Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is averaging 4.9 yards per carry this season but has had more than 95 yards just once in the last 19 games. Diminutive (5-8, 191 pounds) Lance Dunbar had never run for 26 yards in a game before last week.
But Murray and Dunbar keyed a burst of 144 rushing yards against the Oakland Raiders and the issue on Monday night is whether the Cowboys will become the eighth straight Bears opponent to run for more than 120 yards. The Bears aren’t convinced Dallas will be.
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“Believe it or not, we took some steps forward [against Minnesota] as far as fits and things,” said linebacker James Anderson. “We’ve just got to make the plays when we get there.
“If you eliminate mistakes, you get better. And we can absolutely get better.”
Ironically, if the Cowboys commit to running the football, it may be to the Bears’ benefit.
Dallas is running the ball by design on just 32.2 percent of its snaps. It is not the Cowboys’ identity, and the surprise of the win over the Raiders was that Oakland was a top-10 run defense.
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The problem for the Bears’ linebackers is that while their last three opponents averaged almost 37 rushing attempts per game, the Cowboys have a balance that none of Baltimore, St. Louis or Minnesota had at their cores.
“Minnesota would run and pass but they’re a running team,” said linebacker Khaseem Greene. “Dallas really can run and pass, come out in different personnel for running and pass the ball, so they do a whole bunch of stuff.”
What to look for: The Cowboys offense has turned in significant part on the danger posed by Jason Witten, a tight end capable of working every area of the field. Because the Cowboys can throw out of run personnel groups, the challenge may be on Greene, who comes out in nickel situations.