IRVING, Texas – Making the playoffs and any sort of subsequent run in the playoffs will strictly be fantasy until the Cowboys develop some type of trust in their running game.
None of the last six seasons have come close to the egregious 31st-ranked rushing attack of 2012, but the Cowboys haven't reached the league average in rushing yards or rushing touchdowns in any of the last three seasons.
Now backtrack to the three seasons from 2007-09, when the Cowboys went to the playoffs twice. In each of the postseason trips, the Cowboys finished in the top 15 in either rushing yards or rushing touchdowns, or both.
The offense established a relatively trustworthy rushing attack in each of Jason Garrett's first three years as the play caller in Dallas, finishing with no fewer than 12 rushing touchdowns by a running back. In each of the last three seasons, however, the Cowboys have finished with no more than eight rushing touchdowns by their running backs and no more than four rushing touchdowns by a single running back.
They've also failed to reach the playoffs during that span, just as they failed to in 2008, when they were 21st in rushing and 22nd in rushing touchdowns.
Take a look at which teams made the playoffs this year. Each of the top four rushing teams made it to the postseason. Even the high-powered, pass-friendly Patriots offense is seventh in the league in rushing this year.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have finished in the bottom half of the league in total rushing and outside the top 20 in rushing touchdowns each of the last three years.
Whether the offense lacks the right running scheme, a sufficient dedication to the run or it's strictly faulty personnel holding back the rushing attack, the Cowboys simply don't have the kind of passing game to warrant a complete failure running the ball.
That can't be pinned on DeMarco Murray, who's 4.1 yards per rush equaled that of Arian Foster's this year. With a shaky offensive line, the Cowboys weren't able to trust their rushing game to pick up the critical yards when they needed them. When the Cowboys did reach the red zone, they couldn't trust the running game to find the end zone, resulting in another inadequate year in red zone and goal line efficiency.
Until they can figure out how to get the running game going, beginning with some changes in scheme and/or personnel this offseason, finding any sort of offensive consistency may be difficult, while the emotional swings of inevitable comeback attempts every single week will endure.