It happens a lot in the NFL: The dazzling revolutions of September and October — the promise of a new-fangled Wildcat or read-option or run-and-shoot paradigm that will change everything — often fall by the wayside in the bitter rain and snow and cold of January, when football returns to the eternal verities of truth and reality.
So it is this year.
In a season during which passing and scoring records fell, all four Championship Sunday participants (including the one that set those records) relied on the timeless formula last weekend: run the ball effectively, control the clock, play solid defense and make the other team earn every point it scores.
You could see evidence of the back-to-basics approach in every divisional-round game:
- Russell Wilson’s passing was mostly grounded, and the oft-injured Percy Harvin was knocked out of the action with a concussion, but the Seahawks still took down the Saints. Seattle won behind tackle-breaking machine Marshawn Lynch (in postseason Beast Mode, evidently) and a suffocating defense that rattled New Orleans’ top weapon, Jimmy Graham.
- New England, decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball (along with, it has to be said, the murder charge against tight end Aaron Hernandez), has fewer difference-makers than it has had at any time in recent memory. But LeGarrette Blount was the blunt force that the Patriots used to pound the Colts’ defense into submission. Meanwhile, the Pats’ myriad defensive looks frustrated Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who threw four interceptions.
- San Francisco won its second road playoff contest in eight days, thanks in large part to a defense that stonewalled Carolina’s running game (Cam Newton was the only Panther to eclipse 20 yards rushing) and snagged two interceptions. Offensively, the 49ers employed a balanced attack: Frank Gore led the charge on the ground while Colin Kaepernick made some timely plays through the air, leaning heavily on veteran gamer Anquan Boldin.
- Denver used San Diego’s own formula from the regular season — control the ball, shorten the game, manage the clock (35:27 of possession) — to keep the Chargers on their heels all day long. Denver’s defense missed Von Miller’s havoc-wreaking presence but stiffened enough to allow the Bolts just 65 yards rushing, less than half of what the Broncos churned out in a winning effort.
Each one of the four divisional-round winners exceeded 125 yards rushing. After setting the single-season record with an astounding 5,477 passing yards, Peyton Manning threw for just 230, with the other three winning quarterbacks failing to reach 200. Glamour QBs Tom Brady and Wilson didn’t even throw a single touchdown pass.
There is, of course, a long tradition of returning to the run game in the postseason. Go back 45 years to the New York Jets’ memorable defeat of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. New York was led by Joe Namath, who was one season removed from becoming the first quarterback in pro football history to throw for 4,000 yards, but the Jets ran more than they passed on that day (logging 43 carries and 29 throws), to control the clock and the Colts. (A year later, the Kansas City Chiefs — another team known for offensive daring and innovation — rushed the ball 42 times for 151 yards to dominate the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.)
These things were true 45 years ago, and they still might be true 45 years from now.
In recent years, we’ve seen running backs de-emphasized on draft day. Yet, by the time the playoffs roll around, the best teams almost always have a solid run game in place.
The star of the divisional weekend, Blount, went undrafted out of college and was pawned off by the Buccaneers this past offseason — yet he’s been unstoppable for the Patriots of late. Marshawn Lynch was a first-round draft choice, but the Bills gave up on him before the Seahawks recast him as their most reliable offensive threat. Knowshon Moreno’s demise had been rumored for years in Denver, but this season he’s been a steady all-around back who doesn’t fumble (and a strong blocker, to boot). Frank Gore is a former third-round pick — thanks in part to some injury baggage from college — who has developed a reputation as a tough inside runner, and his efficiency boosts both the passing game and Kaepernick’s devastatingly effective keepers.
So why does this happen so often? Why do the gaudy passing numbers of the regular season frequently get supplanted by the meat and potatoes of old-school football in the new year? Simple reasons, mostly:
Better defense: Playoff teams are generally more accomplished defensively, meaning each opponent has a formidable pass rush. The best way to neutralize this is to have a running game that the defense has to take seriously.
Weather: So Peyton Manning isn’t as good in cold-weather games? Guess what: He’s not alone — not by a long shot. Show me a quarterback who consistently overperforms in freezing temperatures and snow, and I’ll show you an anomaly. Cold weather leads to numb hands, making it very difficult to execute the touch throws that separate the great quarterbacks from the good ones. And while receivers enjoy a slight advantage over defensive backs in terms of footing — because they know where they’re going — it’s much harder to catch a rifled pass in sub-freezing weather than it is on a room-temperature day. (If you’ve never tried it, just trust me.)
Dangerous opposing quarterbacks: You can get away with a quick, drive-killing string of incompletions — or even a turnover — when the quarterback on the other side is an untested rookie/journeyman who lacks pocket presence. But do that in a playoff game against a Manning or Brady, and you’re going to get burned. That’s why it’s all the more important to control the football and minimize mistakes.
