The Cowboys Miss Marion Barber

Based on a search I ran on Pro-Football-Reference, the Cowboys have a combined record of 223-11 in games where they led by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter. Here is my Facebook post about this search:

Between 2005 and 2010, the Cowboys could and often would turn to running back Marion Barber, who had a knack for making key first downs and allowing the Cowboys to run out the clock.

The Cowboys lost two games during that span in which the team led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter—a 14-13 loss to the Redskins in 2005 and a 20-13 loss to the Steelers in 2008. Barber did not play in either game, as he was not yet part of the offense in 2005 and was injured in the 2008 game.

The Cowboys struggles against the Steelers in 2008 were similar to those in recent years. Dallas had a 13-3 fourth-quarter lead and attempted to kill the clock. However, the team could only turn to Tashard Choice, who struggled to run the ball. Once the Steelers tied the game at 13, the Cowboys had to rely on Tony Romo to move the team into field goal range.

Romo instead threw an interception returned for a touchdown. The Cowboys did not recover.

Without Barber since 2011, the Cowboys seldom rely on their running game to close out games. DeMarco Murray is not the same type of runner that Barber was, and the Cowboys apparently do not trust him to run the ball unless the defense lines up without their safeties in the box. That apparently explains why Dallas was throwing so much in their loss to the Packers.

The defensive alignment never seemed to matter when the Cowboys had Barber, who found ways to make first downs even when everyone in the stadium knew he would get the ball.

In an old post, I wrote a summary of Barber’s best games as of the end of 2009. Here is that list:

Oct. 30, 2005: Dallas 34, Arizona 13

Filling in for an injured Julius Jones, Barber carried the ball 27 times for 127 yards in a 34-13 win over Arizona. With the Cowboys leading by at least two touchdowns, Barber touched the ball 14 times in the fourth quarter.

Oct. 29, 2006: Dallas 35, Carolina 14

The Cowboys had a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter when safety Roy Williams picked off a pass in Carolina territory. The Cowboys alternated between Barber and Julius Jones, but it was Barber who found the end zone twice in the final three minutes to put the game away for Dallas.

Nov. 12, 2006: Dallas 38, Arizona 10

Dallas dominated the Cardinals in Arizona, taking a 20-3 lead late in the third quarter. In the final 17 minutes of the game, Barber touched the ball 10 times and scored a short run to increase the lead to 27-3 early in the fourth quarter.

Nov. 23, 2006: Dallas 38, Tampa Bay 10

In another blowout, Dallas held a 35-10 lead in the third quarter. In the final 18:36, Barber ran the ball 11 times and helped to set up the final field goal.

Dec. 16, 2006: Dallas 38, Atlanta 28

The Cowboys had a narrow 31-28 lead at Atlanta when the Falcons punted with 8:58 remaining. Barber took over from there, catching one pass early in the drive and then running six consecutive times. The sixth rush was a three-yard touchdown, securing the Dallas win.

Sept. 9, 2007: Dallas 45, N.Y. Giants 35

In a wild season opener, Dallas took a 45-35 lead late in the game when Tony Romo hit Sam Hurd on a 51-yard touchdown. The Giants punted the ball back to the Cowboys with 2:08 remaining. From there, Barber ran the ball five straight times, helping Dallas to run out the clock.

Sept. 16, 2007: Dallas 37, Miami 20

The Dolphins would not give up in the second week of the 2007 season. After cutting the lead to 30-20 with 3:26 remaining, the Dolphins tried an onside kick. Dallas recovered, and on the next play, Barber raced 40 yards for the final score of the game.

Sept. 23, 2007: Dallas 34, Chicago 10

In another surprising blowout in 2007, Dallas held a 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter and took the ball over with 8:53 remaining. Barber touched the ball eight consecutive times on a 78-yard drive, which Barber capped off with a one-yard touchdown run.

Oct. 21, 2007: Dallas 24, Minnesota 14

The Cowboys took a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. In the final eight minutes of the game, Barber carried the ball 11 times, putting the game away.

Nov. 11, 2007: Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 20

With Dallas leading 31-20 in the fourth quarter, Barber touched the ball eight times, helping the Cowboys to a key win at the Meadowlands.

Nov. 22, 2007: Dallas 34, N.Y. Jets 3

In a blowout win, Barber touched the ball 11 times in the final 10:47 to help the Cowboys run out the clock in a Thanksgiving Day win.

