IRVING, Texas -- Some observations from the film room at Valley Ranch:
There were not many things that went right for this Cowboys offense against the Saints. If there was one bright spot, it was the execution of the running game with DeMarco Murray, who finished the game with 16 carries for 89 yards and one touchdown.
Murray was able to get things going on the ground with the Cowboys trailing 7-3 after a nice kickoff return by Dwayne Harris to put them on their own 28 yard line. Bill Callahan decides he wants to open the drive in "13" personnel with Murray in the slot to the left.
With Romo in the shotgun, James Hanna and Dez Bryant run a combination route that allows them to exchange, with Bryant working to the outside and Hanna coming inside for a simple pitch and catch from Romo for five yards.
Facing a second and five, Callahan now puts his offense in "12" with Murray six yards deep. At the snap, Terrance Williams is lined up wide left and comes in motion while Murray comes to his left underneath. On the front side, Hanna is in a tight wing, next to Witten who is inline next to Tyron Smith.
The Cowboys have three to block three on the edge. Hanna gets off the ball and is working into Kenny Vaccaro, pushing him to the outside. Murray sees where the hole is going to be off Hanna's rear and Witten's block on Ramon Humber.
Inside of that block, Smith has Cameron Jordan sealed to the inside with nobody on the outside, because Keenan Lewis is in man coverage and is coming across the field to pick up Williams on the fake reverse.
Murray has clear sailing around the edge and is not on a defender until safety Rafael Bush comes from the middle of the field. Murray makes a nice cut back to the inside, picking up extra yards before being tackled by Jabari Greer, but not before he gains 35 yards.
The ball is now resting on the Saints 32 and Callahan comes back with his "13" personnel, lining Gavin Escobar wide to the right with Terrance Williams as a slot inside of him. Both Witten and Hanna are inline as Williams comes in motion across the formation.
At the snap, Williams stops four yards outside of Hanna and starts to crack back inside, to set the edge. Murray starts to his left, then with vision, cuts the ball back inside. Travis Frederick is able to cut off John Jenkins, Ronald Leary is up on Curtis Lofton and Mackenzy Bernadeau is on Will Herring as well. There is a nice crease inside that Murray hits and is able to grab seven yards.
The Cowboys are now facing a second and three from the Saints 25. Callahan goes back to his "12" personnel, this time mixing the formation from strong left to strong right when he exchanges Witten and Hanna to the other side.
Williams is lined up five yards to Hanna on the outside as the wing. At the snap, Romo turns and hands the ball to Murray, as he waits to watch the trap block develop by Leary going from left to right. On the front side, Bernadeau, Free and Witten all down block to their left. Hanna kicks his man to the outside. Leary has a chance to continue on his path to Humber, but decides to go inside and Murray reads the same thing. Murray puts his head down and blasts ahead for five more yards and a first down.
Romo brings the offense to the line with the ball on the Saints 20. Callahan now goes with his jumbo package, bringing Jeremy Parnell in as the extra tight end lined up next to Witten on the right side. Hanna is playing the "H" on the right side of Witten and starts in motion from right to left, then back right settling behind Free as the ball is snapped.
The line once again steps to their left as Leary pulls again from left to right and goes inside. Hanna tries to kick Greer out but doesn't get enough of him, allowing Greer to trip Murray up for only a gain of one.
If Hanna can get that block, there was a chance to Murray to grab four more yards.
Second and nine from the Saints 19. Callahan sticks with his "12" personnel, splitting Bryant wide to the right and Williams wide left. Hanna and Witten are lined up on the left side. At the snap, it's a zone scheme to the left side, as everyone steps that way. Witten and Hanna are able to double Parys Haralson, knocking him to the outside.
Smith is clean to Lofton and gets a hat on him. Leary is able to push Akiem Nicks to the outside as well. On the backside, Frederick has Herring locked up as does Jenkins at the nose. Murray takes the ball and starts to his left but reads the blocks of Bernadeau, Frederick and Leary to make the cut inside. Murray doesn't meet a Saints defender until Rafael Bush tackles him after a 12 yard gain.
The ball is now on the Saints 7-yard line with a fresh set of downs. Callahan stays in his "12" putting Witten and Hanna on the right side with Williams outside of them. At the top of the formation, Bryant has drawn double coverage like he is trying to cover a punt.
At the snap, Romo sees that he has Williams in one-on-one coverage, tries to hit him on the speed out but the ball goes through his hands as Greer drives on the coverage.
On second and seven, Callahan brings Cole Beasley onto the field for Hanna and puts him in the slot right next to Bryant and Williams. It appears that Romo would like to run the same screen to Beasley that he threw in the Broncos game for a touchdown. Instead, he hands the ball to Murray as the line zone blocks to their left.
At the point of attack, Witten drives Vaccaro outside, Smith hooks Haralson and Leary control Hicks enough to allow Murray to get around the corner, then stiff arm Herring and dive into the end zone for the touchdown.
For a team that only attempted nine running plays the previous week against the Vikings, it was an impressive drive that highlighted DeMarco Murray, who, when he gets the opportunity, can provide that kind of production.