Dallas’ new ‘Triplets’ leading the way Cowboys’ diversity on offense makes them a team no one wants to face in playoffs
From Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
Cowboys’ diversity on offense makes them a team no one wants to face in playoffs
~LANDOVER, Md. — Two plays and 51 seconds in a season full of memorable moments showed why these Dallas Cowboys aren’t content with winning the NFC East.
Or being the only team undefeated on the road after beating the Washington Redskins. Or winning 12 games, including all four in December, to forever end any chatter about December swoons.
They want to do more. And they have the offense to do it.
With 3:05 left in the first quarter, DeMarco Murray burst off the left end behind a block from Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith for a 32-yard gain that broke Emmitt Smith’s 19-year single-season franchise record of 1,773 yards.
On the next play, Tony Romo threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, who made a sensational toe-tapping catch in the corner of the end zone that required a challenge flag and a replay in order to count, giving the Cowboys a 17-7 lead.
Romo finished with 34 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a league-best 114.4 passer rating, while Bryant set the franchise record with a league-leading 16 touchdown receptions.
Murray ended the season with a league-best 1,845 yards rushing, winning the title by more than 400 yards.
Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson of the ’70s Cowboys passed the legacy of dynamic offensive football to Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin of the ’90s, who have now passed it to Romo, Murray and Bryant.
Dallas 44, Washington 17.
“We’re going to push the envelope and be an aggressive, attacking-style offense that can run it and throw it,” Romo said. “For us, we just want to score on every possession we have the ball.”
The Cowboys did that in the first half against Washington, gaining 294 yards with 16 first downs as they scored on each of their first four possessions to build a 27-10 halftime lead.
The way they’ve played offense since an embarrassing 33-10 loss to Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day has been phenomenal.
The Cowboys have scored more than 40 points three times in the past four games and finished the month with 165 points — the most in franchise history. They have scored on 25 of 45 possessions this month, and three times they have scored on four consecutive possessions in a game.
“We’re versatile,” left guard Ron Leary said. “You try to stop one aspect of our offense and we’ll get the other one going. It’s real balanced, and we have a lot of great players on offense. We’re rolling now, and it’s only going to get better.”
Who’s going to doubt them?
These Cowboys scored 467 points, the second-highest total in franchise history. Only the 1983 Cowboys (479 points) scored more. Dallas scored more than 30 points 10 times, including each of their last seven road games.
The Cowboys’ diversity makes them the best offense in the playoffs. When teams use their safety near the line of scrimmage to stop Murray, Romo attacks deep with passes to Bryant or Terrance Williams, as the QB did Sunday.
Bryant had touchdown receptions of 65 and 23 yards, while Williams had a 51-yard catch and drew a 26-yard pass-interference penalty that set up a field goal.
When teams use a safety to double Bryant or tight end Jason Witten, the Cowboys will run Murray all day long.
Murray finished with 20 carries for 100 yards, and Joseph Randle added a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. A holding penalty negated an apparent 80-yard touchdown run by Lance Dunbar in the second quarter.
You can’t help but watch this offense and think about the Triplets of the glory days of the ’90s, when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls and dominated the NFL.
“We have playmakers on our team,” coach Jason Garrett said. “If guys go out there and do their job, then plays are going to be made. We believe that.
“It starts with having a physical offense — physical upfront, physical on the edges, physical runners and a physical receiver.
“We emphasize that more than anything else: Come off the ball, control the line of scrimmage, be a physical team, and everything else will follow.”
No longer does Romo trust himself more than his teammates. He’s more than willing to let others make plays, which has made him a better quarterback.
Romo, who has 45 career 300-yard games, had one this season. The 34 passes he threw against Washington marked just the fifth time he’s thrown more than 30 passes this year.
Finally, Garrett and Romo have figured out less can be more.
It’s winning time and the Cowboys are playing their best football, and the latest version of the Triplets makes these Cowboys a team no one wants to deal with in the playoffs.
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