IRVING, Texas – The same Cowboys team that threw the ball a combined 112 times the last two weeks actually ran more running plays than the Eagles two weeks ago.
As a result, quarterback Tony Romo only needed to throw 26 times. He was still sacked on three drop backs, but offensive line coach Bill Callahan knows that total could have been much greater had the Cowboys been forced to eliminate the running game the way they have had to the last two weeks.
Callahan remains optimistic that center Ryan Cook and tackle Tyron Smith can return this week to help Romo and the running game against an Eagles pass-rushing unit that's still dangerous without defensive end Jason Babin, who was released this week.
"There's no quit in that front," Callahan said. "It sets the tone for what they do on defense. They still have premier rushers. The most challenging aspect to protecting the passer in this game is facing the array of rotations that you see throughout the course of the game. They rotate every one of their defensive linemen, so they're always fresh."
The sack totals increased as Romo threw more against the Browns. He then threw 62 times against the Redskins, but the offensive line allowed Romo to deliver the football on all but two snaps. That line featured Mackenzy Bernadeau at center, Derrick Dockery at guard and Jermey Parnell at tackle to adjust for injuries.
"Thursday was the first time that I can remember ever that we threw it I think 52 straight times," Callahan said. "For those guys up front to have their ears pinned back 52 straight times in a catch-up mode, it's tough. To their credit, they showed a lot of toughness."
Throwing 62 times and rushing 11 times, including three times with Romo, wasn't what Callahan and the offense had envisioned.
Callahan said he looks diligently at where the Cowboys rank among the league in rushing, and the results can't please him. Dallas sits in last place in total rushing yards, rushing yards per attempt and rushing yards per game.
The stat that bothers Callahan most is rushing attempts. Only the Saints have rushed fewer times than the Cowboys this season.
"I think there're about five or six games where we just haven't had the number of rushing attempts we'd like to have," Callahan said. "I've always believed that your rush attempts and your completions really sets the tone for what you do in terms of your success formula."
Specifically, Callahan focuses on the number of rushing attempts and the rushing production in the second half. He said the offense has been thrown off-kilter while playing catch up, and rushing two times in the second half the way the Cowboys did against the Redskins isn't enough.
"Any good running attack that I've been around, the years that we've led the league in rushing at the various places I've been at, it's basically kind of a war of attrition where you wear down an opponent and you're attempts increase in the second half," Callahan said. "A lot of your production arises out of your second half performance."
Callahan wants to find more success on the ground to avoid defenses like the Eagles, which thrive on a pass rush. But, that doesn't mean teams can't be successful by focusing more on their passing game.
"Where we're at from a franchise perspective, being last in the league in rushing, I've never been there. We certainly don't want to be there, but I look back at last year and I look at the year of the Giants, they were 32nd in the league in rushing and went to the Super Bowl," he said. "It's a function of what you're doing that's circumstantial to a lot of respects. It's not for a lack of will or wanting to run the ball."