ARLINGTON, Texas – Think about the 83 yards Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray gained. The four catches for 19 yards also mattered.
So does the touchdown he scored.
Beyond that, Murray’s impact is bigger than any stat you want to discuss after the Dallas Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-33, on Sunday night.
He gives the Cowboys a toughness and a physical mentality they lack when he’s not in the lineup.
Murray is the reason Tony Romo had his best game, passing for 303 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Murray is the reason Jason Garrett didn’t abandon the run with the Cowboys trailing by a touchdown at halftime like he usually does.
He’s the reason offensive line coach Bill Callahan was laughing and joking with all of his starters after the game. And he’s the reason why more than one lineman talked about Garrett’s commitment to running the ball the entire game.
Murray missed the past six games with a sprained foot, and that’s the biggest reason the Cowboys entered the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing (78.7 yards) and attempts (22.0). They ranked 31st in average per carry (3.55) and hadn’t had a run of more than 20 yards in 166 carries.
Just so you know, they also ranked last in first-down rushing (3.45), which meant Romo and Garrett usually found themselves in second-and-long.
Here’s the deal: No team can consistently win — even in today’s NFL — throwing the ball 68 percent of the time, which is what the Cowboys did in their first 11 games.
The six-game absence was also difficult for Murray, who watched the Cowboys lose three of six games without him.
"I thought I was going to play against Washington, but it was a short week and the training staff just wanted to be careful," Murray said.
Against the Eagles, the Cowboys ran 33 times and passed 27 times. It’s the first time Garrett has called more runs than passes since the Cowboys ran the ball 42 times for 227 yards against Baltimore, when Murray hurt his foot.
"I knew once I got out there, I wasn’t going to want to come out," Murray said. "To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get that much work. I was telling Coach, ‘Hey, I’m going to come a little bit to make sure my foot is ready and right.’
"Once I got out there and adrenaline started rushing, I felt good. It’s not there where I’m 100 percent. There were a couple times it got tweaked and I definitely felt it, but after a few minutes it goes away.
Murray ripped off a 14-yard run on his first carry, and Philadelphia never really slowed him down enough to discourage Garrett from giving him the ball. Murray had only 35 yards on nine carries in the first half.
But Murray gave Garrett every incentive to keep giving him the ball on the first possession of the third quarter.
With Dallas trailing 17-10, Murray gained 13 yards on the quarter’s first play.
On third-and-1 from the Dallas 42, Murray bounced an inside run around the right end and gained 27 yards yards to the Philadelphia 31. It was only the Cowboys’ fourth run of more than 20 yards this season.
Three plays later, Dez Bryant’s 23-yard catch-and-run tied the score at 17-17.
"I was off a little bit," Murray said. "There were some runs I felt good and some I knew I had been out for six weeks."
Murray’s presence was enough.
Miles Austin scored on a 27-yard touchdown pass set up by a run-fake to Murray. Jason Witten had six catches for 108 yards and his first two catches of more than 20 yards in four games. Bryant had 98 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Murray created all of that. Every bit.
That’s the kind of balance Garrett wants on offense. Now, he just needs Murray on the field for the last four games.
IRVING – A look at the snaps played by Dallas Cowboys’ offensive players in the team’s 23-20 overtime win over the Cleveland Browns, while analyzing what it means:
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 90 of 90
LG Nate Livings: 90 of 90
QB Tony Romo: 90 of 90
RT Doug Free: 90 of 90
RG Derrick Dockery: 90 of 90
TE Jason Witten: 90 of 90
WR Miles Austin: 86 of 90
OL Jermey Parnell: 74 of 90
WR Dez Bryant: 74 of 90
RB Felix Jones: 46 of 90
RB Lance Dunbar: 37 of 90
WR Kevin Ogletree: 30 of 90
WR Dwayne Harris: 26 of 90
WR Cole Beasley: 21 of 90
FB Lawrence Vickers: 20 of 90
LT Tyron Smith: 16 of 90
TE John Phillips: 11 of 90
TE James Hanna: 8 of 90
Takes: For the first time this season Dwayne Harris (26 plays) and Cole Beasley (21) combined for more playing time than Ogletree (30). They also produced four catches on four targets for 28 yards and Harris drew a pivotal 35-yard pass interference which set up the tying field goal that forced overtime.