Throwback football will be on full display in the NFC Championship Game, as the style fits the personalities of the coaches very well. A physical running game is a large part of the DNA both Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh used to build their respective teams.
It’s a bit different on the AFC side. New England’s commitment to the run is simply Bill Belichick’s adaptation to a roster that’s currently short on difference-making receivers and tight ends. The Pats very well could go back to being a top-five passing attack and the league’s top-ranked offense next season if they can come up with the right group of receivers for Brady. On the other hand, Denver is only committed to the run as long as you stay in a loose shell defense that begs the Broncos to use it.
In each game, though, both teams will look to assert their will by establishing a ground attack. And the ones that do so best will likely meet in New Jersey in February.
COWBOYS VS. VIKINGS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson still after Emmitt Smith’s NFL record
Adrian Peterson is on Emmitt Smith’s pace. Peterson has 9,420 yards seven games into his seventh season. Smith had 9,488 to this point.
But Peterson would have to play five-plus seasons after this one, averaging the 1,475 he has averaged per season in his career, to break Smith’s all-time rushing record of 18,355.
Peterson, a Palestine and Oklahoma product, thinks it’ll be sooner than that. He predicted last summer that he would become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher in Week 16 of 2017.
He stuck by that prediction in the conference call with Dallas media today.
“I definitely have to keep my game up to par.. and that record can be broken,” Peterson said. “But I’m not focusing on that. I set goals, and I just go out and play and if happens, it happens and if doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t harp on it.”
Peterson, 28, nearly set the single-season rushing record last season with 2,097 yards. He is behind that pace this year with 571 yards.
“Coming off last year, MVP, 2,000 yards, guys are coming in to stop the run, and this is how they’ve always played the Vikings for the past seven years — come in and stop the run,” Peterson said, “definitely with a more emphasis on it now. So you’re going to have those. Then again, you’re going to have the opportunity to break the long one, too. I just take them when it comes.”
Here’s the math:
He would need to rack up 8,936 yards over the next 73 games to break Smith’s record. That comes to an average of 122.4 yards a game. Peterson currently averages 98.1 yards a game for his career.
Know The Enemy: Adrian Peterson (3:12)
Film break down on Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. (Watch Video)
This year’s Minnesota Vikings are in goal-setting mode.
Pass rusher Jared Allen says Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5 sacks is “absolutely reachable,” and Adrian Peterson repeatedly has talked about running for 2,500 yards.
Peterson didn’t stop there. Fresh off his dominant 2,097-yard campaign, Peterson is thinking long-term: Specifically, Emmitt Smith’s NFL record of 18,355 rushing yards. (Watch video HERE)
Peterson is 9,506 yards away, and Dan Wiederer of The Star Tribune has done the math. If Peterson stays on his career pace of 98.4 yards per game, he’ll top Smith in Week 4 of 2019.
Peterson says he’ll get there sooner.
“I’ve been in the league seven years,” Peterson told Wiederer. “I’m already right around (9,000). Calculate it out … Let’s think. Maybe get a couple 2,000-yard seasons … I’ve got … Hmmm … 2017.”
Drilling down, Peterson targeted Week 16 of that campaign, which charts out to 120.3 yards per game without a hiccup.
Emmitt Smith Rushing Stats:
Adrian Peterson Rushing Stats:
Photo: Trent Richardson named SEC Player of the Week
BEREA, OHIO — Trent Richardson attended the same high school as Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. The talented rookie also owned a No. 22 Cowboys jersey with Smith’s name on it.
Photo: Trent Richardson, talking with high school students
On Sunday afternoon, Richardson hopes to play in front of his idol for the first time as a professional when the Browns travel to Dallas.
“I’m one of Emmitt’s biggest fans, so it would mean a lot to me if he’s at the game,” Richardson said Wednesday following practice. “He’s someone who I’ve gotten to know pretty well and he’s a great man.
“We talk probably two or three times a month, and the thing I appreciate the most is he’ll be straight with you. He’ll tell me exactly how I’ve been doing and what I need to do to get better.”
Smith regularly attends Cowboys home games and resides in North Texas, but team officials couldn’t guarantee his attendance this weekend. The Pensacola Escambia High graduate is completing on the all-star edition of “Dancing With The Stars,” which airs live from Hollywood each Monday.
Not surprisingly, Richardson said he is tuning in each week to watch Smith strut his stuff in the ballroom.
“Definitely, he got moves, man,” the third overall draft pick said, laughing. “He’s a champion in all phases; dancing, playing football, everything.”
Smith still sits atop the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 18,355 yards (eight years after his retirement), while Richardson leads Cleveland with 575 yards through nine games this season.
