Dallas Cowboys

Running scared? Cowboys eschew ground game on goal line

The Dallas Cowboys vowed to run it more and to run it better this season. They did that for the most part Sunday with 23 running plays for 127 yards.

But when they got on the doorstep of the end zone, the Cowboys eschewed the run in favor of the pass.

The Cowboys had four possessions inside the San Francisco 10-yard line, taking six snaps. Only one was a running play — a 2-yard touchdown by DeMarco Murray.

Of Tony Romo’s five dropbacks inside the San Francisco 10, Terrance Williams’ 2-yard touchdown was the only completion. Romo threw an interception, took a 9-yard sack and had three incompletions.

“Often times, when you’re down in the tight red zone, teams will play coverage, meaning they’ll have seven or eight guys deep and have three or four defensive linemen, or they’ll just blitz you,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday.

“Sometimes when you have runs from particular formations or particular personnel groups, and they blitz eight guys off the side, the run has absolutely no chance when you’re overmatched by two and three guys. Often times, we’ll implement plays down there, just like teams all around the league will implement plays in those particular situations.”

Romo checked out of a running play on second-and-1 from the 2-yard line in the first quarter. He was sacked by Justin Smith for a 9-yard loss. The Cowboys ended up settling for a field goal.

“We very easily could’ve run the ball in that situation, and hopefully in the future we’ll handle that situation better,” Garrett said.

The Cowboys, though, will continue to give Romo consent to change plays as he sees fit at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive alignment.

“If you look at the body of work and the efficiency that we’ve had and he’s had, it’s been fairly high,” Garrett said. “Sometimes in certain situations, when it doesn’t work out, people will really highlight that type of a thing. But you have to go back and look at the efficiency of him throwing the football and us running the football over time. That’s been something we’ve used.

“We call running plays, we call passing plays and we implement runs and passes, and every team in the league does it. Sometimes when it doesn’t work out, people overreact to something like that, but you do have to look at the whole body of work. We do that all the time.”

The Cowboys used an extra tackle, Jermey Parnell, on two goal-line plays in their jumbo package and on another short-yardage play. They used fullback Tyler Clutts for only one play in the game — a third-and-1 in the second quarter to pick up a first down.

Clutts, though, was on the field for the second-and-1 play from the San Francisco 2 before the Cowboys called timeout, changed plays and ended up taking the sack.

“We just re-thought the situation,” Garrett said. “I think we were getting down on the clock in that particular situation, and we brought Tony over to the sideline and decided to do something different other than what we initially decided to do.”

After evaluating Sunday’s game, the Cowboys likely will rethink what they do on the goal line in the future.

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