With 131 yards on only 20 carries (6.55 yards-per-rush), DeMarco Murray lit it up again on Wednesday night versus the New York Giants. The second-year phenom ran with elusiveness, quickness, and power to show why, contrary to what I said in my preseason projection of Murray, he should indeed be the Cowboys’ workhorse running back in 2012.
Yup, Murray was absolutely sensational against the Giants, but that doesn’t mean he was the primary reason for the Cowboys’ team success. Rather, Dallas won the football game how they generally win football games—by passing the ball with great efficiency.
It’s popular to argue that running sets up the pass in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. The ‘Boys have historically won when Jason Garrett dials up the pass early and often.
But wait, the stats don’t show that, do they? Actually, as I mentioned in a previous article, the ‘Boys have won only 28 percent of their games over the past four seasons when they throw the ball on at least 57 percent of their plays. Hmm, that doesn’t support my case, now does it?
Well this does; when the Cowboys have thrown the ball at least 57 percent of the time through the game’s first three quarters alone, they’ve won 64 percent of their games. Tony Romo & Co. secure leads early by passing effectively, then milk the clock away with the run, creating the illusion of a balanced offense.
And guess what? That’s exactly what we saw against the G-Men on Wednesday night. The Cowboys passed the ball on 24 of their first 36 plays (67 percent). Want to know how many carries and yards Murray posted through those initial 36 plays? 12 for 37. Yeah, 12 carries for 37 yards, good for 3.08 yards-per-rush.
Once the Cowboys were already winning, Murray’s workload increased. After carrying the ball on only one-third of the Cowboys’ first 36 plays, Murray saw his number called on over half of the Cowboys’ fourth quarter plays (not counting three Romo kneel-downs). After posting barely more than three yards-per-carry in his first 12 carries, Murray exploded for 94 yards over his final eight.
Look, Murray’s value to the offense is beyond debate; he’s an incredible player and he’ll make Romo’s life a whole lot easier all season. But it is his efficiency, not blindly giving him excessive touches early in games to “wear down the defense,” that will lead to Cowboys victories in 2012.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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