IRVING, Texas -- The San Francisco 49ers’ front seven might not have had 100 percent attendance in the season opener, but the Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball against one of the better defenses in the NFL over the past few seasons.
Now they have to take that running game on the road Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
“I think anytime you can run the ball on the road, it helps everything,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “Hopefully, we’re able to do that.”
By everything, Romo means everything.
If DeMarco Murray can run the ball, then that should open up passing lanes for Romo. If Murray can run the ball, then that should slow down the Titans’ attacking defense because they will have to honor the run. If Murray can run the ball, then that should keep the Cowboys in many manageable third-down situations.
Center Travis Frederick has another reason.
“Because you’re always facing an extra opponent in the away crowd,” he said. “What you want to do is go out and kind of quiet it early on and set the tempo. I think the running game is a good way in even things out and really getting over that first swell of emotion. Once things calm down, things open up a little bit better.”
The Cowboys ran for 754 yards away from home in 2013 and 750 yards at home. They were much more willing to stick with the running game away from AT&T Stadium as well. In five of the eight road games, the Cowboys had at least 20 carries five times. They had only three such games at home.
The Cowboys closed last season with three straight games with at least 20 carries away from home and won two of those games.
Of Murray’s eight 100-yard games in his career, only two of them have come on the road. He had 131 yards on 20 carries in the 2012 season-opening win against the New York Giants. He had 148 yards on 18 carries in a Week 14 loss to the Chicago Bears last season. Murray had 118 yards on 22 carries against San Francisco, but he has not posted back-to-back 100-yard games since his rookie season.
Reaching the century mark against the Titans might be difficult. Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles led the AFC in rushing in 2013 with 1,287 yards but was held to 19 yards on seven carries last week.
“They do a good job with a combination of things,” Frederick said. “They play multiple fronts. They’re going to give us different looks and a couple different pressures they want to use to stop the run. And they’ve got good personnel, a really good front seven that’s fast and going to flow to the ball quickly. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”