Nov. 29, 2007: Dallas 37, Green Bay 27

With the Cowboys holding on to a one-touchdown lead with 5:03 left, the Cowboys turned to Barber. He carried the ball seven times for 26 yards to help set up a field goal that iced the game for Dallas.

Dec. 22, 2007: Dallas 20, Carolina 13

The Cowboys’ held a one-touchdown lead with about three minutes remaining. Needing at least a first down, Barber came through with runs of 9 and 11 yards to help secure the win for Dallas.

Sept. 15, 2008: Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37

Barber did not put the game away against the Eagles in the second week of the 2008 season, but his one-yard touchdown run was the game winner in an early season victory.

Oct. 5, 2008: Dallas 31, Cincinnati 22

With the Cowboys barely holding on to a 24-22 lead with 7:39 remaining, the Cowboys turned to Barber, who gained 20 yards on the team’s final scoring drive that put the Bengals away.

Nov. 16, 2008: Dallas 14, Washington 10

The Cowboys were holding on to a 14-10 lead over the Redskins when the Cowboys stopped a Washington drive in Dallas territory. In his greatest effort as a closer so far, Barber touched the ball 11 straight times. His last run on a fourth-and-one play put the game away for the Cowboys.

Nov. 23, 2008: Dallas 35, San Francisco 22

With the Cowboys having trouble putting the 49ers away, Dallas turned to Barber on two fourth quarter drives. He touched the ball eight times, helping the secure the win.

Sept. 13, 2009: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21

The Cowboys had trouble putting the Buccaneers away in the opening game of the 2009 season. On a late scoring drive, highlighted by a 44-yard pass play from Romo to Patrick Crayton, Barber ran the ball four times and scored from six yards out, helping the Cowboys to a win.

Nov. 8, 2009: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16

The Eagles cut the Dallas led to 20-16 with 4:27 remaining in a key NFC East game on Sunday night. With the Cowboys needing first downs, Dallas gave ball to Barber, who gained 23 yards on three consecutive carries. Since the Eagles were out of timeouts, a third down conversion on a pass from Romo to Jason Witten put the game away.

 

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Article by Matt Cordon

Blogging impatiently about the Cowboys since 2006. Being a fan since 1977 hasn't required quite as much patience.
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  • Kyle

    Or how about we use the run game when we have a lead??? Stupid article…

  • dodger71

    This is what Garrett said on Monday about the running game: “It’s important for us to be able to still find ways to run it when they’re playing run defense. I thought we did a good job of that with some of the formations that we used, using motion to allow us to run away from some of the rotations that they had to help stop the run. We just simply needed to do that more. Again, the opportunities were more limited. We wanted to stay aggressive. But having said that, I think more balance in the second half certainly would have helped our team.”

    One of my points was that this was never a concern when Barber was running the ball. Now whether Murray or one of the other backs could do more with more opportunities is a fair question, but the bottom line is the Cowboys aren’t willing to trust a back now the way they trusted Barber.

  • 66cheez

    MURRAY IS NOT A GROUND POUNDER. WE NEED A GROUND POUNDER FINISH GAMES!!!

  • justacowgirl

    We haven’t had a run game since Barber was hurt. I still miss him. I do think Murray, although a different beast, is coming into his own. Quick and agile, he is the best we’ve had since Barber…IMYHO.

  • Big D Fan

    The cowboys could have AP back there and wouldn’t know how to use him. Don’t even bring up Barber, what good would Barber do if you dont run it. Cowboys have no problem running the ball period. The problem is Romo and the coaches and play-calling. Give Murray the ball period. Its not a confidence in the run game issue. Every fan, every analyst, ever player knows the cowboys don’t know what they are doing.

  • dodger71

    I know I did not say it in the post, but the peculiar part of this is that the offensive coordinator during four of Barber’s six years in Dallas was Jason Garrett. The quarterback during five of the six years was Tony Romo. Everyone certainly knows the problem, and those two should as well. Moreover, when Bill Callahan was the offensive coordinator in Oakland from 1998 to 2001 (before he took over as head coach), his teams ranked as high as third in rushing attempts.

  • Big D Fan

    Its mind boggling I don’t know what they are trying to do. Maybe they are trying to form the cowboys into some greatest show on turf with all the passing and high flying acts. But Romo isn’t built for that. Make him manage and not try to take it on himself. Defense was purely culpable I am not giving them a huge pass but they did play stellar in the first half and we kicked 5 fgs. We cant get out of our own way. Cowboys and running the ball go together. Just make it happen

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