Ogletree caught one of three passes directed toward him, but did draw a key personal foul late in the fourth quarter. He left and did not return.
Jermey Parnell, seeing extensive action for the first time in his career, struggled. He gave up two sacks and was penalized once for holding. Another was declined.
John Phillips’ playing time continues to shrink, while Hanna sees more action.
Editors Note: Dez Bryant was targeted 15 times, had 12 receptions, including a TD. Also, Lance Dunbar played a significant amount of time vs. Cleveland.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense in the team’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears, while analyzing what it means:
RT Doug Free: 70 of 70
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 70 of 70
LT Tyron Smith: 70 of 70
C Ryan Cook: 70 of 70
TE Jason Witten: 70 of 70
LG Nate Livings: 70 of 70
WR Dez Bryant: 68 of 70
QB Tony Romo: 59 of 70
WR Miles Austin: 49 of 70
WR Kevin Ogletree: 49 of 70
RB DeMarco Murray: 47 of 70
WR Cole Beasley: 13 of 70
FB Lawrence Vickers: 11 of 70
QB Kyle Orton: 11 of 70
RB Phillip Tanner: 11 of 70
TE John Phillips: 10 of 70
RB Felix Jones: 9 of 70
WR Andre Holmes: 8 of 70
WR Dwayne Harris: 6 of 70
You can tell the Chicago Bears blew out the Cowboys because Tony Romo missed 11 snaps and he wasn’t hurt. Down by three touchdowns and three two-point conversations in the fourth quarter, Jason Garrett gave backup Kyle Orton his first playing time. Orton, with Cole Beasley and and Andre Holmes receiving extensive playing time by their standards, led Dallas on a scoring drive. … Late in the fourth quarter, Phillip Tanner replaced DeMarco Murray. … Felix Jones played only nine snaps but showed some burst and quickness on his only carry, which could increase his playing time down the road.
IRVING – Mackenzy Bernadeau played poorly against Tampa Bay, prompting a to-the-point meeting with offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Callahan said he’s told the right guard, a key free-agent acquisition in the offseason, that the Cowboys need him to play better.
No time like the present, because Chicago has a quality front four and defensive tackle Henry Melton, a Grapevine and Texas product, who will be lining up against Bernadeau and has three sacks.
If he’s doing his job, Garrett spent a chunk of time this week pondering whether Derrick Dockery should replace Bernadeau, who signed a three-year $11 million deal but missed much of the offseason recovering from hip surgery.
Bernadeau was supposed to be a big body who solidified the middle of the offensive line. But he’s been part of the problem – not the solution – having allowed a team-high three sacks and five pressures.
With Bernadeau struggles against the Bears, expect Garrett to give Dockery a long look at right guard during the bye week to make sure he’s ready to play, if needed, against Baltimore.
Four of the Cowboys’ next five games are on the road.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while analyzing what it means:
CB Brandon Carr: 68 of 68
CB Morris Claiborne: 64 of 68
ILB Sean Lee: 62 of 68
OLB DeMarcus Ware: 58 of 68
OLB Anthony Spencer: 58 of 68
ILB Bruce Carter: 54 of 68
S Gerald Sensabaugh: 52 of 68
S Danny McCray: 50 of 68
DE Jason Hatcher: 48 of 68
NG Josh Brent: 42 of 68
DE Marcus Spears: 34 of 68
CB Orlando Scandrick: 30 of 68
DL Sean Lissemore: 23 of 68
DE Kenyon Coleman: 21 of 68
S Mana Silva: 17 of 68
DE Victor Butler: 16 of 68
S Barry Church: 13 of 68
ILB Dan Connor: 11 of 68
DE Tyrone Crawford: 10 of 68
CB Mike Jenkins: 8 of 68
LB Alex Albright: 1 of 68
Danny McCray gets the Ironman Award this week for playing a team-high 74 snaps, if we include his work on special teams. McCray played so much because a quadriceps injury significantly limited Barry Church’s playing time. … Mike Jenkins made his 2012 debut as a part-time player at safety in the dime defense. With Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) out at least a couple of weeks, Jenkins’ playing time will increase at that spot. … Bruce Carter continues to make plays and saw his playing time nearly double. … Sean Lissemore will see additional playing time if he continues to produce at absurd levels. He had 10 tackles in only 38 snaps. … Victor Butler saw increased playing time, but had no impact.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense and what it means:
ARLINGTON, Texas — In three seasons, Stephen McGee has shown little indication he will ever become a starting NFL quarterback.