Though Richardson is quick to say he hasn’t earned the right to be compared to his mentor, it’s worth noting that he is on pace to eclipse Smith’s rookie rushing total of 937 yards with Dallas in 1990.
“He’s the person I wanted to be like the most when I was growing up,” Richardson said. “I watched him all the time, just like I go back and watch tapes of Walter Payton and Jim Brown.
“How can you be a great running back if you don’t watch tapes of guys like that to learn from?”
Photo: Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith – NFL’s all-time leading rusher
Richardson added that his ailing ribs feel much better after the Browns’ bye week, but he still isn’t close to 100 percent healthy. The 5-foot-9, 230-pounder suffered torn cartilage during Cleveland’s Oct. 14 victory over Cincinnati.
“He says he’s healthier, but I haven’t like punched him in the ribs or anything to check,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur joked. “But he’s going to be out there practicing and said he feels good. That’s a positive sign for our team.”
Courtesy: Brian Dulik | Chronicle-Telegram (Ohio)
Editors Comment: It should be noted that while Emmitt Smith is his idol and mentor, Cleveland’s stud running back Trent Richardson sports a jersey of another famous Dallas Cowboy … Tony Dorsett.
The Cleveland Browns asked rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden to win games for them through the first seven games of the NFL season.
But a 1-6 start convinced the Browns to shift the offensive focus to another rookie — running back Trent Richardson.
Richardson joined the Browns as the third overall pick of the 2012 draft but missed the preseason following an arthroscopic scope of his left knee in early August. Richardson was ready for the start of the season, but the Browns brought him along slowly, never handing him the ball more than 19 times in any of those first seven games.
Richardson did post a 100-yard game against the Bengals in September. But Weeden was the focal point of the offense, throwing 50 passes against the Ravens, 40 more against the Bills and Colts and in the 30s against the Eagles, Giants and Bengals.
But in the last two games, the Browns have returned to their rushing roots. This is a franchise that sent running backs Marion Motley, Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Cleveland handed Richardson the ball 24 times against San Diego and 25 times against Baltimore. The second best running back ever to come out of Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia High School rewarded the Browns with a pair of 100-yard games — and he scored the game’s only touchdown in a 7-6 victory over the Chargers.
The Browns are coming off a bye, and you can bet Richardson will be the feature attraction when they visit Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
The Cowboys have been stout against the pass but pedestrian against the run this season. They rank 13th in the NFL in run defense, allowing an average of 105.2 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch and Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards in victories over the Cowboys this season.
The Cowboys also will be down two of their best run defenders, end Kenyon Coleman and linebacker Sean Lee, who are on injured reserve.
The Browns like to pound the 5-9, 230-pound Richardson inside — much like the Cowboys pounded their Escambia product Emmitt Smith inside during their Super Bowl era. Richardson left Alabama as the school’s all-time leading rusher and this season ranks third among rookie NFL rushers with his 575 yards and second among rookie scorers with his six touchdowns.
If the 2-7 Browns have a shot against the Cowboys, it’s with the ball in Richardson’s hands.
Related: MATCHUP – Cowboys Dez Bryant vs. Browns CB Joe Haden
Haden is the Browns’ best cornerback and will likely see his fair share of Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on Sunday. Haden played in Cleveland’s season opener against Philadelphia – he had an interception and made six tackles – and then was suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. Haden (5-11, 190), who reportedly tested positive in the off-season for the stimulant Adderall, has made 27 tackles. The Cowboys have four interceptions as a team. The Browns have four players who have made two interceptions apiece, including Haden. The former Florida standout has eight interceptions in only 27 career starts over three seasons.
Bryant doesn’t have a catch in the fourth quarter of five of his nine games this season, but unlike last year when he didn’t consistently impact games in the second half, it hasn’t been an issue. That’s because Bryant is making big plays at key times, such as his diving 30-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter Sunday at Philadelphia that tied the score at 17. Bryant has 45 catches for 590 yards and three touchdowns, but the Cowboys would like to see him be more consistent. The Cowboys just concluded a five-game stretch in which they played four road games, and Bryant was either hit or miss every other game.
Brandon George | DMN contributed to this post
Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently broke Johnny Unitas’ streak of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, a record that had stood since 1960. It was considered the league’s most untouchable record.
Ten years ago today, Emmitt Smith broke Walter Payton’s record for career rushing yards. He retired after the 2004 season with 18,355. No active running back is close since LaDainian Tomlinson retired after last season, with 13,684 yards. Rams running back Steven Jackson is the NFL’s leader among active players with 9,473 yards.
