As the Cowboys were moving into position for the game-winning field goal, they leaned on DeMarco Murray.
Playing in his second game since coming back from a six-week layoff because of a sprained foot, Murray delivered two first-down runs that let the Cowboys get closer and gave them a chance to run down the clock to make the kick the final play of the game.
First, Murray converted a third-and-2 from the Cincinnati 38-yard line for a first down at the 35 with a run to left end. Then, he made six yards on a run to right end on third-and-5 to the 30-yard line with a minute to go.
If that conversion hadn’t been made, the Cowboys would have about half a minute for the Bengals following the kickoff.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the third-and-5 call was tricky.
“That was a difficult decision to us as to what kind of mode to be in,” he said. “Do you want to be in the big tight end mode – we call it ‘23’ personnel or ‘22’ personnel and got two backs, or do you want to try to spread them out? We opted to go with the bigger guys on the earlier third and short and did a good making that first down. And then we came back later and ran it. We felt we were going got be in field goal range. We just wanted to get closer.”
Murray cut in behind a block and stretched for the first down.
“He did a really good job,” Garrett said. “They did a good job committing to the run on that last play. But he is a damn good runner. He can find the holes and find the creases, and he finishes so strong. That was big for us.”
On the third-and-2, Garrett said a shot down the field was an option.
"The issue there is they are committing so many people to the line of scrimmage, you can take a shot," Garrett said. "But ideally you want to make a first down and keep it moving."
Murray finished with 21 carries for 53 yards and four catches for 22 yards.
“He is just a heck of a football player,” Garrett said. “And he is so physical at the end of runs. He sees things. He bounces when he needs to. He goes north and south when he needs to. And he’s always strong at the end of the run.”