So it’s time for the Dallas Cowboys to move on. The same goes for Rudy Carpenter.
(Those two) roster spots are just too valuable to invest in a third quarterback, who has no shot to ever unseat Tony Romo or backup Kyle Orton.
When the Cowboys signed Orton to a three-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus in the offseason, it was an indictment of McGee, a fourth-round pick in 2009.
The day the Cowboys acquired Orton, McGee’s days were numbered.
Besides, McGee will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The odds he’d be on the roster next season are less than zero.
McGee entered Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins needing a strong performance to persuade the Cowboys not to release him.
He started and played the first half. The results, as you would expect, were mixed.
McGee completed nine of 18 passes for 124 yards playing with backups. Center Phil Costa was the only offensive starter who played.
McGee’s best moments occurred in the second quarter, when he made a terrific throw from the near hash mark and completed a 32-yard pass to Andre Holmes, who was covered tightly along the sideline.
It was the kind of throw that will excite Garrett and the coaching staff when they see it on video. Then they’ll wonder why they don’t see throws like that more often.
Garrett doesn’t like players who flash. He wants consistent playmakers.
Late in the second quarter, McGee showed his athleticism, scrambling and eluding several defenders before launching a 36-yard pass to Tim Benford as he stepped out of bounds.
The completion set up Phillip Tanner’s 1-yard touchdown run.
"I thought he played a pretty solid half," said Garrett, who complimented McGee’s ability to make plays out of the pocket.
McGee has every physical tool you want in an NFL quarterback, which is why the Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on a guy from a simplistic, run-oriented offense at Texas A&M.
They knew it would take time for him to develop and take advantage of his 6-3, 225-pound frame and 4.61 speed in the 40-yard dash.
The problem: McGee gets paralysis by analysis.
Whether he has difficulties reading defenses, making his progressions or is simply afraid of throwing interceptions, McGee throws way too many check-down passes.
In the three games McGee has had substantial playing time, he’s thrown three touchdown passes and no interceptions, which is fine. But he has averaged just 5.12 yards per attempt, which is awful.
He’s cautious to a fault.
Understand, Tony Romo has a career average of 8.0 per pass and the best quarterbacks average at least 8.5 per attempt.
Now, it’s time for Garrett to make a decision.
Garrett values the quarterback position, but he has to decide whether McGee or Carpenter, who was 4-of-10 for 48 yards, are worthy of a roster spot.
Then he must determine whether it’s better to keep an extra receiver such as Andre Holmes.
Or whether running back Lance Dunbar, who gained 105 yards on 15 carries, or linebacker Orie Lemon, who returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, deserve to be on the roster.
It’s unlikely McGee or Carpenter will help the Cowboys win a game this season.
The Cowboys would be better served signing a quarterback to their practice squad after final cuts are announced Friday or drafting one next year and trying to develop him into a starter.
They had the right idea using a fourth-round pick on McGee. It just didn’t work out.
Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPN Dallas
No one is to blame for the lacerated spleen tight end Jason Witten suffered Monday night in the Dallas Cowboys’ first preseason game.
Not offensive tackle Doug Free. Not quarterback Tony Romo. And certainly not head coach Jason Garrett. So can we please stop searching for a scapegoat? One doesn’t exist.
Jason Witten was injured on the Cowboys’ sixth offensive play in the preseason opener.
Witten is the recipient of some awful luck. No more, no less.
By the way, there wasn’t a single tweet or Facebook post at the time Witten was hurt that blamed Free, Romo or Garrett after the play or all day Tuesday.
If you didn’t blame any of the play’s key participants at the time, there’s no need to cast aspersions now.
The best you can hope is that after being idle for 7-10 days, doctors will see that Witten’s injury is healing properly, and he won’t need any surgery.
The best case scenario says Witten will return in 3-4 weeks.
Just so you know, Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Brandon Carr are the most indispensable players on the roster because no one on the team comes close to duplicating their skill sets.
