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Dallas Cowboys' key: Third-down success

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When attempting to find out why the Dallas Cowboys are rolling along offensively, the easy answer is the running game and DeMarco Murray’s 913 yards.

Tony Romo believes it goes past what Murray has done.

“This is the best we have ever been on third down,” Romo said. “That is really changing the game. It is our ability to consistently stay patient and run the ball over and over again. If we continue to be good on third down, we can continue to get a lot of reps on the ground. That helps the process.”

The Cowboys converted 9 of 14 third-down chances in Sunday’s 31-21 win against the New York Giants, upping their season total to 54 conversions of 94 third downs (57 percent).

Last year the Cowboys converted just 35 percent of the time on third down.

The Cowboys spent a good portion of their offseason trying to fix what went wrong on third down in 2013. New playcaller Scott Linehan has changed the dynamics of the offense by running more, but he has also found a way to get his playmakers, like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, involved as well as the role players.

“I think a lot of it is the plan, and I think a lot of it is the execution,” Romo said. “I don’t know what the numbers were today, but on third-and-8 or third-and-10, we were converting some of those. Third-and-3 feels the same way as third-and-8 or 9 for us right now. That is a testament to everybody -- the coaches coming up with a good plan and the players going out and executing that.”

The Cowboys converted on third-and-5 or more on eight out of 13 tries against the Giants. Witten’s two catches went for a first down. Bryant had catches of 44, 25, and 8 yards. Tight end Gavin Escobar converted two -- one of which was a 15-yard score -- and Romo scrambled 6 yards for a first down.

The third-down success on offense has affected the defense. Last year, the defense was on the field too much. This year, the defense is playing fewer snaps and not getting exposed.

“Typically you’re in more manageable third-down situations when you run the ball effectively,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You get in some of those short-yardage situations and goal-line situations and end-of-game situations, you just run the football. When you’ve got a big, strong offensive line, you’re able to do that. There’s a physicalness about our football right now. It stems from those guys up front. It pervades our offense. It pervades our defense. It’s a good thing for our team.”