NEW ORLEANS – The best run for the Cowboys in Sunday night's 26-20 overtime loss to the Saints was their second play from scrimmage – a 45-yard gain by Lance Dunbar.
The most controversial was the offense's lone touchdown run – Joseph Randle's 1-yard diving score in the second quarter that was initially ruled a fumble, much to the displeasure of the coaching staff.
Overall it was an uneven night for the Cowboys' running game, which added Christine Michael to the rotation for one carry and conversely lost Dunbar to a left knee injury on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Dunbar's 45-yard run in the first quarter accounted for a large chunk of the Cowboys' 115 total rushing yards; they averaged only 2.6 yards on the other 27 of their 28 carries. Once again, the offense found trouble running in the second half. They had minus-4 yards after halftime in last week's loss to the Falcons and gained 25 yards on 12 carries against the Saints.
Randle did score his fourth touchdown of the season Sunday, but the way he got it – diving over the goal line pile with his arm outstretched and the ball unprotected – was not preferred by the coaching staff.
The Saints recovered the ball after it popped out of Randle's grip, but the officials' review determined he had crossed the plane first to give the Cowboys a 10-7 lead.
"Obviously it worked out that we scored the touchdown there and he got in before the ball came out," head coach Jason Garrett, "but that's something we discussed with him, with our running backs about how we want to handle that situation.
"It's a dangerous play when we extend the ball like that. It worked out for us tonight, but we don't want to do that in that situation."
Garrett appeared to make that message clear to Randle after the touchdown. Dunbar and Darren McFadden took over rushing duties for the remainder of the first half.
Randle (11 carries, 26 yards) started the second half and appeared in the first two series of the third quarter, but McFadden (10 carries, 31 yards) got the remainder of the work.
Where the rotation evolves from here remains to be seen, particularly with Dunbar set for tests Monday on his injured knee.
Michael, acquired in a trade with the Seahawks before the season opener, was active for the first time this season. His only carry came midway through the fourth quarter with the Cowboys facing third-and-1 trailing 20-13: the Saints met him at the line of scrimmage and stopped him for a 1-yard loss.
"We didn't get the victory and we have some work to come in here and do," Michael said. "I didn't get the first down when they called my number, but it was a blessing to be out here on the field once again, first game back since being traded from Seattle."
How much work he gets going forward is uncertain, but quarterback Brandon Weeden will need as much offensive balance as possible with the Patriots coming to town next Sunday.