ARLINGTON, Texas – As his defense continues to force turnovers, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has to hope he got his message across about committing them.
Garrett created one of the dominant storylines of Saturday nights’ 24-18 win against Cincinnati when he benched running back DeMarco Murray for fumbling during the Cowboys’ second possession of the night.
“We took DeMarco out in the first half because he put the ball down,” Garrett said. “So we gave Phillip Tanner the chance to play with the ones in the first half.”
It was a nightmare start for Murray, who was slated to see his biggest chunk of playing time this preseason. He had three carries for just five yards when he lost a fumble – which was eventually recovered by right tackle Jermey Parnell – in the first quarter.
When Murray was yanked for Tanner, he had just four carries for six yards.
“I don’t know why De Mo got benched, you know, but we’re a real close family. So when they said another guy go in, that’s what I was going to do,” Tanner said. “De Mo is really supportive, you know, he’s my guy. Everything that I was able to do out there tonight I give all credit to him.”
Murray didn’t speak to reporters, so it’s uncertain to know how he felt as Tanner rumbled for 39 yards on 14 carries to finish out the first half. But whatever his opinion was on the benching, he put it into a torrid third quarter.
Murray lined up behind second-string quarterback Kyle Orton and the starting offensive line after halftime, and he quickly atoned for his problems. He carried eight times on the opening drive of the third quarter, including four in a row to start the possession, tallying 45 yards.
He capped off his return when he evaded three different tacklers en route to a seven-yard touchdown reception from Orton.
“There is no question that we had a little in-house resolve about what we would do if we should turn the ball over, and I think he came back with that resolve,” said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “I still think he had an attitude after he finished that third quarter. I think he still had an attitude when he hid over there, but I think Jason’s making a point.”
Tanner wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure why Murray left the field. Wide receiver Dez Bryant didn’t know until after the game why Murray had been replaced, but he wasn’t surprised at the response.
“DeMarco is a great back, and he always has that chip on his shoulder. That’s what makes him who he is,” he said.
Murray finished the night with 12 carries for 51 yards – the best average on the team – and two receptions for 14 yards and the touchdown.
It appears as though the message was received, much to Garrett’s satisfaction.
“I thought he did a good job. He’s a pro, and he’s a damn good football player,” Garrett said. “You can’t let not taking care of the football when you’re a running back diminish you as a player. And he’s just not going to do that – he’s not going to put the ball on the ground. I thought he responded well to it.”