DeMarco Murray’s record streak has powered the Cowboys' 6-1 start.The Dallas Cowboys are off to a 6-1 start for the fifth time in franchise history. All four previous Dallas teams to do so reached the playoffs, and two of them won the Super Bowl.
What are the reasons behind the current Cowboys' success?
Murray the machine
DeMarco Murray's numbers this season are amazing. He is the first player in NFL history to start the season with seven straight games of at least 100 rushing yards.
MurrayHis 913 rushing yards are nearly 300 more than any other player; Arian Foster is second with 615 yards. And Murray's 187 carries are 48 percent more than second-place Foster, who has 126.
Should Murray remain on his current pace, he would finish with 2,087 yards, third-most ever in an NFL season. He is also on pace for 427 rushes, which would break the NFL record of 416 set by Larry Johnson in 2006.
Therein lies the question about the durability of Murray, who has battled injuries throughout his collegiate and professional career. In his previous two seasons, Murray played 24 of 32 games while averaging 16 carries per game. He has rushed 27 times per game in 2014.
Romo has been Manning-like
Tony Romo's bounce back after a Week 1 loss has been impressive. He leads the league in completion percentage this season (69.2 percent) and is in the top five in both touchdown passes (14) and yards per attempt (8.4).
Romo's 90.0 Total QBR during the six-game win streak is the second-best rate in the league since Week 2, a sliver behind Peyton Manning's 90.1.
Murray and Romo have been particularly successful on third down this season. Murray has converted 10 times on 14 third-down rushes, and Romo has completed 48 of 68 passes (71 percent) with six touchdowns and one interception.
Highest 3rd-Down Conv. Rate in Season Since 1970 Merger (Source: Elias)
That's far better than his 51 percent completion percentage in those situations last season, and Romo's Total QBR is an NFL-best 97.5 on third down this year.
Romo and Murray have led Dallas to the NFL's top overall third-down conversion rate (57.4 percent) as well as the best in the league on third-and-6 or longer (43 percent).
Should the Cowboys maintain that third-down rate, they would overtake the Saints (56.7 percent in 2011) as the best single-season third-down conversion team since the merger.
Keeping defense off the field
By converting so many third downs, the Cowboys have an average time of possession of 34:35 per game this season, second-highest in the league behind the Colts (36:55).
Cowboys Defense Last 2 Seasons
Aside from the obvious benefit of increasing Dallas' chances to score, keeping the ball has masked a defense that hasn't been any better than last season, when the Cowboys ranked 30th in the league in both yards per play (6.1) and rush yards per play (4.7).
This season, Dallas ranks 27th at 6.1 yards per play and 30th at 4.9 yards per rush.
But only the Colts defense has been on the field for a shorter time than the Cowboys this season. Last year, Dallas ranked 24th in opponent time of possession.
What does it all mean?
All these little things have added up to winning close games, as the Cowboys are 3-0 this season in games decided by seven points or fewer. Last season, the Cowboys were 5-5 in such games.
Perhaps Murray's health, the third-down success and the wins in tight games are not sustainable. But Dallas is well-positioned at 6-1 with a favorable upcoming schedule. The Cowboys next welcome the 2-5 Redskins on Monday night then host the Cardinals and face the 1-6 Jaguars in London before their bye in Week 11.