ARLINGTON, Texas — Say what you want about Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett but one thing is pretty clear, he has the formula for beating bad teams.
Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys celebrating Thanksgiving with a 31-24 win over Oakland at AT&T Stadium.
1.) The run game was the key, finishing with 145 yards on 29 carries. DeMarco Murray turned in one of his best games as a Dallas Cowboy, finishing with more rushing touchdowns against the Raiders — three — than he had during his entire rookie season in 2011. Backup running back Lance Dunbar was the perfect compliment. Before exiting in the fourth quarter with a hyper-extended left knee, the former North Texas standout turned in his best game as a pro, rushing 12 times for 82 yards. While Murray ran hard, Dunbar brought a home run threat to the mix. Not sure that they’ll be able to keep it up, but the run game was impressive on Thursday.
2.) A lot of balance on offense. Battling a stomach virus, Tony Romo did a great job of spreading the ball around. Six different Cowboys were targeted at least three times in the passing game. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley each had at least three catches. Romo explained this week that he dislikes throwing into double coverage. Spreading the ball around like he did against the Raiders is the perfect way to answer defenses doubling Bryant. Of course, it helps having a healthy Miles Austin on the field.
3.) Taking care of the bad teams continued against the Raiders, who dropped to 4-8. Under Garrett, the Cowboys entered 17-2 against teams with below .500 records. It may not seem like a big deal but beating the bad teams isn’t as easy as it seems. Good NFL teams lose to bad ones all the time. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, only one team with a losing record remains on the schedule — Washington.
4.) The defense did what it was supposed to do. Although Matt McGloin looked like Peyton Manning at times during the first half, Monte Kiffin’s defensive unit did enough to allow the Dallas offense to pull away. Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware and Jeff Heath each recorded a tackle for loss, Brandon Carr had an interception and Kyle Wilber recovered a fumble. The biggest knock on the Cowboys’ defense is that they had no answer for former Cowboy receiver Andre Holmes, who finished with six catches for 112 yards. Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and DeSean Jackson will enjoy watching tape of this game.
5.) Perhaps the biggest positive to come out of Thursday’s game is that there didn’t appear to be many new significant injuries. Dunbar’s knee injury was the only one of note. The Cowboys now have 10 days to rest before their next game, in Chicago on Monday Night Football. There’s a realistic chance that Sean Lee, Morris Claiborne, Justin Durant and Dwayne Harris could all be back for that game. All four missed Thursday’s game with hamstring injuries.