Run Away

The Chargers shut down Felix Jones and the Cowboys run game only allowing 54 yards rushing.

2.8-yard average.

That ain't getting it.

And, again, to me, if the Cowboys are going to turn all of those yards they totaled last year, a franchise record high, into a representative amount of points, then the Cowboys have to run the ball more efficiently - extra-especially in the red zone.

So far, not so good.

And while owner Jerry Jones certainly hasn't joined in with those pushing the panic button in preseason - he liked the red-zone touchdown, he liked what Brewster and Holland did, he liked what Sean Lee did, he liked what Akwasi Owusu-Ansah did and so, too, Jon Kitna - even he had this to say about the running game:

"I want us to be able to run the ball physically. And after tonight we have to make sure we're physical running the ball."

You bet. And he probably was a little envious of what he saw on the other side of the field. Against a Cowboys defense that had been dominant the first two preseason games and finished fourth against the run last season, the Chargers plowed ahead to the tune of 94 yards on 34 carries behind rookie Ryan Mathews and Michael Tolbert. And if not for an ill-fated eight-yard loss on an end round, they would have finished with 80 yards on 21 carries.

They even ran in for two touchdowns - in the red zone at that.

"I was very impressed how physical they were," Jones again said of the Chargers, who by the way were doing this without LaDainian Tomlinson. "We will have a running game."

Now I've said it before, and I'll say it again - and probably again after that if this aspect of the Cowboys offense does not improve: for the Cowboys to become more productive in the red zone they must improve running the ball into the end zone. That simple.

Last year, you know the numbers. The Cowboys scored 43 touchdowns, but only 14 times did they run the ball into the end zone, and only three of those touchdowns runs were from more than seven yards out. And of the 26 touchdowns scored from inside the red zone, only 11 of those were runs, the longest that seven-yarder by Felix Jones.

So don't get hung up on the periphery. Go right to the heart of the matter. Don't worry about who catches how many passes. Don't worry so much about the starting running back or the finishing running back nor the guy getting the most carries. Don't get hung up on the average age of the offensive line nor Kitna turning 38 on Sept. 2.

This running stuff, though, ah, now there is something you can sink your teeth into, and the real worry if Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier miss games. The real worry if a legit third tight end is not located. Sure pass blocking is vital. But so is knocking people off the ball, and the one time the Cowboys tried to run the ball in the red zone Saturday night, Felix was dropped for a yard loss. Sound familiar?

So let's see going forward.

"You shouldn't get too nervous this time of year if you are not already where you want to go," Jones qualified. "I do not at this time have a concern."

If he did, I'm guessing he has something he could run with.

And so could (should?) you.

But in the meantime, enjoy the free sausage and mushrooms for a change.

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