Sticking to run takes pressure off Romo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- You've heard the rhetoric pretty much since the day Jason Garrett became the Dallas Cowboys' head coach. Finally, you saw some results.

You just hope it's not a fluke. Only time will tell us. For now, enjoy the Cowboys' first win of the season.

Dallas 26, Tennessee 10.

For at least one game, this was the team Garrett envisioned putting on the field when Jerry Jones made him the eighth coach in franchise history.

It's exactly what Garrett had in mind when he persuaded Jerry to spend first-round picks on offensive lineman three times in four years, when the owner had never ever used a first-round pick on a lineman.

Garrett will tell you he's always wanted an offense capable of running the ball in the fourth quarter when yards are precious and games are decided, though we've never been able to tell considering the obscene run/pass ratios his offenses usually have.

You must decide for yourself whether he's telling the truth, but the Cowboys can win games with the style they displayed against Tennessee.

The Cowboys rushed for 220 yards, kept the ball for 41 minutes and kept their suspect defense off the field. The offense revolved around DeMarco Murray who rushed for 167 yards -- the third-highest total of his career -- on 29 carries, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar.

"I thought he played a fantastic football game -- downhill the whole game," Garrett said of Murray. "When you're on the sidelines and plays come to you and you see the collisions and him delivering those blows on those guys. It was physical, it was strong and he was really purposeful on how he ran."

How much do you want to wager that Jerry doesn't feel nearly as bad about passing on current bench-warming Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel for road-grading right guard Zack Martin in the draft?

In the locker room after the game, play-caller Scott Linehan made a point to congratulate each offensive line starter before leaving, while tight end Jason Witten gleefully talked about the Cowboys forging a new offensive identity.

Garrett even referred to Romo as a complementary player. And get this: Romo agreed.

"It's all about winning," Romo said. "We've done the stat thing plenty of times."

If the Cowboys can figure out a way to consistently play the style they used Sunday, they they're capable of winning more games than most of us envisioned and ending this wretched streak of four consecutive years without making the playoffs.

It means the Cowboys must build their offense around Murray instead of Romo and the passing attack, which is the way it has been every year since Garrett took over the offense in 2007.

A dominant offensive line and a strong running game will make the defense better, if for no other reason than they're not on the field as much. They played only 49 snaps against Tennessee and limited the Titans to 68 yards on 21 plays in the first half.

This style will make the play-caller better and the coach too.

We watched the Cowboys blow a 26-3 halftime lead against Green Bay and a 27-17 lead with 6:45 left against Detroit last season because they either couldn't or wouldn't run the ball.

Heck, a lot of offensive players and coaches will tell you they didn't trust the running game last season, even though Murray gained more than 1,100 yards because they didn't truly believe in the offensive line.

These days, they do.

Tennessee trimmed the Cowboys lead to 16-10 midway through the third quarter, then the Cowboys drove 80 yards in 12 plays, pushing the lead to 23-10 on a 3-yard touchdown catch by Dez Bryant.

But it was the fourth quarter where Linehan and Garrett showed us there really might be a new way for the Cowboys to win games.

Linehan called runs on 17 of 21 fourth-quarter plays. And when the Cowboys took over at their 6 with 6:22 left after stopping Tennessee on fourth down, Linehan called 11 consecutive running plays -- five to Murray and six to Lance Dunbar.

The Cowboys picked up three first downs and converted two third downs. They punted with 32 seconds left.

"I think we're stronger than we've been in the offensive line," said Garrett, "and that's very intentional that we've done that and it allows you to play like this -- go on the road against a good football team and do the things you need to do throughout the ballgame."

Now, we need to see if the Cowboys can do it again.