Miraculous seasons don’t often start out magical, and it was no different for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.
A winless preseason was followed by a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers when quarterback Tony Romo had a three-interception meltdown.
But a tipping point for the Cowboys came during the opening onslaught in the form of running back DeMarco Murray, who had 22 carries for 118 yards. The Cowboys switched their offensive identity from pass-happy to a ball-control, ground-oriented attack, paving the way for a six-game winning streak.
Murray would set an NFL record with eight games of at least 100 yards to open the season, and a successful blueprint was born.
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The new style proved to be the foundation of the team’s success. Romo went on to have the best and most efficient season of his career, leading the league in passer rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt, while the much-maligned defense benefited because it spent less time on the field.
The Cowboys went undefeated on the road, going 8-0 for the first time in franchise history, and unblemished in December with a 4-0 mark, surging to a 12-4 record and their first NFC East title and first playoff win since 2009.
It proved to be a season in which the Cowboys changed perceptions about their mental toughness and ability to win in the clutch.
In the end, the Cowboys, who came into the season with few expectations, were left largely unsatisfied. A disappointing and controversial loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs left them one game short of the NFC title game and two games short of their first trip to the Super Bowl since the 1995 season.
The Cowboys eagerly await the 2015 season, hoping to build on their success during a surprising 2014.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.