to run like Forrest Gump.
Now, why, you may ask, would they do that against a team that Donovan McNabb had a career day throwing against last weekend? Because Dallas needs to start hitting people in the mouth and gain some confidence while doing it. It’s an Instant Identity for a team that’s in dire need of one. Just add runs.
Right now, no team has a more diverse run-pass play-calling differential than the Cowboys. Of the plays called by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett in the first two weeks of the season, only 29 percent have been running plays. It’s not as if the Cowboys trailed horribly in either of their first two losses and HAD to abandon the run either. They just have. And nobody can survive and advance in the NFL with such a horrendous disparity in play-calling.
So, I say this: In his preparation for Sunday, Garrett should write down the number “10” on a piece of paper and put it in the pocket of his Sunday pants. Because that’s the number of running plays he should call in his first 15 minutes. And that number might be too small. Anytime he thinks of passing instead, Garrett should pull out that piece of paper. Ten, Jason. Ten running plays. It will get the offensive line going. It will get the running back group going. Even if they DON’T work.
Now, if they DO work, it will not only take the crowd of the game but it will also provide much needed juice to his own offense. Plus, it’s no secret that the Cowboys offensive line is far worse at pass blocking. It’s also no secret that Mario Williams has been balling out and coming for the quarterback.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Romo himself on Thursday: “When you run the ball and run successfully, it makes everything a lot easier. Everything. Whether it’s your red-zone offense or whether it’s staying on the field or minimizing mistakes or minimizing what the defense can do defensively.”
Last year, in that all-or-nothing game in New Orleans, Marion Barber had two touchdowns. The Cowboys had 10 RUSHING first downs. They ran the ball a grand total of 36 times. Thus far this year, they’ve run the ball 41 times. In two games.
Again, the message is simple. Run Marion, run. Run Felix, run. Run Tashard, run! Even if you run into a Williams brick wall in the first half Sunday, keep running it. You may just run into your bye week 1-2. And actually enjoy the week off.