I'm no football genius—far from it— but if there were such a thing as Football Logic 101, I would be taking notes on a lecture about how the Dallas Cowboys might be planning to upset the Philadelphia Eagles by turning Sunday night's winner-take-all match into a physical roller derby.
Translation— forget about Romo's bad back or Dez Bryant's sore lats— the Cowboys' might just turn the tables on the Birds by turning DeMarco Murray loose behind his blockers and let this thing get real physical.
I've seen it before—heck, New England just did it to the Baltimore Ravens last weekend when Belichick and Tom Brady unexpectedly switched to a running attack and mauled a defense that was primed to stop the pass.
In baseball it would be called a change-up… In boxing it would be called rope-a-dope….in basketball, it would be called a box-and-one….
Unexpected things happen when you go from your usual repertoire of finesse (which the Eagles have scouted for) and just bang away head-on against the guy in front of you. Maybe I'm the fool and I'm the one being diverted from the real Cowboys game plan— but right now I sense DeMarco Murray is the X-Factor and the offensive fate of the Cowboys will be literally put into his hands.
We didn't have to worry about DeMarco (6-0, 227, 3rd year out of Oklahoma, drafted 3rd round in 2011, 4.37 '40 speed) when we played Dallas back in October. He was injured then…and besides, we had our own problems on offense that day.
But Demarco Murray is healthy now…. and the stars are aligned for him to take the Dallas offense on his back and make it physical.
All the Romo-Orton drama evaporates quickly if Murray comes out of the gate fast and often and runs behind his offensive line and finds openings in the second level.
If it gets physical like that, all bets are off. The Eagles will have to adjust quickly and will have to reevaluate their pass coverage resource management as well. The press coverage that has worked so well for cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher in the previous Chicago game will have to be sacrificed. Guys are going to have to come up to stop the run. Physicality becomes the rule of the day.
Physicality also works the other way, too. Beat your block, get to Murray and wrap him up often enough, and the Eagles defense would dictate the order of battle.
DeMarco Murray ranks first in yards per carry among the NFL’s top 25 rushers. He’s already run for more than 1,000 yards, easily the highest total in his three seasons in the NFL. He has averaged 89.0 yards of offense per game this season; Dez Bryant is at 81.3.
With quarterback Tony Romo suffering with what sources say is a herniated disk, and his prognosis to play Sunday night against Philadelphia dreary at best, one might theorize the Cowboys plan to alleviate prospective offensive woes with a heavier than usual dose of Murray.
If so, Dallas is not showing their cards…
Offensive coordinator and play-caller Bill Callahan claimed nothing would change should backup Kyle Orton take Romo’s place in the decisive game of the season.
“We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Callahan said before upping the stakes himself. “Shift to a whole new offense? That’s not the situation at all.”
No one suggested a seismic shift, like installing the Wishbone… But maybe a few more carries for Murray, who’s 10th in the league in rushing with 1,073 yards? He’s also last among the top 10 in rushing attempts per game at 15.4. That’s almost four fewer carries per game than league rushing leader LeSean McCoy, who has amassed 1,476 yards. Murray leads McCoy in yards per carry, 5.4 to 5.1.
The Cowboys, it should be noted, are 11-0 when Murray gets at least 20 carries.
“When he’s been healthy for us, he’s been a very good player over the course of his career,” Garrett said of Murray. “I think you can pick out chunks in every one of the seasons that he’s played where he’s made a huge impact on our team.”
Of course, that is with the threat of Romo on the field. In playing with Orton, Murray might find defenders with different priorities.
Murray missed the first meeting of the season against the Eagles in Philadelphia with a knee injury. The Cowboys won, 17-3. He missed the next game, a 31-30 loss to Detroit.
He has been stellar in the Cowboys’ last three games, rushing 58 times for 376 yards. That’s 6.5 yards per carry.
Still, Murray said he hasn’t noticed much of a difference in the Cowboys’ game plan this week. Of course, it’s doubtful he would say otherwise. He said he has complete faith in Orton’s ability to replace Romo. He said he’s not anticipating any more carries against the Eagles, let alone a workhorse load.
“I don’t know how they’re going to call it. That’s up to [Callahan],” Murray said. “I’m ready for whatever they ask me to do.”
But he would welcome the opportunity to carry the load.
“If they do, then great. If they don’t, then so be it. I’m preparing like I do any other week. I’m working hard, making sure I know my assignments and knowing my keys and things of that nature, so I’ll be ready.”
Let's get physical… we may have to…