After running the ball a mere nine times in Sunday’s win over the Vikings, Jason Garrett is calling for more balance
By Matthew Postins
Jason Garrett says he wants balance. He said it nearly 10 times during his press conference on Monday.
So why can’t the Dallas Cowboys find some?
What happened at AT&T Stadium on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings was an affront to football purists everywhere. The Cowboys ran the football nine times and threw it 51 times in a 27-23 victory.
The Cowboys ran the football nine times in a contest in which lead back DeMarco Murray returned from injury. The Cowboys gained just 36 yards and 27 of those yards came from Murray, who broke that run in the first quarter.
The running game became a largely forgotten facet of the contest as the Cowboys threw the ball on 27 of their final 28 plays.
“We just didn’t get it done,” Garrett said. “We have to be more balanced. We have to give the run game more opportunity to get going. We have to run it better.”
Few would argue that point, especially ESPN Radio’s Glenn “Stretch” Smith, who breaks down film for The Afternoon Show. Smith mentioned that he was baffled by the lack of run game against the Vikings, who used a lot of umbrella coverage and ran six defenders in the box for much of the game. That would seem to invite the run.
But it really shouldn’t be a surprise. The Cowboys have become more pass-centric since Garrett became head coach.
In 2010 the Cowboys threw the ball 57.3 percent. In 2011 it was 58.2 percent. In 2012 it was 64.9 percent. In nine games in 2013 it is 65.4 percent.
Garrett said that last year it was circumstance that drove the Cowboys to the pass. He had a point. The Cowboys were ahead in games less than 25 percent of the time.
But this year? The Cowboys have led nearly 60 percent of the time so far this season. Their four losses have been by a combined 14 points. That would indicate less of a need to throw the football.
Yet, the Cowboys are throwing the ball more. Why?
On Sunday against Minnesota Garrett said it was about negative runs early in the game, caused in part by the Cowboys’ own play calls, which necessitated “a lot of people around the line of scrimmage.”
Some would argue that negative runs early in the game shouldn’t scare a team off from the run game. Garrett agrees, to a point.
“You have to be persistent through it,” Garrett said. “We all know that. You have to keep banging away at it. At the same time you don’t want a whole lot of wasted plays. You don’t get that many plays in a ballgame.”
Garrett also said circumstances in the game skewed the numbers.
“We had the two-minute drive before the half and we had two two-minute drives at the end of the game where we threw the ball a lot and that can skew the numbers,” he said.
He even alluded to the fact that, sometimes, it may be Romo checking into a better play.
“He’s the chief decision maker in some situations, if you’re giving him an audible or a kill or a check with me (at the line of scrimmage),” Garrett said. “He makes some decisions. We’re not in those plays all the time. We call a lot in the huddle and he runs the play that’s called.”
Plus, he said offensive coordinator Bill Callahan did a good job of using play action at times, despite the lack of runs in the game.
But with three years of a Garrett-led offense – whether as a play-calling head coach or an overseeing head coach – Garrett had to answer the big question:
Is this who the Cowboys are, for better or worse?
“I think there are a lot of game circumstances that factor into last year. If you remember we were behind a lot in some games early on and got into these passing situations to try to get back into games,” Garrett said. “Two years ago we were ahead in games a lot and we were a little bit more balanced. You need to have balance in your offense. As must as anything for the effectiveness of each individual play. But also just attacking defenses different ways.”
So Garrett agrees the Cowboys need balance. He’s preached it in the past. He’s preaching it in the present. He’ll preach it in the future.
“We all want to be more balanced,” Garrett said. “We have to give it a chance. We have to do a better job of running it and we simply have to run it more. I think that will help our team.
Few would disagree with his last point. But after two years of hearing “we need balance,” one has to wonder if this team truly has the ability to make the commitment.