Jason Garrett and the Cowboys find themselves in unfamiliar territory after thumping the Saints at home on Sunday night.
Ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing and two games above .500.
Dallas ranked 24th in rushing last season, was 31st in rushing in 2012 and 18th in rushing in Garrett’s first season in '11. But after rushing for 190 yards in the surprisingly easy win over New Orleans; the Cowboys are leading the NFL with 165.0 yards rushing per game.
A big part of that has been DeMarco Murray, who ran 24 times for 149 yards and two more touchdowns in Week 4. It was his fourth 100-yard effort to start the season, placing him in rarified NFL air. Murray became just the fourth player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards and a TD in each of his team’s first four games. The other three? Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Emmitt Smith.
That’s pretty impressive company.
What’s more important for Garrett is the 3-1 record. It’s only the fourth time in Garrett’s coaching career in Dallas that his Cowboys were two games over .500. With a win over Houston at home next weekend, Garrett would move three games over .500 for just the second time in his career and the first time since Week 12 of his first season.
Tony Romo was excellent on Sunday night — 22-of-29, 262 yards, 3 TDs — but he is still a 34-year-old quarterback with a bad back and a tendency to throw interceptions. The defense still has plenty of work to do as well after allowing 438 yards in the win, leaving this unit ranked 24th in the NFL (390.0 ypg). If Dallas is going to make the playoffs, the running game has to continue to take pressure off of Romo.
The next few weeks will be critical for Garrett, Romo and Murray to prove this start isn’t a fluke, however. Four of the next five games will come at home for Dallas, giving the Cowboys an excellent chance to grab a foothold on at least a potential Wild Card berth. An in-state test against Houston at home is very winnable next weekend, as are critical NFC East home tilts with the Giants and Redskins.
Even if the trip to Seattle in two weeks is a guaranteed loss, Dallas is still looking at a glut of winnable games over the next six weeks before going on bye in Week 11. A home game with Arizona and road trip to Jacksonville is how Dallas will head into the off weekend.
A 7-3 record isn’t out of the question heading into the bye and that would put potentially put Dallas on a path to even less charted territory for Garrett. The playoffs.