EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It'd be fair, albeit slightly cheesy, to say Darren McFadden took his opportunity and ran with it.
On a night when few things clicked correctly for the Cowboys, there wasn't much to criticize about the rushing attack. In fact, behind McFadden's explosive running, Dallas looked like the dominant ground-and-pound team fans got used to seeing in 2014.
"He was running downhill, his pads were down, he was finishing runs – I just thought he did an outstanding job," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
It wasn't just the tough running that evoked memories of DeMarco Murray's 1,845-yard season, either. For the first time this season, the workload mirrored that of Murray's 392-carry season last fall.
That can mostly be attributed to injury. After gaining 24 yards on two carries to open the evening, Joseph Randle left the game with back soreness and did not return.
"He had some soreness in his back during the week and some cramping, but obviously not enough to keep him from playing. We'll take a look at that," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
In Randle's absence, McFadden shined. His 29 carries were a season high for any Dallas running back this season, and he delivered with 152 yards for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. There weren't even any long gainers to skew the statistics. Only three of McFadden's carries went for 10 yards or more, leaving 26 attempts to bully the New York defense on short, emphatic runs.
"He ran the ball tough inside with a lot of tough three, four, five-yard runs where he was pushing the pile," Garrett said.
It might not have been the role McFadden has become accustomed to this season, but he said he wasn't caught off guard.
"I was ready to go. I feel Iike I'm always ready," McFadden said. "Whatever the coaches want me to do, I stay ready."
McFadden was so effective that it relegated Christine Michael to afterthought status. The Cowboys were technically correct that they increased Michael's role for Week 7, but with McFadden having his way with the Giants, the newcomer running back managed just 18 yards on five carries.
"McFadden made a good accounting of himself and kind of showed you a little bit of why he had his evaluation and status coming out of the draft," Jones said. "It's good to see that we can expect that in the future."
The future is an intriguing prospect, since the Cowboys aren't currently aware of the severity of Randle's injury. Even if the younger back is healthy, his competition just authored the best rushing performance of the Cowboys' season.
As McFadden was quick to point out, though, it was a wasted effort with Dallas dropping the result for a third-straight loss.
"It's always tough when you lose. I thought we went out there and did some good things, but at the end, we didn't get that W," he said. "That's all that really matters. We didn't get that, so it's frustrating."
If the Cowboys can maintain that momentum in the ground game, it should help them as they return to the drawing board.