By Shawn Lealos
All season long, some people have questioned why the Dallas Cowboys don’t run the ball more than they do. While the team is a pass-first offense, they have one of the best running games in the NFL, based on yards-per-carry, yet seem to be content on only running the ball a dozen times a game. Against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving Day, Tony Romo played ill, suffering from a virus, so Dallas had to rely on the running game more and turned it into a 31-24 victory to take temporary control of first place in the NFC East.
Here is a look at the grades for the Dallas Cowboys in their big Thanksgiving Day game.
Offensive Grade: A
It was a good day for the Dallas Cowboys offense. DeMarco Murray ran 17 times for 63 yards and three touchdowns in the game while Lance Dunbar finally showed why he is a perfect change-of-pace compliment to Murray by running for a career high 82 yards on 12 carries. That gave Dallas 144 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the game, which is what led them to the win. Murray also added five receptions for 39 yards to give him another 100-yard game.
The 29-to-32 run-pass ratio also opened up the passing game for Tony Romo and he finished up with a respectable 71-percent completion percentage and 225 passing yards. His favorite target was Dez Bryant, who had a decent game with a team leading seven receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. Jason Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley each added three receptions while Miles Austin chipped in for one catch.
It was one of the only balanced attacks of the season and it was a nice performance by a Cowboys’ team that has sputtered at times this year.
Defensive Grade: B
First of all, Dallas finally got back on track when it comes to stopping the running game. They were great at the start of the season, stopping names like Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy, but have regressed thanks to injuries over the last month. This week they held Rashad Jennings to a 2.1 yard-per-carry average, despite him coming into the contest tied as the leader in the NFL at that statistic. Jennings did get into the end zone twice but only ran for 35 yards in the game.
However, the Cowboys let rookie Matt McGloin throw the ball successfully against them, their biggest Achilles heel this season. McGloin threw for 255 yards in the game, including completing seven passes to former Dallas Cowboys’ receiver Andre Holmes for 136 yards. They also never reached McGloin and had no sacks in the contest. However, while Dallas gave up the yards, it was a better performance than usual and Brandon Carr intercepted one ball in the game.
Special Teams Grade: C
This score could have been ugly. On the first play of the game, Terrance Williams returned the opening kickoff out of the end zone and fumbled the ball. Greg Jenkins picked up the fumble and ran it in for the opening touchdown of the game, putting Oakland up 7-0 after only 12 seconds.
Williams had only one other kick return in the game, and the positive was that he held on to the ball. Cole Beasley replaced Dwayne Harris on punt returns and had four in the game, but only averaged 6.8 per return. Dan Bailey hit his only field goal attempt in the game while connecting on four extra points and Chris Jones was serviceable on his five punts.
For more Cowboys news and updates, visit Cowboys Central.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.