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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Decade of Futility - Loss To Chiefs Evokes Memories of Wade Phillips' 2007 Cowboys

Sunday's loss against Kansas City was a perfect lesson in the importance of maintaining offensive balance. And maybe it was a lesson to something else as well.
Teams don't always have to run the ball effectively. They just need to run effectively at the proper times. Just look at the Chiefs' final drive, when Jamal Charles finally got untracked and nearly ran the entire game-clock out.
And just look at a Cowboys team from yesteryear, a team that forgot the importance of finishing strong...

...In 2007 the Dallas Cowboys got so enamored with the big-play ability of "backup" running back Marion Barber that they all but forgot about backfield counterpart Julius Jones. The result was a loss of offensive identity for the NFC's top team, as the Cowboys offense stumbled down the stretch run.
Jones was the unquestioned starter out of training camp, while Barber was Dallas' short-yardage back who was inserted during the fourth quarter to wear down opposing defenses. But as Barber continued to rack up the long gains and big stats, the Cowboys began to use less and less of Jones.
By the first week of December Jones' role had devolved to that of being the token starter, with little action to speak of thereafter. The Cowboys' ground game suffered in the process. Against Detroit in Week 14, the Cowboys had a season-low 18 rushing attempts. Only a miraculous fourth quarter from quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten could save the Cowboys from defeat that day, as Dallas nipped the Lions 28-27.
The Dallas ground game was stifled the following week again in a 10-6 home loss to Philadelphia, from which started a grassfire of concerns over this sudden outcropping of trouble. Head coach Wade Phillips needed to make a decision, either to go back to using Jones in a full-fledged starting role, or simply hand the keys over to Barber entirely.
Another strong fourth quarter showing by Barber the following Saturday night in Carolina was enough to convince Phillips that Barber needed to be Dallas' main man at the tailback position.
So Barber started his first game of the season in the Divisional Playoff round against the New York Giants. Barber's frenzied running style was good enough to eclipse the 100-yard mark by halftime, but left little energy for the all-important final stanzas. Barber was used up by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, and the Cowboys became the first No. 1 seed to lose a Divisional playoff game in NFL history, falling 21-17 to the eventual champions.
Statistically, Barber was his usual self that, but he wasn't able to deliver when it mattered most.