Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) breaks through the line as the Miami Dolphins play the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday November 24, 2011.
DeMarco Murray may not have had another 100-yard game, but what he did in the final three minutes earned even more respect from his teammates.
After back-to-back catches by Jason Witten moved the ball the Dolphins 35-yard line, Murray got the ball five consecutive times and picked up a pair of critical first downs to move the Cowboys in position for a short field goal.
“That right there, to me, is more meaningful than the 150 yards he’s had in previous weeks because things are tough running there,” tight end Jason Witten said, noting how the Dolphins were stacking eight and nine men in the box. “He understands what he’s got to do there: stay in bounds, keep the clock running, get the hard yards. It’s a sign of a really good back.”
Murray passed the credit to the offensive line, which struggled much of the day with penalties but came through in the end.
“It was a tough defensive line,” he said. “They definitely gave us all we could handle, but we definitely finished.”
Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack
The Dallas Cowboys collected four sacks against Matt Moore, but none came from the team’s leader in that category. DeMarcus Ware, who came into the game with 14 sacks, appeared to have his 15th early in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty against Abram Elam.
Victor Butler registered his third sack, tying a season high, and Kenyon Coleman had his first sack in five years. The other sacks came from Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee.
Ware said he also was impressed by the play of Anthony Spencer, who was in the Dolphins backfield all afternoon, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, including three for losses.
“I don’t know he gets back there, but he finds ways to make those tackles and make them third and 5, second and 12,” Ware said. “Those are the plays that we need.”
Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) tosses a shovel pass forward to FB/TE John Phillips (89)
While traditional fullbacks don’t seem to be growing off trees anymore, they haven’t changed into 6-5, 260-pounders either.
But whether he’s the fullback or tight end prototype, John Phillips has been called upon to fill in as the team’s lead blocker on running downs as Tony Fiammetta has been out and will likely miss his second straight game Thursday against the Dolphins, still suffering from an illness with concussion-like symptoms.
That means Phillips will be called upon again. And even he admits it’s not ideal considering his taller frame than traditional fullbacks.
“It’s a little bit tougher. Obviously I have to drop my hips a lot lower than traditional fullbacks because of the height,” said Phillips, a third-year tight end drafted in the sixth round in 2009. “It’s a position I feel comfortable playing and it’s anything I can do to help the team out.”
For those might say, blocking is blocking, Phillips begs to differ.
“It’s completely different blocking as a tight end, where you’re a lot closer and usually on bigger guys. You just use different techniques. After one or two steps, you’re hitting. At fullback, you get about five yards to lead. It’s different and you just have to adapt to it.”
Technique or not, Phillips said a complete attitude adjustment is needed when knowing he will serve as the Cowboys’ lead blocker.
“It’s definitely a different mindset to play fullback. You know you’re going to be banging all day. You have to get your mind right early in the week when you know you’re going to be doing that.”
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant has been asking for a chance to return punts, and he finally got his wish in the fourth quarter Thursday.
Bryant, who hasn’t returned a punt since Miles Austin injured his hamstring against Seattle on Nov. 6, came in to field the Dolphins’ final punt with just over three minutes left in the game. Bryant dodged several tacklers on his way to a 20-yard return to the Cowboys 36-yard line, giving the team a spark before its 54-yard drive for the game-winning field goal.
“The way he competed and got that return in was a significant play for us,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
The Cowboys also used Felix Jones on kickoff returns, although he didn’t have any carries against the Dolphins. Jones averaged 18.5 yards on four returns.
“We’re looking for spots,” coach Jason Garrett said. “… Those are play-making type guys. … They certainly have a significant role on our offense. But when you get the ball I their hands, that’s a good thing … and I thought Dez did a really nice job handling that.”
Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones speaks with a young fan before Thursday’s game.
IRVING, Texas — The return status of injured backup quarterback Jon Kitna (back) and starting fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness) this season is uncertain right now, team owner/GM Jerry Jones told reporters after Thursday’s win over Miami.
“Both those guys are not definitive in any way medically,” Jones said. “Kitna has some back issues that we’re going to be watching. We do have concern and that’s one of the reasons we made that claim (for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton).”
Orton was claimed Friday by the Chiefs, who had a higher waiver priority due to a worse record. Kitna and Fiammetta have each missed the last two games, and Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM that he didn’t expect either to be available Dec. 4 at Arizona.
Kitna’s back flared up briefly in preseason but has become ” a tick more severe” this time, head coach Jason Garrett said earlier this week. Stephen McGee backed up Tony Romo against Washington and Miami. It’s possible that the team continues looking for quarterback depth.
The team has been trying to determine the origin of Fiammetta’s symptoms, which include nausea when he exercises. He has been around the Valley Ranch facility but has been physically unable to practice, Garrett said.
Elsewhere on the roster, Jones said Friday that wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) was questionable to return at Arizona but it’s looking positive for cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring). Jenkins has missed the entire four-game win streak, while Austin has sat the last three games.