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Eatman: Running Away From Run Simply Inexcusable

Posted Dec 15, 2013


ARLINGTON, Texas – Let’s just get straight to the point.

The Cowboys led 26-3 and the Packers couldn’t stop the run. They built that lead with just 11 runs, and DeMarco Murray was already nearing 100 yards. But with that 23-point advantage, the Cowboys then managed to run the ball only seven times in the second half.

You’re up 23 and you decide to go away from what’s working better than it has all season.

Say what you want about this being a game the Cowboys should’ve won. I’m sorry, if you decide to run the ball seven times in the second half of a game that is fringing on a blowout, then you don’t deserve to win.

If that’s not under the category of “game management” then I don’t know what is.

We all saw the game. The Cowboys led for about 55 minutes. And while it might appear they lost this one at the end, I would disagree. They lost it several times in the game, including on a few opportunities in the first half when they couldn’t get touchdowns and settled for field goals.

There were many reasons the Cowboys were on the wrong side of this 37-36 outcome at AT&T Stadium, but they all seem to stem from the offensive side of the ball.

Yeah, blame the defense if you want to, but I really don’t. And I certainly don’t care who the quarterback is. OK, so Matt Flynn got cut by the Raiders. Who cares? He’s thrown for 500 yards in a game with the Packers before in this offense.

Does anyone seem to care that Sterling Moore, Everett Brown, George Selvie and Drake Nevis were all on the street earlier this season. Brown was opening up a smoothie shop? Cameron Lawrence was on the practice squad a few weeks ago and now he’s playing linebacker? DeVonte Holloman hasn’t played in six weeks and now has to play every snap? I mean, every team has its problems with injuries, but still …

It always seems like people focus on who you’re playing against and now who you’re playing with. So when it comes to personnel, I call it a wash.

No, this game comes down to decision-making and the Cowboys simply failed. Who gets the finger-pointing exactly? Well, that’s the weird thing about this all. We hear it’s still Bill Callahan calling plays, but even Jerry Jones said after the game that he wasn’t going to comment about that when asked. So maybe it’s not the case.

But honestly, I don’t really care who is calling the plays. I never have cared.

All it really is, is a way to figure out who to place the blame on. And frankly, it doesn’t matter if Callahan is still calling the plays like Jason Garrett insisted he is after the game Sunday. Or if Garrett is calling them or occasionally overriding him when he wants to. Or if Tony Romo has the ability to change them at the line of scrimmage.

At the end of the day – or season, which is probably coming a little closer now – all of those experienced football minds have to figure out a way not to lose that game.

And that’s what they did here Sunday afternoon. The offensive-minded trio of Garrett, Callahan and Romo lost this game because somehow they weren’t on the same page.

Who’s to blame? All of them. All three of those guys failed this team. And not just in the final minutes, but obviously that’s what we remember the most.

I’m standing on the field in the final few minutes and I’m looking up at the scoreboard. The Packers have just called their second timeout with 2:58 to play and the Cowboys have a second-and-6 on their own 35.

So I’m sitting there mapping out the plays in my head. I’ve got a run – of course – to Murray and I’m not expecting a first down because the way Green Bay is stacking the box. So I’m thinking the Packers call their last timeout around 2:53. Then on third down, let’s go with … another run of course and even then, I’m thinking pessimistically that they won’t have the first down. The Cowboys would probably have a fourth-and-short with about 2:08 to play and will call a timeout. And then punt the ball into the 2-minute warning and the Packers would probably get it about their own 15 or 20 with about 1:58 to go and no timeouts, needing to score a touchdown.

And while they had success moving the ball, I’m thinking the Packers wouldn’t be able to use running back Eddie Lacy the same way because they’d be out of timeouts and would need to hurry more. So it’s looking pretty good.

And that’s all on the big IF that Green Bay would actually stop Murray on two runs when he needed six yards and was averaging 7.4 yards a carry.

Again, I’m thinking about all of that during the Packers’ timeout. And who would think Murray wouldn’t even touch the football ever again in the game.

What?

That’s what gets me. This team is slicing the Packers up on defense and doing it despite Green Bay’s occasional eight-men-in-the-box defenses.

Yet, all they have to do is get six more yards and they win. Six yards and they have two plays to do it. And even if they can’t, Green Bay has not only burned its final timeout but the 2-minute warning has probably been used as well.

Hey, I’m all for Romo getting the opportunity to change the play during the game. I’m sure he’s thrown a few touchdowns on plays that he’s changed at the line of scrimmage. But at that point in the game, Garrett has to let Romo know that this needs to be a run – regardless.

He shouldn’t even have to tell Tony that. But still, even if he decides to throw a pass like he did, and then it breaks down … be smart enough to realize the big picture. TAKE A SACK! The clock is more important than a gunslinger pass on the run, especially to a receiver who has proven he’s not going to fight for the ball.

Even if you lose eight yards, the Packers have to call a timeout.

This is what I don’t understand and I’ve had these debates over and over on our radio shows. We always hear people say “Play to Win” and don’t ever “Play Not to Lose” and I’m sorry, I just disagree with those overused sports clichés. To me, they are the exact same thing.

Yes, you can be aggressive at times and play to win. Or you can be conservative and try not to lose. Either way, the last time I checked, they still got you in the win column. If you didn’t lose it, you won.

And the Cowboys should’ve played that game – not to lose. Heck, the way they were running the ball, that’s probably the best way to win it actually.

It just doesn’t make sense. I’ve said it for a long time – that Tony Romo is and has been the best thing the Cowboys do for a long time. When he’s passing the ball, it’s better than any other aspect of their game.

Sunday was not the case. Running the ball was the best thing the Cowboys could do and with the game on the line, all they had to do was get six more yards.

Instead, they didn’t even look to it. Or if they did, the guy with the final say decided to change up the script.

The weird part of this game, was as bad as Cowboys fans and players might be hurting, this one really doesn’t hurt the team as much as you would think. And that’s all because the Eagles lost to the Vikings earlier in the day. Had Philly won that, then all bets are off and this is as crushing of a loss as you could get.

But I think the Cowboys beat the Redskins next week. And I think the Eagles beat the Bears. If that happens, then this game really won’t matter much at all.

Still, this one goes deeper than the standings. It’s about concepts, and confidence moving forward. This team was six yards away from winning and they chose not to use the style of play that was working.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Callahan calling the play, Garrett overseeing it or Romo changing it at the line … the “process” that Garrett always talks about, simply failed this team when the game was on the line.
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