What Went Wrong, No. 2: Stagnant run game

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
12:00
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[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe Cowboys' rushing attack suffered a big blow with DeMarco Murray having to sit out six games.
Our five-part series on what went right and what went wrong for the Cowboys continues with No. 2:

The Dallas Cowboys finished the 2012 regular season with the 31st-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. The Cowboys rushed for a 1,265 yards, the lowest output in a 16-game season in franchise history.

When the season was over, running backs coach Skip Peete was relieved of his duties. But Peete wasn't playing with a full deck. DeMarco Murray missed six games with a sprained foot, backup running back Felix Jones played with two sore knees and two younger players, Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar, didn't impress the coaches enough to warrant more playing time.

Of the Cowboys' 1,265 rushing yards, 227 came in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 14. It was the most rushing yards allowed by the Ravens in franchise history. In that game, however, Murray suffered his injury and things went downward from there for the Cowboys.

The best Jones could do as the starter was gain 71 yards on 16 carries in a win at Philadelphia on Nov. 11. The Cowboys rushed for over 100 yards as a unit only once in the six games that Murray was out.

It was clear the Cowboys' run game was compromised by the team's failure to build leads at the start of games and the inconsistency of the offensive line. The Cowboys started three different centers, two different left tackles and right guards and rotated the right tackle spot.

Yet when Murray returned Dec. 2 at Philadelphia, the Cowboys began a surge toward saving their season. With Murray back in the lineup, the Cowboys won three consecutive games. Murray rushed for 83 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown in the Eagles game. And while they lost the final two games of the regular season, there is hope that Murray will become a every down back in the future.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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