More important to Cowboys offense after Romo?


Cowboys win with Murray in

Taylor By Jean-Jacques Taylor

DeMarco Murray is the most important player on the Cowboys' offense.

Look no further than the most important stat: wins and losses.

The Cowboys are 5-2 when Murray starts and finishes a game, because he gives the Cowboys' offense balance.

And that makes Jason Garrett a better coach. And Tony Romo a better quarterback. And tight end Jason Witten a more dangerous tight end.

Murray's presence makes everyone else's job easier. If you don't believe it, think about how raggedy the offense looked when Felix Jones was the featured back.

Murray makes the red zone offense more efficient because the play-action pass becomes a true weapon. Or, as was the case Sunday against Pittsburgh, when the defense is thinking pass, he can score untouched up the middle on a 3-yard run.

When Murray is in the lineup, Garrett rarely abandons the run. He keeps banging away because he knows Murray has the ability to break a long run at any time.

Guess what? That helps with time of possession. And it keeps the defense fresh.

In the games Murray has started, Witten has seven receptions of 20 yards or more. He had one in the six games Murray missed.

In the three games since Murray returned to the lineup, Witten has had three grabs of more than 20 yards, and he was tackled inside the 5 each time, setting up a touchdown.

Those are touchdowns that don't exist without Murray.

Romo and Dez Bryant are better players than Murray. No one is arguing that, but Murray is the guy who makes everything work seamlessly.

Any coach will tell you it's not always about gaining yards when a team runs the ball. It's about creating a physical mindset and wearing down the defense.

In the Cowboys' biggest drive of the season, when they needed a field goal to beat Cincinnati, they drove 50 yards in 13 plays.

Garrett put the ball in Murray's hands eight times -- six runs and two passes -- and another pass directed his way was incomplete.

Twice, Murray converted a pair of third-down runs to set up the game winner.

With the season on the line, Garrett wanted the ball in Murray's hands above all others. That tells us all we need to know about whom Garrett considers the Cowboys' most important offensive player.

Passing game too important

Archer By Todd Archer

I have no problem with Jacques believing DeMarco Murray is the biggest difference-maker not named Tony Romo on the Cowboys' offense. It's a perfectly good pick, especially given Jacques' roots in the Big Ten, where running the football is so loved.

All that 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust stuff. Unfortunately, that means you're facing fourth-and-1 and have to punt.

In today's National Football League, you must throw to win.

There is no doubt the Cowboys missed Murray for the six games he was out because of a sprained left foot. He has provided the offense with a different element and has made the offensive line better. A running back can make an offensive line, where as I thought a line or scheme could make a runner.

But I'm going with Dez Bryant, with the huge caveat that I cannot pick Romo.

Bryant has been magnificent in this six-game stretch. He has eight touchdown catches. No wide receiver has more. His 37 catches in this run are fourth most, but the three guys ahead of him are largely the only pass threats on their teams: Detroit's Calvin Johnson (58), Houston's Andre Johnson (51) and Chicago's Brandon Marshall (48).

Bryant's 584 yards also lag behind that trio, but his yards-per-catch tally is higher.

None of those guys has a Jason Witten on their team, so Bryant's catches are more important to a degree.

With a touchdown catch Sunday against New Orleans, Bryant would tie a team record for TD catches in consecutive games with seven. The last guy to do it here was Terrell Owens in 2007. The only other guys to do it are Bob Hayes and Frank Clarke.

Bryant was on the verge of breaking out before Murray's return. He had back-to-back games of 145 yards receiving against Cleveland and Washington while catching 20 passes.

In the three games since Murray's return, he has 14 catches for 207 yards. Statistically those are solid numbers, but the impact of his catches has been greater.

Teams can run all they want, but they don't score enough points to win. Games are too close, and it puts a ton of pressure on the defense to get stops. If you have a defense like the Cowboys that has been torn apart by injuries, then you better be able to score.

You throw to score.

For the Cowboys, that's why Bryant is more important.


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