Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys managed to save their season on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, winning 38-23. Despite special teams and defense being the big turning points, Garrett needs to continue to rely on the running game to keep this Dallas offense balanced.
Dallas is currently ranked third in the NFL in passing yards per game, nearly 300 per contest. But the running game has proven to be pivotal for the team in wins this year, something that Garrett needs to take notice of down the stretch.
On Sunday against the Eagles, Dallas had 26 passing plays to 25 rushing. That ratio is exactly what the team should be striving for with the playoffs now a weekly benchmark of success.
It's also not the first time this season that Garrett has managed to stay balanced while winning a football game. The other three wins against the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers were 29/26, 28/25 and 34/31 in number of passes to runs.
That isn't a coincidence.
It's been a hallmark for writers that criticize Garrett's ability to be both the head coach and the offensive coordinator. He calls for the pass when in trouble far too much, making it easier on defenses to pin their ears back and go.
In a report by Jon Machota in the Dallas Morning News, QB Tony Romo was calling for a more hurry-up offense on the heels of the team's 29-24 loss to the New York Giants. Romo obviously appreciates the chance to win games himself, but it didn't work. Here's what Garrett had to say in that article:
“I just think we were efficient throwing the football,” Garrett said. “Obviously, Tony as the quarterback, appreciates that. We were able to throw the ball a lot of different ways against them and throw it to different guys and move the ball pretty consistently throughout the ballgame...But, at the same time, we got to be able to run the ball. We have to run the ball better than we did the other day and be a more balanced offense. We’ll continue to strive to do that well.”
At the very least, Garrett understands that he needs the running game to win ballgames. Even the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, two teams known for passing attacks, can run the ball with their assortment of backs.
At the same time, there are supporters of the team who feel that Garrett is sometimes too conservative with his calls. One of those men is Cowboys team writer Jeff Sullivan, who was thoroughly disgusted during the first half.
Jason Garrett coaches as if he has the 1985 Chicago Bears defense. Take some chances on offense. Really annoyed right now.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) November 11, 2012
Still, that's a byproduct of his coaching strategy as a situational signal caller, not the fundamental desire this team has to do something on the ground.
Dallas has games against Cleveland, Washington and Philadelphia (again) still on the schedule. At 4-5, they still have a chance to run the table and claim one of the NFC's Wild Card spots. The way the Giants are playing right now, you could argue the NFC East is still up for grabs.
Either way, the return of DeMarco Murray in the next two weeks will help take some of the strain of not having a marquee back to work with. Garrett and the Cowboys must not give Romo the reigns to this offense when things get rough.
Rely on the run, and your defense, and things will be just fine. Dallas fans hate the delayed draw on 3rd down, but if the play calling continues to be balanced and confusing to opposing defenders, this offense is as dangerous as any in the NFL.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.