“Records ultimately always seem to get broken,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Some of those ones that are untouchable and last a long time at some point seem to be eclipsed, but because the way the league is, it doesn’t seem like we have these bell cow rushers who get the ball 25-30 times a game like they did years ago.
“Of all of Emmitt’s greatest traits, and he had thousands as a player –- as instinctive a player as I’ve been around, great balance, great power, explosiveness, feel, vision all that stuff -– I think at the end of the day, his most redeeming quality was his durability. Because he was a marked man ever since he was probably 13, 14 years, and everybody knew who Emmitt Smith was going into every game. Every defense wanted to stop him. And week in and week out, year after year after year, he showed up and was so productive. It’s hard to find that in this era of football. …I don’t think anybody might be able to eclipse what he accomplished.”
Smith’s marketing team released a statement from Smith about the 10-year anniversary of his record.
“It was certainly a milestone for me and was difficult to accomplish,” Smith said. “Football is the ultimate team sport; one that’s not really about breaking records. My accomplishments throughout my career were due not only to my abilities, but also certainly to the efforts and sacrifices of others. I can’t take all the credit. We did this as a team and that is something I’ll always cherish.”
VIDEO: Emmitt Smith’s historic run, career highlights, and Jerry Jones’ induction speech to the NFL Hall of Fame crowd in Canton, Ohio.
IRVING, Texas — Growing up in Plano, Texas, Charlie Peprah was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Emmitt Smith is the reason he’s playing football now.
So when Peprah walked into the Cowboys locker room this week after signing a contract, the safety was living the dream.
"I love the Cowboys," Peprah said. "Once I was employed by the Packers, they became the enemy and I could care less about them, other than that, that was my squad. That’s the reason why I started playing football was Emmitt Smith. That’s why I wore 22 in high school. To be here is cool to become full circle. I would love to finish my career here, it would be great. Just something you thought wouldn’t actually happen, but I’m glad it did."
After graduating from Plano East High School, Peprah went to Alabama and played in 50 games. In 2005, he was a second-team All SEC selection at defensive back. He was a fifth-round pick of the New York Giants but didn’t make the roster and signed with the Green Bay Packers. He played with the Packers from 2006 to 2008 and then spent one season, 2009, with the Atlanta Falcons. But in 2010 and 2011 he returned to the Packers and earned a Super Bowl ring.
In the offseason, Peprah underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and his recovery took a while. He turned down opportunities to sign with several teams, including the New York Giants, and he took physicals for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.
But nearly two weeks ago, a healthy Peprah worked out with 14 other players at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys said of the defensive backs that worked out, he was the best.
This week, the Cowboys made the move official.
"I mean that’s the business and once (the surgery) happened, my main focus was to get healthy before I throw myself out there," he said. "That was the hardest thing for me is to not bite on some of the opportunities that were out there coming my way."
Peprah will see limited work on special teams and certain defensive packages to give Danny McCray a break.
"I’m trying to learn the defense and contribute in any way I can," he said. "The goal for me is obviously be a starter, but who knows what plans they have for me."
Sitting down with Jerry Jones at Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, Calif., I’m greeted with simple southern hospitality that’s extended to anyone he meets. That holds true whether the person is a current member of the Cowboys family or a former Cowboys cheerleader like myself.
Jones’ business savvy, along with the power of the Cowboys franchise and its brand, makes him one of the most powerful owners in sports.
We recently discussed his background, Cowboys Stadium and his appearance on "Dallas” in an interview for ESPN Playbook.
How did you enjoy your guest appearance on the new “Dallas”?
They’ve done a great job with this "Dallas." We all know what "Dallas" meant years ago. I enjoyed my scene with J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), but I’m particularly excited that they showed different perspectives, different views of the stadium. I especially liked the scene with the helicopter flying into the stadium. I personally walked off the measurements and had the helicopter pad put in.
What is your favorite part of the stadium?
The Glass. I spent hundreds of hours looking at models that would show 40, 50 and up to 90 feet of glass in some places. But inside the glass is a material that is denser on the bottom and less dense on the top. This material allows the glass to reflect the actual color of the sky on that particular day. If it’s a grey cloudy day, then the stadium will have a silvery-grey appearance. If it’s a bluebird day, it will be blue.
Hunting. Before the Cowboys, I would take my business [clients] on Thanksgiving and go into the darkest spots in Arkansas. I would grow a beard and not come out till Santa Claus came.
Most people associate you with Arkansas or Texas, but…
I was actually born in Southern California and I’m a favorite son of El Segundo. I have so many cousins out here, and they say, "But Jerry, we don’t sound like you." My family moved to Springfield, Mo., when I was in college, and they still have holdings and a ranch there.
Can you talk about your relationship with the "triplets" — Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin — and how close you are with them today?
