One constant throughout this season has been the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line. They’ve been regarded among the best lines in the league, creating running lanes and providing protection as well as any team.
That had been a nice luxury for the Cowboys (8-4), not having to worry about the offensive line. But it became an issue Thursday.
The Philadelphia Eagles shut down running lanes, holding DeMarco Murray to a season-low 73 rushing yards, and had Tony Romo under constant pressure in a 33-10 win on Thanksgiving Day.
“You never want to have that type of game,” said left guard Ronald Leary, who gave up two sacks and three quarterback hurries.
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“We’re a prideful group as an O-line. We’ll make the proper corrections and be better next time.”
They certainly need to bounce back going into the final month of the season with a playoff berth at stake. It starts Thursday at Chicago (5-7).
“I’m sure our O-line will be ready to play,” Murray said.
Said Romo: “They’ll bounce back. We had a lot of guys who didn’t feel as though they put their best foot forward last game, and I think that’ll change next week.”
The mistakes were glaring throughout the offense last week, particularly on the line.
Outside of Leary’s struggles, right tackle Doug Free had a -1.8 grade in pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus, and gave up one QB hit and four quarterback hurries. Rookie right guard Zack Martin had issues in run blocking, and center Travis Frederick snapped the ball early on a third down and killed a drive.
“We definitely had some things that we took a step back on,” Frederick said. “Did some things that were a little bit uncharacteristic and we don’t really know why. Just not us.”
The Eagles are a difficult defense to contain, as they lead the NFC in sacks. Not only did they manage to sack Romo four times, but they also finished with eight tackles for loss.
“It’s disappointing because we know we’re capable of a lot more,” Martin said. “We didn’t take care of business, but we’re on to the next one. We have to bounce back and get back to executing across the board.”
As stated, most expect the offensive line to rebound from that poor performance. After all, they have too much talent up front to think otherwise.
Martin, Frederick and left tackle Tyron Smith are likely headed to the Pro Bowl, and Free and Leary have been dependable most of the season.
It won’t be easy, though, considering the Bears aren’t exactly a cupcake defense.
The Bears have allowed just 105.5 yards rushing per game and have the third-most sacks (29) in the NFC. Defensive end Willie Young leads the team with eight sacks, while defensive tackle Stephen Paea has six and defensive end Jared Allen has 4 1/2.
But it’s the type of challenge this offensive line welcomes. They are a young, hungry group.
“They’ll respond the right way,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They’re a heck of a group. They’re really good football players and they’re the right kind of guys. They’re tough physically and mentally, and I think they’ll respond well.”