With a 6-1 record, the Dallas Cowboys have the best one in the NFL through the first seven games. So is taking the ball out of the hands of Tony Romo and making DeMarco Murray the most important player on this offense, thanks to a fantastic offensive line, enough to make the Dallas Cowboys the best team in the league?
The cliché says that offense wins games, but defense is what wins you championships. The Dallas Cowboys might not be as bad defensively when compared to last year’s poor standards, but this still isn’t a defense that one would put his faith into when making a championship run.
They hardly get to the quarterback (only six sacks this season, 30th in the NFL), but they’re doing OK when it comes to causing turnovers, tied for seventh in the NFL with 12 so far: 7 interceptions and five fumble recoveries. The Cowboys have also recovered every fumble they’ve forced so far this season.
But they’re not doing anything special when it comes making it difficult for teams to move the ball against them. Opposing quarterbacks complete 64.2% of their passes against the Cowboys, in the bottom half of the league’s defenses. They’re doing a bit better when it comes to yards per play allowed (7.1) and passer rating average (88.5), both putting them at 12th right now among NFL defenses.
Against the run? The Cowboys continue to have trouble there. Teams might not be able to run a lot against them because the Cowboys are holding on so much to the ball and are usually in the lead, but they’re allowing 4.9 yards per carry, 30th in the NFL. This defense isn’t historically bad, but it’s nothing special either, and it’s catching a lot of breaks thanks to what the offense has been able to do.
It begins with the offensive line and what it allows the running game, which is pretty much only DeMarco Murray, to do. The Cowboys have rushed for 1118 yards so far this season, more than anyone in the league, but they’re also leading the NFL in attempts (235, 4.8 per carry). Even the early fumble problem has disappeared, at least when it comes to Murray, who has rushed for 913 yards so far and also leads the league with 7 rushing touchdowns.
After the terrible first game and despite losing Doug Free (for now), the Cowboys are pretty low down the charts when it comes to sacks allowed. Tony Romo has taken the tumble with the ball only 12 times this season and when removing that first game with three sacks and three interceptions, he is sacked just 1.5 times per game and has thrown just three interceptions in six games.
The combination of Murray with Dez Bryant (45 receptions, 590 yards, 4 touchdowns) makes for a unique one. It’s rare for a team to have the best running back and wide receiver in the NFL on the same team, or at least two of the very best at the same time. This whole situation is comparable to the Cowboys of the 1990’s, with one of the best offensive lines ever assembled if not the best, helping a good quarterback like Troy Aikman enjoy the talents of Emmitt Smith at running back and Michael Irvin at wide receiver.
Both Irvin and Smith weren’t the best at their position at the time – Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice were probably at the top during the Cowboys’ Super Bowl reign. But Aikman wasn’t the best QB. Romo isn’t either. The important thing was taking the game out of his hands, avoiding the overload and unavoidable mistakes and costly turnovers.
Maybe because it’s the Cowboys that we’ve gotten used to over the last 19 years. Maybe it’s because of a defense that’s not too good and is slightly protected by possession times and a potent offense. The record suggests the Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the NFL, but the mind simply refuses to accept that.