Those relationships developed right when I first came into the NFL. I was 45 when I bought the Cowboys, so there was 20 years difference in age. One of the reasons I do what I do is because I don’t look in the mirror and think, "I’m your age" or the players’ age, although sometimes I act it. I take some of the things that have happened to me and, as a friend, share my experiences. Troy is a great friend. Michael and I have an outstanding relationship. He asked me to introduce him when he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame. We have a real bond. As for Emmitt, I can remember like it was yesterday when he came to me and asked if he could slide into the back of the office and listen to me on the phone on his breaks during training camp. He was hoping to be exposed to some of the business aspects of the sports industry. At first I was a little hesitant, but then it worked out and he did it for several years.
How important are cheerleaders to the Dallas Cowboys brand?
The cheerleaders have represented us well. They have entertained our troops and have done more USO Tours than Bob Hope. We don’t have any part of the Cowboys legacy that is as well respected as the cheerleaders. Our cheerleaders’ appearances on battleships and behind the lines boost the morale of our troops. Of all of my "sweet nothings," and I call them my "sweet nothings," the biggest stack of letters of letters I have in my files are from people with 15-to-20 years of service, after seeing our cheerleaders and how much it meant to them.
Bonnie-Jill Laflin is a former NFL cheerleader and wrote this exclusively for ESPN.com.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ed Wesley, a rookie from TCU, seeks to make the team as a free-agent signee. Wesley grew up as a huge Cowboys fan and, at one point in high school, lived in apartments across the street from the team’s Valley Ranch training facility. He shared his five favorite Cowboys memories thus far:
1Emmitt Smith sets NFL career rushing record… "It was awesome. Emmitt was my favorite."
2Smith inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame… "My first time playing football, when I could choose my own number, I chose No. 22 because of him."
3Cowboys beat Pittsburgh 27-17 to win Super Bowl XXX… "I was in the first grade. I was 7 years old and I watched every bit of it."
4Cowboys beat Philadelphia in 2009 playoffs, the team’s first postseason triumph in 13 years… "The guys were giving me crap at TCU… because I was like, ‘We’re going to the Super Bowl.’ And they lost in the next round."
5Getting the call to join the team… "It was a dream come true."
Cowboys cornerback C.J. Wilson, a former Baylor standout, missed most of the morning walkthrough while having a root canal but took part in the padded practice during the afternoon. It made for a memorable day. "The pain medicine wore off as soon as we got out here, so I’ve been spitting out blood. But I’m fine," Wilson said after the afternoon session. "You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, man. If you don’t, somebody else will."
Because of injuries to Lance Dunbar (hamstring) and Phillip Tanner (broken hand), free-agent running backs Ed Wesley and Tavarris Williams figure to log significant snaps Monday at Oakland. Running backs coach Skip Peete said both are "a little behind the 8-ball" in learning the offense because neither went through off-season drills. Asked about Wesley, a TCU product, Peete said: "He’s an exciting young kid. He has some good run skills and has ability to run routes out of the backfield. He’s still behind, but that’s not his fault. If you’re three or four months behind everybody else, you’ve got to catch up quickly."
Actor Ashton Kutcher watched Saturday’s practice. He strolled the sideline like an assistant coach but wore a Boston Red Sox cap.
They said it
"I can’t accept … that we will be as disappointing as we were last year. I can’t accept that. Because I know that it was my most disappointing year as a Cowboy. We can’t have, individually, players play at the level they played at last year and not do better." — Jerry Jones
With the preseason opener looming, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett reflected on his first snap as a rookie quarterback in the NFL. Playing for the New Orleans Saints, Garrett handed off on a reverse against Buffalo. Then, he turned to block defensive end Bruce Smith, a future Hall of Famer. "He looked like he was 48 feet tall," Garrett said. "So you dive at his knees, he throws you to the ground and he makes the tackle."
History lesson, reality check
Cowboys tight end James Hanna, a rookie sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, wears No. 84. But his knowledge of predecessors who donned that digit is limited to Jay Novacek, a standout tight end from the 1990s. Asked about Pettis Norman, who made the number notable in the 1960s, Hanna said: "I don’t know about that. Not familiar with him." He is familiar with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Asked to cite the moment he realized the NFL would be significantly different from college, Hanna said: "The first time I blocked DeMarcus Ware. Or tried to. It didn’t go well."
