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Strong Ground Game Changing Offensive Identity


IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys may finally be a running team.

DeMarco Murray leads the league in both rushing yards (385) and rushing attempts (75), and appear to be building a different offensive identity in 2014.

"That's just our football team," said Jason Witten. "It's a little different than what we've been in the past, but just stay with it."

Staying with it is exactly what the Cowboys did in a win against the Rams. After St. Louis scored to make it 21-0 in the second quarter, the Cowboys went on an eight play, 80-yard touchdown drive that featured five runs to Murray.

It didn't end there. Despite trailing, 21-10, at the half, 14 of Murray's 24 rushing attempts occurred in the second half, as the Cowboys chipped away at the lead. For a team that's been criticized for not sticking with the run in the past, the offense appears to be shifting gears.

"We're committed to running the football," Witten said. "I think everybody's waiting for that to break. It's not."

Head coach Jason Garrett said the Rams were "hell-bent" on trying to stop the run, putting a lot of defenders in the box and around the line of scrimmage the whole game. But that didn't stop the Cowboys from running and from Murray and Joseph Randle both averaging more than four yards per carry.

A lot of that is a credit to new play-caller Scott Linehan. Despite trailing by 21 points and never leading in the first half, the Cowboys still finished the game with six more rushing attempts than passes.

"I just think his patience and persistence running the football was an important part of it," said head coach Jason Garrett. We wanted to stay downhill at them and they made a lot of good plays defending our run. There were tackles for loss. There were zero gains. There were 1-yard gains. But I thought just keep hammering away, keep chipping away at it. I thought the adjustments that we made in the running game as the game went on were good to give us some chances to make some big plays out in space." [embedded_ad]

Garrett said Sunday was a big challenge for the offensive line, particularly early on against a young, talented defensive front. He said the coaches challenged the line to respond to that.

"It wasn't perfect by any means," Garrett said. "Early on in that game, it was tough sledding, but they kept banging away. They're a tough group. They're a tough-minded group and I think they're a physically strong group, so throughout the course of it, I think we were able to make more and more plays both in the running game and also in the protection against those guys."

That style may not have been possible in past years, and the Cowboys are taking advantage on the ground of the benefits of a stout offensive line.

"I think part of the identity of this football team will come from where we allocated those resources – three first-round picks on the offensive line, two other players that we think are good and developing a mentality and an identity for that group, for the offense, and really throughout our team," Garrett said. "I think we're growing in that regard every week."

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