Cowboys must believe in their run game

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
5:50
PM ET
Calvin Watkins, who is one of the ESPNDallas.com Cowboys writers who has not piled on me on Twitter along with enraged Cowboys fans for the past two days, is a good man. He's also got a piece up on the site now about the Cowboys' struggles so far in the run game, which started the season great in Week 1 against the Giants but has struggled in the two games since against the Seahawks and Buccaneers. DeMarco Murray, the lead running back in the Cowboys' offense, says he's frustrated:
Murray is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry, that's 82 yards on 30 carries, in the last two weeks.

"We just got to run better," he said. "We have to execute better in all phases of the game. As far as running the ball, we just got to get bodies on bodies and finish a few runs, make a few guys miss and get things corrected."

The other thing they have to do -- maybe the most important thing -- is not get discouraged. They're not the only ones who have had trouble running it against the Buccaneers and Seahawks, who rank first (47.3 yards per game allowed) and second (58.7) in the league in rush defense so far this year. And the Cowboys' offensive line is also the team's weakest position group, which holds back Murray especially against tough, physical defensive fronts. There is plenty working against the Cowboys' efforts to run the ball, but it's vitally important that they continue to try, because that's the only way to get it to work.

Murray, first of all, is a good and tough enough back to run the ball with success even behind a substandard line. But the key part of my point is that the only way to establish a successful ground game is to commit to it. If you give up on the run because it's not working, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you never get back to it. This is why it gets so frustrating to read these transcripts every week from Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg talking about how they got away from the run because they fell behind. It's easy to commit to the run when it's working. It's more difficult to do it when it doesn't work the first few times, but history shows it's rewarding. There tends to be more time left in games (and seasons) than panicky offensive coordinators want to believe, and those who stay patient are the ones for whom things tend to work out in the end. Last year's Giants, who couldn't run the ball a lick but kept trying anyway, are a prime example. Their run game got stronger in the postseason as a result of its yearlong persistence, and it helped them win a Super Bowl.

Things aren't going to get much easier Monday night for the Cowboys, as the Bears are only allowing 76 yards per game on the ground this year. And after next week's bye comes a trip to Baltimore. But the toughest fight for the Cowboys rushing offense right now is not against any particular opponent but rather against frustration. Their offense works best when Murray is getting a healthy number of touches and there's balance between the run game and the passing game. If they start to lean too heavily on the passing game -- especially with the way the line protecting Tony Romo right now -- they're going to have bigger problems than the ones Murray is having finding holes right now. But if the Cowboys stay patient and believe the run game will come around, they should be rewarded down the road.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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