By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys head into the NFC divisional playoffs to play in a stadium that has always been one of the toughest in the NFL this time of the year. Lambeau Field holds a mystique that is hard to shake and the weather there is never kind—temperatures have been below freezing all week long. However, the Cowboys 2014 team are built for this kind of game, thanks to a player that Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy said Monday was a “difference maker” in DeMarco Murray.
When asked about the possibilities of a shootout between the NFL’s two top rated quarterbacks in Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy pointed out a different strategy for the game. "The Dallas Cowboys' run game is excellent. Murray is a big-time back. He's definitely a difference maker," McCarthy said.
McCarthy is right. In the last three seasons, the Dallas Cowboys came one game from the playoffs and lost that chance every year. One of the biggest problems with the Cowboys teams of the last three years is that they never trusted the run and just threw the ball all over the field. If this was last year’s Cowboys team, the game would likely turn into a shootout.
However, things changed this season and the Dallas Cowboys are relying on the run. They run the ball more than almost any team in the NFL and do it well. DeMarco Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards and ended up tied with Marshawn Lynch with 13 touchdown runs. He also ranks second to Justin Forsett for runs over 20 yards, with 15, proving to be a big playmaker as well.
Murray’s 392 carries was 80 more than the next closest running back and he added 57 receptions for 416 more yards as well. His receiving skills out of the backfield are often overlooked, but he only dropped seven balls out of the 64 that Romo threw to him. The Packers’ Eddie Lacy had more receiving yards, but also dropped more passes.
There is no reason to expect that the Green Bay Packers will try to match the Dallas Cowboys in the running game. Aaron Rodgers is who will win this game for the Packers and gives them the best chance of returning to the Super Bowl. Head coach Mike McCarthy is also known to ignore the run down the line. However, the Cowboys will rely heavily on the run to wear the clock down and keep Rodgers off the field.
Even in the wild card game, which the Detroit Lions led in until the fourth quarter, Dallas did not give up on the run. DeMarco Murray finished the game with 19 carries for 75 yards and three receptions for 22 yards. While Tony Romo threw the ball a lot more than usual, with 42 pass attempts, it was because they fell behind early by two touchdowns. Regardless, Murray kept pounding the ball and the Cowboys came back to win. If need be, Tony Romo can fight Aaron Rodgers in a shootout, but DeMarco Murray is there to try to make sure it isn’t necessary.
The Dallas Cowboys travel to play the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs. The game takes place on Sunday, Jan. 11, with a kickoff time of 1:05 p.m. EST. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers game in the NFC Championship.
For more Cowboys news and updates, visit Cowboys Central.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.
for more features.