IRVING, Texas – During a seven-year stay in Oakland, Darren McFadden averaged just 12.5 carries per game over the course of 83 appearances.
Perhaps that helps explain the surprise at the Cowboys' last three games, where McFadden has averaged double that – 25 carries per game, to be exact – and is carrying the load for the Dallas ground game.
As might be expected, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn't like that particular word.
"Not surprised, because he was such a good player coming out of school, and we felt like the biggest issue with him were some soft tissue-type injuries out in Oakland," Garrett said. "We felt like he was healthy, and you can get him to the point where he could practice and prepare his body the right way, we felt we could give him some chances."
McFadden got his chance when Joseph Randle strained his oblique in New York two weeks ago, and he has certainly made the most of it. He was almost an afterthought in the first five weeks of the season, tallying 37 carries for 129 yards.
By contrast, he has earned 76 carries in the past three weeks and racked up 333 yards, giving him 462 at the halfway point of the season. For the time being, he has killed the concept of a running back by committee approach, as he's gobbled up 76 percent of the rushing attempts in the last three weeks.
Against Philadelphia, he was the only running back to even touch the ball.
"Initially, we thought he was going to be more a part of a committee, but he has really taken this opportunity and we're going to keep giving him more chances," Garrett said. "It looks like he gets stronger and stronger as the game wears on and wants as many opportunities as we'll give him."
That should be fine with McFadden, who gave that same assessment of himself earlier this season. Much like DeMarco Murray before him, he has earned a reputation not for game-breaking gainers, but for steadily pounding opposing defenses with gritty runs.
"I think he's symbolic of our team in a lot of ways. He's competing his ass off and fighting and scratching and clawing," Garrett said. "A number of those runs, at the end of runs, he's about six inches off the ground, not letting his knee go down – fighting for those extra yards, always finishing forward."
It hasn't led to any wins yet. The Cowboys are still winless in their last six attempts, despite McFadden's hot streak. But it has certainly been one of the bright spots of the past month, and something Garrett said he expects to continue.
"He certainly has gotten stronger and stronger, and I think he's really excited about the opportunity and he's taken advantage," he said.