IRVING, Texas – Head coach Jason Garrett saw the running game pay off after challenging the offensive line before Sunday's game.
He thought the Rams had a good defensive front and knew his group had to be even more physical. The Cowboys' offensive line answered the call in a major way by paving the way for 193 rushing yards.
"We're as strong as we've been on the interior of our offensive line in about three years," Garrett said. "We've made some personnel moves to help make that happen. We've been healthier and I think that's helped make that happen. We're just a stronger team. I think you see that in our running game and you use that in our pass protection and that's been a real positive. So hopefully we can build on some of the things we did."
The lanes were open for DeMarco Murray to run for 175 yards, and the pocket was safe for Tony Romo to efficiently deliver three touchdown passes without an interception. Everything looked smooth from the very start on Murray's 14-yard carry. The running back followed that up with a 7-yard run and later gained another 14-yard run in that drive, which Garrett said put the defense on its heels.
"All of a sudden, they start making scheme decisions and you start bringing safeties down and now you're isolating outside receivers, so there's a reason why you want to be balanced so you can attack in a lot of different ways," Garrett said. "Success on offense starts on the offensive line. It always has and it always will. If you control the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis throughout a game, you can do a lot of good things."
Garrett has talked about the need to be persistent with the running game, but it hadn't been noticeable the way it was Sunday since the opener last year. He admitted teams will migrate to what works best. Typically for the Cowboys, that's the passing game, but it was mostly Murray's ground game on Sunday. [embedded_ad]
He was running behind a line that featured another rotation at guard with Mackenzy Bernadeau and Brian Waters. Garrett thought Waters looked good and is getting better every week.
"He had the holding penalty, which is the blemish that he had on his performance," Garrett said. "He's a physical player. He's played a lot in this league and you can tell he's getting his feet and his game up underneath him."
Garrett considers the tight end position as a vital part of the offensive line play in the running game, and he thought Jason Witten did particularly well blocking for Murray. He also said the receivers did a good job blocking on the next level, which was important considering many of the long runs came out of the "11 personnel" with three receivers on the field.
The head coach complimented the interior of the offensive line, but the most improved player on the line might be right tackle Doug Free. Garrett said he thinks a second year with Bill Callahan and his techniques might have something to do with that.
"He really has been impressive since the start of OTAs, really trying to take advantage of the opportunity," Garrett said. "I think he's working on some technical things that will help him. I think he's playing tougher and he's staying on blocks, both as a pass protector but also in the run game. We saw a lot of that yesterday."