Last season marked the third time in a row the Dallas Cowboys lost in Week 17 with a trip to the playoffs on the line.
Last season was different, though, as most wouldn’t believe the club had a shot at the playoffs. Jerry Jones’ defense gave up the third-most yards in NFL history and played without guys like Sean Lee, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff.
The defense is still an issue this season considering it is filled with young talent and injuries continue to cripple the roster. However, there is one guy who can give the team and its fans another run at the playoffs.
That guy is DeMarco Murray.
It is really the running game itself, with Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar showing some promise this preseason. The majority of the workload will go to Murray, and he will do more than just march the ‘Boys down the field.
The former Oklahoma Sooner was playing superbly in 2013, rushing for nine touchdowns. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which was tops for any ball-carrier with at least 120 rushes. Murray’s 53 receptions were also the ninth-most out of running backs.
With a depleted, inexperienced defense, the Cowboys must work on giving Murray the ball more. While somewhat fragile, Murray is a punishing rusher but also has good elusiveness. He has a knack for breaking tackles and gaining yards after contact, as you can see in the video above. It is what this team needs to keep the defense on the bench and Tony Romo and the rest of the offense on the gridiron.
Since his rookie season in 2011, Dallas is 11-0 when Murray rushes the ball 20 or more times.
The game against the Green Bay Packers last season is a perfect example. The ‘Boys failed to hold a 23-point halftime lead and lost the game by a single point. Murray finished the game with 18 carries and 136 yards. Just three of those carries came in the fourth quarter, when his team still held a 12-point lead.
If the team had continued to feed Murray the ball, there is no way the Packers would have come back and won the game. It is those mistakes that haunt this team, especially Romo. New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan must make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Romo and the coaching staff need to instill faith into the ground game. Giving Murray the rock more often offers too many positives to be ignored.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com and NFL.com.
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