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For Cowboys runners, the competition will continue

Darren McFadden (No. 20) and the rest of the Cowboys' running backs had a less than stellar showing Sunday night at San Francisco. AP Photo/Tony Avelar

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for their running back answers will have to continue for another week.

Darren McFadden started Sunday's 23-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and had 4 yards on three carries. Joseph Randle had seven carries for 30 yards to lead the Cowboys. Lance Dunbar did not have a carry.

About the best that can be said is that the top three runners came out of the game uninjured.

For McFadden, the start was a little surprising because he missed the first 11 practices of training camp with a hamstring strain and had only two days with 11-on-11 work leading into the game.

"I don't feel like I'm behind at all," McFadden said. "It's one of those things where you have to get your reps, get your feet back under you good. I feel like the last couple of weeks I've been doing that and it's coming along great."

Randle's oblique strain flared up again and kept him out of two days of team drills and there were some questions he would get any action against the 49ers.

"I needed it," Randle said of his first action of the preseason after sitting out of the opener against the San Diego Chargers. "I didn't just want it. I needed it."

The Cowboys didn't have three-fifths of their offensive line against San Francisco with Tyron Smith (biceps), Zack Martin (stinger) and Ronald Leary (back) sitting out with injuries, even though it was mostly precautionary.

The offensive line is the strength of the unit but it was undermanned and overwhelmed. As a result, the running game, which has to be a strength for the Cowboys to succeed in the regular season, had nowhere to go.

The Cowboys believe Smith, Martin and Leary should be able to practice this week.

"We need to go back, look at the film, see what happened in this game so we can help improve our communication and improve our synergy across the line when it's not necessarily the starting five in there in the game."

Once the line improves, the runners should improve. The Cowboys are going with a running back by committee but haven't been able to get the competition going.

"We had to wait until everybody got healthy so that we could compete for the job," Randle said. "It's still a running back competition, so we'll keep grinding every day."