IRVING, Texas – It stands to reason that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett would love to see more of the hard-nosed, smash mouth formula that led to an easy win in Tennessee on Sunday.
"Oh, yeah, there's no question," he said Monday afternoon. "Whenever you possess the ball for 41 minutes in a game, that makes everything better."
The Cowboys held the ball for 22 more minutes than the Titans, and they ran almost 30 more plays en route to 220 total rushing yards. Of course, in a league with so much parity, replicating that formula is easier said than done.
"Rushing for over 200 yards in the National Football League is a hard thing to do and you certainly embrace any of those games. There's no guarantee you can play like this," Garrett said. "If you decide that this is the way we want to play, it's hard to guarantee you're going to be able to do that week in and week out."
The commitment seems to be there through two games, however. After his career-high 29 carries against the Titans, DeMarco Murray has 51 carries on the season – second in the league, only to Houston workhorse Arian Foster. He's also coming off his first back-to-back games with 20 or more carries since December 2012.
Garrett said the desire to run so well isn't new, but it's something that's now coming to a fruition as a result of well-documented moves – such as the decision to spend three of the Cowboys' last four first round picks on offensive linemen.
"It all follows with a plan we've had really for a couple or three years to be able to do this and be this kind of a football team -- a physical team that controls the line of scrimmage and can run the ball, early in the middle and at the end of games," he said.
Nothing emphasizes that better than the end of Sunday's game, which Garrett referenced several times after reviewing the tape. Nursing a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys ran 21 offensive plays – 17 runs to just four passes.
They managed that because they could. Murray and Lance Dunbar combined to gain 61 yards on those 17 carries, killing the clock in the process.
"It's very difficult to be able to run the ball against overloaded boxes at the end of games. It's hard to make those first downs. They just have so many guys in there," Garrett said. "But again, I thought we did a good job of using personnel, using formations, using movements and blocking things different ways to give us opportunities." [embedded_ad]
The challenge going forward will be maintaining that. Murray has had back-to-back 100-yard efforts just twice in his career – Weeks 8 and 9 of 2011 and Weeks 13 and 14 of 2013. He has never broken the century mark three games in a row. Despite that, Garrett said he'll get his chances.
"We feel like DeMarco is a durable football player who can take the pounding of being the primary running back for the Cowboys, so we're going to give him opportunities to do that," he said.
Defense and special teams are bound to play a role, as well. Garrett mentioned the physicality of the defense, led by Rolando McClain, and field-flipping plays on special teams which allowed the Cowboys to control the game. It's doubtful the Cowboys can keep that up through 14 more weeks, but Garrett said he's liked what he has seen.
"It's certainly a good formula, hard to guarantee it every week, but the thing we really liked about it was the physical nature we had in all three phases," he said.