IRVING, Texas – Whether it was the Giants' commitment to stopping the run or just the Cowboys' dreaful rushing attack early on, head coach Jason Garrett trusted his top receiving threats more than his running backs to gain one yard when it mattered most in Sunday's loss.
Even the Cowboys' worst rushing performances this season didn't come close to their dismal rushing totals against the Giants, finishing with 19 yards on 17 carries. The abandonment of the running game could be explained early on, as the Cowboys tried to claw back from a gigantic deficit. But even when playing catch up, the running backs were going nowhere.
When the Cowboys were given three downs to gain a yard and extend a drive to take the lead with less than two minutes left, the offense went to three passing plays, none of which moved the sticks.
"Certainly whenever the play doesn't work, it's easy for us as coaches to look back afterward and say we should have done something different," Garrett said. "But if you look at the landscape of the game how we threw the ball well in all situations and didn't run it well at all, and in that situation we certainly would have liked to have made a first down, if we could have made a first down running the football we would have changed the call."
Though the Cowboys averaged a little more than a yard on the ground, finishing with 1.1 yards per rush Sunday, there was such little faith in the backfield that relying on a running play to gain a yard wasn't the primary option. Garrett didn't say he regretted the decision to call three passing plays in that situation.
The head coach said throwing to Witten on Sunday was almost like running the football because of its success. The tight end set a record with 18 catches, failing to convert only four of his 22 targets.
"It was pretty difficult for us to run the football throughout the game," Garrett said. "They did a good job, committed to defending the run and obviously we threw the ball really, really well in a lot of different situations in the game. So we got into a couple of those situations and what got called got called."
Garrett said the Giants remained committed to the line of scrimmage, so late in crucial situations, he went to what was working. Though passing the ball resulted in three first-half interceptions, it also allowed for Romo's career day passing, Witten's career day receiving and for the top receivers to each haul in more than 100 yards through the air.
"Certainly it worked out well for us in the passing game because we were able to throw the ball really to any of our guys at any time we wanted to," Garrett said.
The Cowboys finished with 43 more passes than rushes, yet the 17 rushes weren't the fewest total this season.
Sunday's performance marked the fourth game this season the Cowboys have rushed for fewer than 50 yards and the third time they've rushed fewer than 20 times. The lack of a running game became so apparent that three passes were called with one yard needed and timeouts available.
"If we had an opportunity to call something different that would have allowed us to convert a first down in that situation, we would have done it," Garrett said. "Unfortunately for us in that situation, it didn't work out."