- rush for two touchdowns - what they could not do in the previous four games - rush for a touchdown, period. That's right, the Cowboys had not run for a touchdown since the three at San Francisco in Week 3. And they had only four rushing touchdowns in seven games.
But maybe the biggest factor in these rushing touchdowns was recording the two longest scoring runs of the season, rookie Marion Barber stealing the show with a 28-yard touchdown run and 10-yard touchdown run. The previous long had been a six-yarder by Bledsoe on a play that wasn't even designed to be a run. Can you believe that? Six yards?
Well Barber needed just 6:24 in this game to explode for the 28-yard touchdown run, the team's longest in 13 games, stretching back to Julius Jones' game-winning 17-yarder in Seattle - last year.
"The biggest thing it does, is you physically wear on those guys," Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell said. "The way Barber ran today and the way the offensive line blocked, that's what you'd like to do every week."
Oh, you bet. Barber followed up last week's 95-yard effort with a 127-yarder Sunday, the Cowboys' first 100-yard rushing effort of the season.
Then, with the Cowboys leading 17-10, and only 1:06 remaining in the half, Barber cut back to his right off blocks by Jason Witten and Rob Petitti on second-and-10 to twist into the end zone for yet another rushing touchdown.
What's the world coming to? Two rushing touchdowns in but a half?
"We took this upon ourselves to make this happen," said center Al Johnson. "We had to give Drew time to make plays; give the wide receivers time to get open; and give Marion space to run.
"It's just so hard to run for touchdowns from six to two yards out. It's nice to run it in from 12, 15, 20 yards. The defense becomes a lot looser."
That's what I'm talking about, and have been. Defenses could care less if you rush for, say the 95 yards Barber did last Sunday if you're not running the ball into the end zone. They will just absorb all the body blows, and have no reason to adjust how they are playing the pass. Come on, even on those four rushing touchdowns in the first three games, they were from six yards out, five and two ones. Big deal. Defenses notice that kind of stuff.
But when you hurt a defense, and one seemingly as intent Sunday as the Cardinals were to play this five-man defensive line and blitz linebackers and safeties, when you run for a 28-yard touchdown, well, whoa there pony, something has to change. Like pulling that safety up into the box, which sure makes those hash throws a lot easier (see 32-yard pass to Terry Glenn) or those throws to Witten (see five catches for 71 yards).
Know the other thing this accomplishes? Makes the offensive coordinator look like a genius and his philosophy less right wing.
"Maybe we were in a little more of an attack mode," Witten said, "But it's easier to say that when you run the ball like we did."
Like when you run for two touchdowns. Like when you rush for 146 yards (Tyson Thompson added 19). Like when you average a season-high 4.6 yards a carry. Told you teams running the run the ball in the end zone win games far more than teams not running into the end zone. (See Arizona, no rushing touchdowns.)
So, as the Cowboys take a deep breath - and I'm guessing you guys, too, after eight stressful weeks of the season - they do so with a 5-3 record and feeling much better about themselves. They were challenged by the head coach, preached to about the importance of this game and did exactly what they were supposed to do, even if this lineup is liberally sprinkled with inexperienced or little-experienced players.
Good for them.
"It's a sign of a mature football team if you go out and execute after you just got your butt kicked," Greg Ellis said, "and then come out and fight."
And take care of your business.
|!|| That knockout interception and touchdown return by Anthony Henry? He should share that glory with Demarcus
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