Dallas Cowboys Injury Report
WR Miles Austin, hamstring, 1 week
WR Dez Bryant, hamstring tightness, day-to-day
RB Phillip Tanner, hand, 1-2 weeks
G Kevin Kowalski, ankle, on PUP
G Bill Nagy, high ankle sprain, day-to-day (UPDATE: Waived)
G Nate Livings, hamstring, day-to-day
LB Anthony Spencer, hamstring, day-to-day
DE Jason Hatcher, hamstring, day-to-day
RB Lance Dunbar, hamstring, day-to-day
DB Matt Johnson, hamstring, day-to-day
TE John Phillips, ankle, day-to-day
WR Saalim Hakim, dislocated finger, 1 week
CB Mike Jenkins, shoulder, on PUP
Courtesy: Jimmy Burch
Speaking to the local media a couple weeks back, DeMarco Murray bristled a bit when asked, again, about the broken ankle that cut short his 2011 season. It’s clear the running back has about had it with questions about his durability.
He’s heard it enough over the last five years. Late in his redshirt freshman season of 2007, he suffered a dislocated kneecap that kept him out of spring drills. Then in 2008, he injured his hamstring on the opening kickoff of the Big 12 Championship, missing the remainder of that game and the BCS Championship in January, 2009.
A knee injury in 2010 created some doubt that he would miss the Big 12 Championship.
Despite those injuries, Murray is steadfast that durability is not a problem for him. He played four seasons in college and missed only four games.
As a senior, he had 282 rushes and 71 receptions, giving him 353 total touches on offense. Few players entering the NFL in recent years can boast such durability in a single season.
Last year, Murray was injured for half of the preseason, slowing his ascent to the role of lead back. But when he took over the job, he showed how strong he was again, averaging more than 22 touches over the next seven games, including two squeezed into a matter of five days on the week of Thanksgiving.
The injury against New York, early in Week 14, was a freak one.
Back to that question from Monday morning as to whether anyone can catch up to Emmitt Smith’s record? Don’t necessarily count out Murray just yet, other than the obvious long odds that stand against any back. At least over the course of consecutive games and for a whole season, Murray has shown durability similar to Smith.
Murray’s 897 yards last year (on 164 carries), were the most by a Cowboys rookie since Smith’s 937 (on 241 carries) in 1990.
Yet Murray is already 24. Smith played his second NFL season at age 22. And while there might be a couple nifty pieces on this Cowboys offensive line, it’s hard to envision any team putting together a crew quite like the front five Smith was able to run behind.
There was also Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin to keep defenses from loading up the box. And the Cowboys’ own defense in those days was so good it helped the offense, and Smith, control the time of possession.
Smith had a great fullback or two, most notably Daryl Johnston. Interestingly enough, Jerry Jones was asked last week whether he was comfortable with Murray continuing with the formidable workload he had last year. Jones thought the protection Murray will get from new fullback Lawrence Vickers would be a reason to continue feeding Murray rather than taking it easy on him.
"Especially with where we are now with Vickers and possibly our young fullbacks, yes," Jones said. "I like what our running backs have a chance to benefit from, with what we’re doing at fullback. This could be the best we’ve been at fullback since Daryl."
It’s impossible to say whether Murray will have the staying power to rush for even half as many yards as Smith’s 18,355. And Smith’s career carries record of 4,409 carries – nearly 600 more than second place – is probably secure for a long time to come.
But maybe this year Murray could challenge Smith’s team record for most carries in a season, 377, set in 1995.
If he can just avoid freak injuries, as Smith was lucky enough to do, Murray has proven he has the durability to carry the load.
LaDainian Tomlinson has retired, so let the debate begin. Where does the NFL’s fifth all-time rusher rank in the pantheon of great running backs?
I’ve been watching the NFL for better than a half century and covering it professionally for the last 38 years. In my educated opinion, Tomlinson does not belong in the Top 5 but I do have a place for him in my Top 10. Barely.
I don’t judge runners based on statistics or rings. Only three of my Top 10 backs ever played on championship teams and four of them don’t even rank statistically in the Top 10 in rushing.
But they all passed my eye test. I know greatness when I see it. I saw it in these 10.
With apologies to some backs I’ve seen (Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk and Tony Dorsett) and some that I haven’t (Steve Van Buren, Ollie Matson and Marion Motley), here’s my pantheon of the Top 10 all-time running backs:
1. Barry Sanders. The most dazzling runner the NFL has ever seen — averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 100 yards per game — then retired in his prime. His moves were an optical illusion, tricking many a defender’s eyes.
2. Jim Brown. The best fullback in NFL history, also retired in his prime. Won eight NFL rushing titles in his nine seasons.
3. Gale Sayers. Knee injuries prevented Sayers from ever reaching his prime, cutting short his career after seven seasons. A big back with speed, second only to Sanders in dazzle.
4. O.J. Simpson. Third to Sanders and Sayers in dazzle. First back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and did it when the NFL was playing only 14 games.
