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Spagnola: The Team, The Team Secret To Offensive Success

ARLINGTON, Texas – The offensive formula is old school, not some new-age analytics.

Go back as far as you want, 10 years, 20 years, even 30-some years, short of maybe turning the clock back to leather helmets or helmets sans facemasks or maybe to when Jimmy Johnson said in frustration after a loss to the New York Giants, "ever since my daddy said this is a football."

Don't be sending in Prince to do a king's job.

Nothing that's locked up with the crown jewels, a winning offensive formula Tony Romo is only too happy to share with you:

"We want to run the football. We want to be great on third down and be great in the red zone – the situational play that matters. I think we have guys gifted in those certain things. The guys go and do what they do."

They sure do.

Ask the New York Football Giants. They found out up close and personal here late Sunday afternoon at sun-splashed AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys versatility Jack's beanstalk when facing these NFC East Giants.

Now, shhhh, don't tell everyone, OK.

DeMarco Murray ran for 128 yards, the seventh time in seven games he's done so, breaking a 56-year-old NFL record to open a season, previously set by one Jim Brown.

Dez Bryant caught himself nine passes for 151 yards, and unless he was tripping on his own two feet or a pass was slightly underthrown, he caught everything thrown his way. Don't be sending in Prince to do a king's job.

Tony Romo completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns, posting a remarkable 135.7 passer rating despite having one attempt intercepted. And get this, in the second half he was perfect, going nine-for-nine, for 166 yards and a touchdown and was about 36 inches away from another.

Second-year tight end Gavin Escobar caught three passes for 65 yards, two of those catches for touchdowns, giving him three six-pointers in the past two games. And that's Es-co-bar, not Witten.

Oh, and guess who leads the Cowboys in touchdown receptions? That would be Terrance Williams with six, and just as a public service reminder, Williams is the guy the Cowboys were able to draft because they didn't take Shariff Floyd in the 2013 first round, electing to trade down for Travis Frederick and get the third they used on Williams for their trouble. Shariff Who?

What might you rather have after six games, 16 tackles and two sacks, really pretty good for a defensive tackle, or six touchdown receptions to go with a Pro Bowl center candidate?

More weapons than you can shake a stick at.

Add it all up, and the Cowboys put 423 yards of offense on the Giants, their fourth consecutive 400-yard performance, trying a mark set way back in 1976. The 31 points they totaled is also the fifth time in seven games they have scored at least 26 points and the fourth 30-pointer in five games.

Let's see, the checklist isn't complete. Romo mentioned third down. The Cowboys, the league leaders entering the game at a 56.3 conversion percentage, converted nine of 14, a whopping 64 percent, upping what's certain to still be their league-leading percentage to 57.4. And get this, for those who think this third-down percentage is so high because of their ability to run is shortening that distance. In this game the 14 third-down opportunities averaged third-and-9, and the Cowboys average gain ended up being 14 yards. Only once did they gain less than 5 yards, and that came on the final one when Murray, mainly wanting to eat clock merely got back to the line of scrimmage before handing off to Dan Bailey, who nailed the game-clinching 49-yard field goal.

No one person is taking personal credit for the success of this 6-1 start

Then there is red zone. The Cowboys went three-for-three.

Romo mentioned situational, like maybe up seven in the fourth and hitting Dez on third-and-8 for 25 yards to the 1-yard line. Or on second-and-9 with 2:28 left, and clinging to that seven-point lead Romo, after three consecutive running plays to milk at least one timeout from the Giants, nailing Dez on a 13-yard skinny post, taking the game to the 2:00 warning and setting up Bailey's 49-yarder.

"We really have a bunch of guys who do things well," Romo said. "Obviously DeMarco is playing at the highest level of his position and Dez is at the highest level of his position. The other guys that we have – I would be hard-pressed to name guys that are playing a lot better than Jason Witten, Cole (Beasley), Terrance and the group up front.

"We are just a balanced team that goes through a lot of people. It's hard on teams to figure out what they are going to take away."

Sure was hard on the Giants. At first they tried to control the line of scrimmage with their front seven. Nice try. Murray had 73 yards by halftime.

So Plan B. Time to creep up that eighth guy in the box, especially with the Cowboys running two-tight end formations. That didn't work so well, either, Romo able to flank Escobar and Witten into the slots at times, completing those 15-yard and 26-yard touchdown passes to his tight end since the Giants really didn't have anyone who could run with Escobar while also focusing on Witten.

And when the Giants figured they would have to play single-safety high, and man the wide receivers – even Dez, ha – Romo went to work on Prince Amukamara, Dez hauling in seven second-half passes for 136 yards.

That's what happens when you have options, and your quarterback is as hot as Romo has been over the past five games, racking up a 116.2 passer rating, fueled by 12 touchdown tosses and only three interceptions.

All these glittering stats then bode well for the job the offensive line is doing, even minus starter Doug Free against the Giants, the Cowboys having to rely on Jermey Parnell, whose play at least did not obviously detract from what the offense was trying to accomplish.

And maybe the best thing of all?

No one person is taking personal credit for the success of this 6-1 start and six-game winning streak. For evidence, let's start here:

Head coach Jason Garrett gave the game ball to tight ends coach Mike Pope, a 32-year NFL assistant who spent 23 of those years with the Giants before they decided he was too old at 72 to go forward, his unemployment lasting no more than a couple of hours before Garrett came in scooping him up before his phone started ringing off the hook.

Then there is Dez, who had a long ways to go when the Cowboys used a first-round pick on him in 2010, saying after the game, "I always tell him, thanks for sticking with me," referring to Garrett, and finishing with, "I'm blessed to be here."

Prime example that "blessings" can be a two-way street.

Let's move on to Murray, becoming that first running back to gain more than 100 yards in each of the first seven games of a season, now leading the NFL with 913 yards, the most of any Cowboys running back after seven games. So "DeMo," what does it mean to you to set NFL history?

"I think we did it as a group," Murray's humility never leaving his side. "Myself, Travis [Frederick], Zack [Martin], Tyron [Smith], Parnell, Doug, and Big [Ronald] Leary. So it's hard for me to accept this individually, and I definitely wish those guys were here."

And later, after pointing out all the big nasties up front, when asked about if defenses are keying on him, he deftly parried that question with this:

"I think it's hard to key on one guy in this offense. We have 88, 82, and 83, and obviously you've got Romo and all those guys, and [Lance] Dunbar. It's hard to key on one guy."

In other words, as Garrett preaches, the team, the team, the team, just may be the best part of this formula.

Now come on, this is between us. Don't give away our little secret.

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