Marion Barber's role changed often during his six seasons with the Cowboys, but the running back always served as the team's closer. His pounding style seemed even more affective with the team attempting to control the ball and the clock late in the game.
With Barber gone now, along with three of his biggest blockers up front, the Cowboys ground game will have to re-learn how to win games late. Against the Jets on Sunday, the inability to pick up crucial yards late in the game cut short an excellent scoring opportunity.
Just after the Jets tied the score with a blocked punt, five minutes left on the clock, the Cowboys started a drive at the 20-yard line. Tony Romo connected with John Phillips for 12 yards, and Felix Jones gained eight on a first down run. On the next two snaps, however, Jones and Tashard Choice failed to pick up a first down in short yardage, and the offense was forced to punt.
It was the kind of situation Barber thrived in over the course of his Cowboys tenure, just a yard or two needed to pick up a first down, late in the game.
"You need to be able to do that," Jason Garrett said Monday. "They were committing eight and nine people to the line of scrimmage throughout the ballgame, so the way we were going to have to move the football was to try to be patient with the running game, and I think we were doing that throughout the game. We didn't have a lot of success doing it, but we felt like it was a worthwhile pursuit just to continue to try to keep them honest."
The Jets' stacked front allowed Tony Romo a big day passing, 342 yards. The Cowboys' 390 yards of total offense was nearly 100 yards more than opponents averaged against the Jets in 2010 (291.5).
"You still need to find a way to run the ball," Garrett said. "When it comes to crunch times, we have to make some of those short-yardage situations and we didn't last night, and that's an area where we must improve."