5. Walter Payton. The most complete back in NFL history – running, catching, blocking.
6. Emmitt Smith. Played more games, gained more yards and scored more touchdowns than any back in NFL history.
7. Curtis Martin. Put him on the 1990 Cowboys and he’d have become Emmitt Smith.
8. Earl Campbell. Second-best power back in NFL history after Brown.
9. Thurman Thomas. Backbone of a team that went to four consecutive Super Bowls, the Bills were an incredible 48-4 when Thomas rushed for 100 yards in a game.
10. LaDainian Tomlinson. Second to Payton in his completeness, could run, catch or throw for scores.
What’s YOUR Top-10? Leave a comment. How can any list not have Emmitt at #1?
Courtesy: RICK GOSSELIN | SportsDayDFW
RELATED: Emmitt Smith reacts to the retirement of Ladainian Tomlinson
Legendary Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith was not just an accidental tourist in the career of former TCU great LaDanian Tomlinson, who is retiring today as a member of the San Diego Chargers.
Smith, the league’s all-time leading rusher, was Tomlinson’s inspiration as a little boy growing up a Cowboys fan in Waco, and then moreso when he went on to have an outstanding college career at TCU.
There is no question Tomlinson, who finished his 11-year career with the Chargers and the Jets as the league’s fifth all-time leading rusher, had his sights set on Smith at the top spot.
He didn’t quite make it but what he accomplished was enough to make him a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and it earned him the respect and admiration of his idol.
"I have known LaDanian since he was 13 years old," Smith said. "When you know someone when they are very young, and you watch that person grow into being a man and one of the very best to ever play the game, it is inspirational for me personally. He was a pleasure to watch play football. He did it with pride and passion and he was a true professional from his very first day in the NFL. I am extremely honored to know that I have had a positive influence on him. What he accomplished in his career gives me great pride."
And although Tomlinson didn’t get the rushing title or a coveted Super Bowl, Smith said LT leaves the game with dignity and a respect that few enjoy.
"LaDanian has had a tremendous impact on the league, not only as a player but also as a person with great character, and it shows by the respect his peers have for him and how well-known he is to the public," Smith said. "He accomplished many great things as a player, but I don’t know of any player recently who has left the game with as much admiration and respect from his peers as LT enjoys. And that might be an athlete’s most cherished accomplishment."
Clarence Hill Jr. | Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Emmitt Smith: Looking back, it’s simply incomprehensible that Smith fell to the No. 17 overall pick in the 1990 draft. If the first 16 teams had a do-over on that one, Smith would go no lower than first. By the time he retired after the 2004 season, he was football’s all-time rushing leader. Cowboys fans got such joy from watching him run that they could even forgive those two seasons he played for Arizona at the end of his career. He signed a one-day, no-pay contract with the Cowboys so that he could retire as a Cowboy — as it should be. STEVE HAMM / DMN File Photo
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Often scrutinized for his lack of leadership, Tony Romo has been quite the topic of discussion in Cowboys circles this offseason.
But if you ask Emmitt Smith, the harsh reviews are unnecessary. The NFL rushing king and Hall of Famer supports Romo and believes the team will succeed under his guidance this season.
“I think people need to leave Tony Romo alone," Smith said Monday morning at the Cowboys Scramble presented by The Nova Center at Trophy Club Country Club. "Romo is much better. I think people need to right size their own expectations. When he was 13-3, he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now that the talent around him isn’t like it was back then, he’s made a few mistakes, but he’s matured. I’ve seen a level of maturity in him that I absolutely love. I think that says a lot about him and where he’s going.
“I don’t think anybody on the Cowboys team wants to win more than Tony Romo. People need to stop jumping ship. Bunch of bandwagoners. I think he’ll be fine.”
Decked out in Florida apparel, Smith was then asked whether he would have liked to see the Cowboys make a run at Tim Tebow but again showed his confidence in Romo.
“Tim Tebow is already locked and loaded. They’ve already made their decision," Smith said. "With Tony Romo, the Cowboys will be fine. I think we can win a lot of games with Tony Romo, despite what everybody out there is saying.”
Courtesy: EJ Holland | Special Contributor | Dallas Morning News
Dallas Cowboys legendary Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith discussed the Cowboys’ mental toughness during an ESPN interview. Afterwards, Tony Romo said the team has proven its mental toughness more than once this season.
"We had a big game at San Francisco earlier in the year," Romo said. "It felt like a must-win at that time, and we went out there and laid it on the line, and the team won, and we were trailing late in that game. So there was a lot of mental toughness in that game. I think we went up to Washington in a game that was big for us there and showed a lot of mental toughness there. This football team just has a way of keep coming back and keep grinding. Obviously, it comes down to a game like this. That’s why you play sports. That’s why you play this game, is to be involved in games that can allow you to keep going on and playing. I know it’s fun for us to prepare for a game like this."
