Just a few days after Halloween, Bill Callahan pulled his best Jason Garrett impression, abandoning a running game after the first quarter in favor of ineffectively passing the ball around for the rest of the game. Callahan, who inherited the play calling mantle in part because Garrett had a habit of abandoning the run, called the fewest run play in Cowboys history, with Sunday being the first time the Cowboys ever had single digit run attempts in a game.
DeMarco Murray's 4 attempts for 31 yards may have been bolstered by a 27-yard run in the first quarter, but with so few attempts, Dallas's run game was never given a chance to get going. Perhaps the coaching staff was too busy salivating at the prospect of attacking Minnesota's cornerbacks, but considering how the Cowboys struggled to move the ball for much of the game, any desire to simply sling it around should have been tempered with the cold reality that the strategy simply wasn't working.
The Cowboys currently rank 31st in the NFL for rush attempts, with only the lowly 2-6 Atlanta Falcons running the ball fewer times per game. In a game where the Cowboys take a quick deficit and must claw themselves back into contention, as was often the case in 2012, it can be understandable to rely heavily on Romo's arm. But even the Cowboys losses have been close, losing 4 games by a combined total of 14 points, and 3 of those games by a total of 5 points.
The hope was that Bill Callahan would bring a little balance to the offense, but even when the Cowboys do run the ball, it is rather predictable. And like Garrett, Callahan has been quick to abandon it.
The Cowboys 3.7 yards per carry may be well below average, but plenty of teams with a similar average still commit to the run game for one very simple reason: it helps the pass game. When a team abandons the run, they become predictable. The secondary knows a pass is coming, which means no biting on play-action fakes. The defensive line can tee off on the quarterback, making them more difficult to block. And perhaps most important, the defensive line can stay fresher, having dished out most of the pounding rather than received.
And that's where even an ineffective running game can help out. The defense still must respect the run, which means the play-action pass has a better chance of fooling the defense and defensive lineman must respect the run lanes. But more important, the offensive line gets to dish out a little punishment, which can help blunt the defense's pass rush later in the game.
But the Cowboys seem determined to throw the ball 50+ times a game no matter what. And if that is the case, we might as well let the redhead call the plays.