Cowboys can't win without balance

IRVING, Texas -- The real question is whether Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is lying to himself or just to us.

He talks about wanting to have a balanced offense, which means throwing the ball about 60 percent of the time in today's NFL.

But it's just talk.

All you have to do is look at the games. Watch how quickly Garrett's team abandons the run. It's not like the Cowboys give up on the pass just because Tony Romo gets sacked a couple of times.

Time after time, Garrett tells us the Cowboys need to run it more, run it better and have more offensive balance because it makes it easier for the quarterback, receivers and linemen to operate. Then the game rolls around and, more often than not, Romo starts flinging the ball all over the field.

He did it again on Sunday, and it worked as the Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-23 to win a game in which Romo threw 50 passes for the first time since 2007.

No one is asking Garrett or the Cowboys to apologize for beating the Vikings. This team isn't good enough to have style points attached to its wins anyway.

This isn't about running the ball 51 times against the Vikings while running it just nine times. If the Cowboys chose to make the case that the combination of Minnesota's defensive line and porous secondary made throwing the ball virtually every play the best approach to attack the Vikings, then fine.

Here's the problem: History suggests the Cowboys can't consistently win with this abandon-the-run approach.

Dallas is 3-1 this season when Romo throws 40 or more passes in a game. Only the Denver Broncos (5-1) and Detroit Lions (4-2) have more wins in games in which their quarterback throws 40 or more passes. The rest of the NFL is 23-40 in such games.

FYI: The Cowboys are 7-10 when Romo throws 40 or more passes in a game since 2011, Garrett's first full season as head coach.

Only Detroit (28) and the New Orleans Saints (22) have more games with 40 or more pass attempts. Detroit is 11-17 in those games, and New Orleans is 10-12.

And what has all this passing netted Garrett? A 23-22 record since the start of 2011.

But this is Garrett's team. He can run it any way he chooses.

And if he wants to build a dynamic passing team like Denver and New Orleans have, then just tell us. We'll quit asking every week about when we're going to see more offensive balance.

The NFL has changed. All of the rules promote passing. The Cowboys need to run it only to close out games -- and to set up their play-action passing game -- which they couldn't do last week in a 31-30 loss to Detroit. Just a little bit of a running game with DeMarco Murray, who had just four carries for 31 yards, is enough to get linebackers to bite on run fakes.

Murray gained 27 yards on his second carry -- the Cowboys' longest run since his 41-yard play in the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. Garrett and playcaller Bill Callahan rewarded him with two more carries the rest of the game.

In a game the Cowboys never trailed by more than four points, Murray carried the ball for the last time with 8:31 left in the third quarter.

So don't tell me you're interested in running the ball.

We're talking about a team that has had fewer than 20 rush attempts in five of nine games this season.

The quarterback is running this offense with the approval of Garrett and Callahan, who say they don't like the run-pass ratio but acquiesce to the quarterback's desires.

Romo would rather gain 6 yards on a pass to Jason Witten or Cole Beasley than on a run by Murray.

Romo demanded more control of the offense during contract negotiations in the offseason, and he got it -- not that Garrett and Callahan mind.

So none of us should be surprised the Cowboys are throwing the ball more than at any other time since Garrett became head coach. The play comes in, but Romo has the ability to change it based his pre-snap read.

The Cowboys throw it 66.6 percent of the time, fourth highest in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons throw the ball a league-leading 70 percent of the time.

Of the five teams that throw it the most, only the Cowboys have a winning record. The other four teams -- Atlanta, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants -- are a combined 10-23.

This philosophy won't work long term, but the $106 million quarterback trusts his passing ability more than the offensive line's run blocking.

Callahan and Garrett have put their faith, and their careers, in Romo's right hand. They should just be honest about it and stop the pretense that offensive balance is a goal.