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Barber And The Running Game Solid Late In Games

barber-v-bears.jpgIn all three of Dallas’ victories this season, Marion Barber and the O-line of the Cowboys have provided the final dagger to solidify wins.  In the NFL, that’s the way to win and if they can continue on this path, there’s a lot more victories down the road.

Last night, although early on in the game the running game was struggling, the story was the same.  Barber came in late in the fourth quarter and pounded out 80+ yards on the ground and scored a rushing touchdown that virtually ended the game for the Bears.  He may not be the “starting” running back, but he certainly is the “finishing” one.  Julius Jones was only credited with 26-yards on 7 carries, but had several good gains called back on penalties.  He left the game in the fourth quarter after Brian Urlacher and Abilene’s own Danieal Manning laid crushing hits on him just short of the goal-line after a 22-yard scamper, but the play was called back on yet another Dallas penalty.  He should be fine as reports are Jones was just knocked a little woozy on the play.

The dual-back running game is working, but I believe it could be tweaked somewhat to more of a role-playing style like last season.  Instead of using Jones exclusively for the first series of downs, and then Barber the next, go back to a more liberal substitution that the defense cannot plan for in advance.  If you know that you are going to face a runner like Barber for four downs, you can situate your defensive players and schemes to defend it, likewise if you know it will be Jones for the first four downs of the game.    Mixing it up a bit might just give defenses even more trouble stopping the two. 

As for the offensive line, they must have graded out at close to 100% across the board Sunday night.  Tony Romo was given ample time the majority of the game to make throws downfield and they wore down a tough Bears’ D-line to the point they could run the ball and control the game late in the fourth quarter.  Flozell Adams had only one false start and a questionable holding call against him and protected Romo’s blindside all night.  Newly acquired G Leonard Davis made some great blocks also, as did the entire line. Then there’s the play by OL Pat McQuistan chasing down Chicago’s Adam Archuleta after the blocked field goal when it appeared he might return the ball all the way to the Cowboys’ endzone!

Enough can’t be said for the physical play of the offensive line and the entire team at this point.  In Week 1 against the Giants, several key players for New York were injured during the game.  Week 2 saw not as many game-time injuries to the Dolphins, but tough LB Zach Thomas was unable to practice most of the next week due to a mild concussion suffered sometime against the Cowboys.  I happen to think it occurred when he had a head-on collision with Marion Barber late in the game, I mean let’s face it, Barber runs tough.  Last night was not much different as several Bears’ players were forced to leave the game.  Key players such as Tommie Harris and Lance Briggs were banged up by the physical play of the Cowboys.

I know it’s still early in the season, I also know that the Cowboys last 3-0 start was in 1999 and they failed to make the playoffs that year.  But if they can keep their offensive line healthy and both RB’s in relatively good condition, there’s no telling how far they can go this year.

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