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Cowboys Expect Many Happy Returns



    It takes some time to get through the baffling game management of Jason Garrett in the final moments of the fourth quarter against the Cowboys, but doing so makes you realize that it wasn't the only reason why the Cardinals wound up winning the game.

    There was a defense that couldn't get off the field in big spots and had problems tackling right up until the very last play of the game. The offense couldn't convert enough third downs, they were overreliant on Dan Bailey's foot and the running game never kicked into gear.

    That last thing has been a problem for the last few weeks as DeMarco Murray's supernova start has turned into a slog. Teams definitely adjusted the way that they defended the Cowboys once Murray broke out, loading up the box and slowing down the run game. The Cowboys should be able to make plays through the air as a result, but they haven't been able to exploit the opportunities as you'd expect under the circumstances.

    Part of that may be because they haven't had Miles Austin in the lineup. It's still a bit of a headscratcher, since Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Laurent Robinson should be able to beat teams looking to stop the run first, but Austin's return would still be a boon to a team looking to regain maximum versatility offensively.

    It looks good for Austin's return against the Giants this week, although that should be taken with a grain of salt given that it looked good for his return this time last week as well. The Giants have struggled against teams that are able to spread the field and make them cover this season, so having Austin would certainly be an important weapon for Sunday night.

    Austin probably won't be the only big return to the lineup. It looks like Tony Fiammetta will also return, something that should take care of the other obvious reason for Murray's declining totals. He's missed the last three games with what's been deemed an inner ear problem and it's probably not a coincidence that those three games have been unsuccessful ones for Murray.

    Fiammetta is a better blocker out of the backfield than Shaun Chapas and he was deserving of the praise laid at his feet after Murray's breakout quartet of games. The Giants haven't had an easy time stopping the run this year, something that should continue with Fiammetta clearing holes on Sunday night.

    The combination of both returning players spells good things for the Cowboys. If they can get the running game in gear, it will allow them to control the ball and keep the powerful Giants offense from getting ample opportunities to turn the game in their direction.

    So the pieces should be in place for the Cowboys to take firm control of the NFC East. That just leaves execution as a problem Dallas needs to solve.