IRVING, Texas — DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys’ running game have been stuck in neutral since an impressive start.
The unit that ran for 143 yards in a season-opening victory is now 29th in the NFL, averaging just 68 yards per game. And the only reason the Cowboys (2-2) are even that high is because of what they did against the New York Giants in that first game.
Coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday there are a lot of different reasons for the struggles, and that they have to get better to be more balanced offensively.
“We’ve talked about some of the pre-snap penalties that got us in some bad situations in a couple of games. We had some minus runs and there are different reasons for that as well,” Garrett said. “Guys getting physically beaten up front or on the edges or wherever they need to be. We’ve played against some good run-defending teams, where there has been a lot of movement up front.”
Murray missed the final three games of his impressive rookie season with a broken right ankle, but came back healthy this year. There were also the additions of two veteran guards (Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings) providing more bulk up front and veteran fullback Lawrence Vickers.
Murray had 131 yards on 20 carries in the opener, the first time the restructured offensive line played together. Since then, he has just 106 yards on 41 carries. That includes two 11-yard carries, one for his only touchdown.
“Frankly, we haven’t blocked as well as we need to and we haven’t run as well as we need to,” Garrett said.
Murray averaged 5.5 yards on his 164 carries last season, but is down to 3.9 yards per carry this year. Take out a 48-yard run against the Giants and his two 11-yard gains since, and he is averaging only 2.9 yards his other 58 rushing attempts.
Outside of Murray, the Cowboys have 18 rushing attempts for 34 yards.
“I do think we can be a good running team,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We became one-dimensional. It’s not an excuse for it, you can’t allow it to get away from you, you’ve got to be better early on.”
Not including end-of-game or end-of-half situations the last two games, Dallas had negative yards on eight first-down rushing carries and no gain on two other such attempts. There was one stretch against Tampa Bay when the Cowboys lost yards on five consecutive first-down runs.
” We put ourselves in bad positions to where we couldn’t be able to run the ball,” Vickers said. “We’ve got to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds so we can do the things we want to do with our offense.”
Garrett said penalties and negatives plays put the offense in the position of “trying to survive the drive instead of thriving, attacking.”
Witten said the team has worked on the rushing game and that it was a “big part” of evaluations during the bye week.
Dallas plays Sunday at Baltimore, the first of four road games the next five weeks. The Ravens are coming off a 9-6 win at Kansas City, which ran 50 times for 214 yards against them. But these still are the defensive-dominant Ravens, who have won 13 consecutive home games.
“They play with a demeanor and a relentlessness that we’re all familiar with,” Garrett said. “Kansas City did run the ball fairly well against them. They ran the ball a lot against them. Baltimore did a great job making the key plays when they needed to. Keeping that score down. … They play great defense, they’ve always played great defense. We have our work cut out for us.”