Witten, as tough as they come, has missed only one game in his NFL career, the result of breaking his jaw as a rookie, so you know the 10-year veteran will do everything humanly possible to be on the field for the opener against the New York Giants on Sept 5.
But Witten isn’t dealing with a broken bone or some other injury that will only test his pain threshold. This is a serious internal injury. The training staff won’t allow Witten to put himself in jeopardy.
In the meantime, maybe owner Jerry Jones can appease the Cowboys’ Nation by petitioning the NFL to forfeit the team’s last three preseason games because it has an injury-ravaged offensive line and fans don’t want to see any more key players hurt.
There’s no sympathy in Cincinnati, which lost four starters in its first preseason game.
Trying to assign blame for a random play is a waste of time.
Seriously, you should have read some of the absurdities on my Twitter timeline Wednesday.
Some folks want to blame Free because he missed the block that resulted in heavy pressure from defensive end Lamarr Houston. The pressure screwed up the play’s timing and that’s how linebacker Rolando McClain positioned himself to deliver a big hit on Witten for a two-yard loss.
This isn’t former fullback Chris Gronkowski making a mental mistake and failing to pick up a blitzing inside linebacker that resulted in Romo’s broken collarbone in 2010.
This was a poorly executed block, but Romo escaped and Houston had nothing to do with Witten getting hurt.
If you want to criticize Free for his overall lackluster play since signing a four-year, $32 million deal before last season, then please do so. One, however, has nothing to do with the other.
Then there’s the faction that wants to blame Romo for throwing the ball to Witten. Romo should’ve thrown the ball away, they proclaim.
Only in Dallas-Fort Worth can a quarterback make a tremendously athletic play to avoid a sack and complete a pass, yet get criticized.
Romo had less than a split second to make a decision to throw Witten the ball. If he knew the completion was going to result in Witten getting hurt, obviously he would’ve made a different decision.
Then again, Nostradamus died in 1566, though you can still pick up a copy of his book, Les Propheties, on Amazon for less than $20. Perhaps, there’s a mention of Monday’s play in the book?
And no, you can’t blame Garrett for Witten’s injury either.
Garrett wanted his starters to play 8-12 plays, and Witten was injured on the sixth play. He left the game immediately, but returned for the offense’s third series because he probably figured he was just in pain — not injured.
We’re talking about a dude who once ran nearly 50 yards without a helmet after making a catch against Philadelphia in 2007.
On the next possession, Witten capably blocked a defensive end on first down, was the intended receiver on a second-down incompletion and caught an eight-yard pass on third down.
The NFL is a tough, physical game in which mangled digits and broken bones are accepted parts of the game. You can’t place the best players in bubble wrap. Or glue styrofoam peanuts to their bodies.
There’s no blame to be assigned. Fans should simply be thankful Witten won’t be lost for the season.
Commentary: Jean-Jacques Taylor
Tim Heitman/US Presswire
The Cowboys defense didn’t play much better the second time around, allowing Brent Celek and the Eagles 386 yards.
ARLINGTON, Texas — A few positives emerged from yet another butt-kicking by the Philadelphia Eagles.
First, your Dallas Cowboys avoided being shut out at home for the first time in 165 games — 7,405 days, to be exact. Tony Romo’s right hand is bruised but not broken, and Felix Jones’ hamstring is OK.
Oh, and your Cowboys can still win the NFC East. All they have to do is beat the New York Giants on New Year’s Day.
They’re going to need it. The last time the Cowboys played in a winner-take-all game to end the regular season, Philadelphia won by 38 points in 2008 in the most gutless performance in franchise history.
The Cowboys didn’t do anything in Philadelphia’s 20-7 win Saturday to make us think they can beat the Giants and secure the fourth seed in the NFC.
Once the Giants beat the Jets, 29-14, the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs and the Cowboys knew they’d have to beat New York on the road to win the division.
So the game was meaningless, if you believe in that sort of thing, for both teams. Then again, we should never be surprised when the Eagles blow out the Cowboys.
Andy Reid’s team has beaten the Cowboys 12 times by 13 points or more since 2000. FYI: The Giants and Washington Redskins, Dallas’ other NFC East rivals, have done it a combined six times.