The Cowboys have had fourth-quarter leads in five of their seven losses. That includes double-digit, fourth-quarter leads against the Jets, the Lions and the Giants.
Smith points to those close games as reasons for questioning mental toughness.
"Talent-wise, I think they have it," Smith said in an ESPN interview. "Leadership-wise, they have some good leaders on the ball club. Do they have enough? Probably not. Can they go up to New York and be mentally tough in this situation? I think Jason [Garrett] has done a very good job of preparing the guys to be physically and hopefully mentally tough, but I think mental toughness is the thing needed in games like this.
"Mental toughness for four quarters or five quarters, if you have to go that far. But that’s something our Cowboys have not been able to do in close games. And that’s where mental toughness comes into play."
Most Cowboys fans will have a hard time digesting the thought of the Cowboys going on the road to play the Giants in the regular-season finale with so much at stake – and not reflect back to the “Emmitt Smith Game” played back in the 1993 season.
Actually, the game itself was played in 1994, on Jan. 2 as the Cowboys met the Giants in a winner-take-all game for the right to win the NFC East and take home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
If you followed this team just a little bit back in the 90’s, then you’ve heard of Emmitt’s gutsy effort against the Giants when he suffered a shoulder injury but fought through it to rush for 168 yards, with 10 more catches for 61 yards. The Cowboys needed overtime, but prevailed that day for a 16-13 win to clinch the division and home field en route to a second straight Super Bowl.
And still . . . this one is bigger. Or maybe it just feels that way because that was 18 years ago and this one is right here and now. But there’s something about: winning and you clinch the division and get a home playoff game next week, or losing and you go fishing.
That’s a huge swing. And that wasn’t the case in 1993. The loser of that game knew it was playing again next week, and playing at home. The Giants ended up beating the Vikings 17-10 in the Meadowlands before getting trounced by the 49ers 44-3 in San Francisco in the Divisional round.
And that’s why this one is bigger to me. The winner of this game plays host to Detroit or Atlanta next weekend. The loser drops to an average 8-8 record and possibly even third place of the division depending on what the Eagles do against Washington.
For the Dallas Cowboys, the difference between one game is monumental. An 8-8 record is just two games better than what you did in last year’s pathetic 6-10 campaign. But 9-7 and winning the division with a home playoff game, it has a chance to be deemed a successful season.
And it all boils down to one game. To me, that makes it bigger than the last time these teams squared off in the season finale with so much at stake.
The Emmitt Smith Game
One of the most memorable performances in Emmitt Smith’s illustrious career was the 1993 regular season finale against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands on January 2, 1994. Both teams entered the game with a 11-4 records and the NFC East crown and home field advantage throughout the playoffs was on the line.
The Cowboys were up 10-0 in the second quarter with less than two minutes to go. On 3rd and 2 near their own goal line, Emmitt Smith got the handoff from Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman and with a block by guard Nate Newton, Emmitt ran for a long gain before being dragged down in Giant territory. On that play, Smith landed on the unforgiving Meadowlands turf, which resulted in a first-degree shoulder separation. The New York Giants came back with two David Treadwell field goals and a one-yard Jared Bunch run tied the score at 13-13 as time expired.
In overtime, Emmitt Smith was responsible for 42 of the 52 yards on the Cowboys winning drive before Eddie Murray kicked the game winning field goal. The Cowboys won the game 16-13 and this marked the only time in John Madden’s broadcasting career (as of yet ) that he went down to congratulate a player on his gutsy and resilient performance.
Smith finished the game with 168 yards on 32 carries and caught 10 passes for 68 yards. In countless interviews over the years by NFL Films, Smith went on to say that he was in pain the entire game because of the injury and that every time he was tackled he could hear cracks and popping sounds from his shoulder while tears were in his eyes due to the excruciating pain.
Here are the notes compiled by the Dallas Cowboys’:
Today’s overtime win was Dallas’ second overtime game and win of the season – the first came at San Francisco (9/18). It was Dallas’ 29th overtime game (since 1974 when the extra period was adopted) and gave the club a 17-12 record in those games. Dallas has now one four straight overtime games.
Dan Bailey’s two field goals today upped his streak of consecutive field goals made to 24 which is still the third-longest, tops among rookies, in club history:
Consecutive Player FGM Season
Chris Boniol 27 1996
Chris Boniol 26 1995
Dan Bailey* 24 2011
Richie Cunningham* 18 1997
Nick Folk 16 2008-09
Through 10 games of his rookie season, Bailey has been true on 25 field goals. His 25 field goals made in 10 games is second in team history over that span:
Player (Year) FGM FGA Pct
Richie Cunningham (1997) 26 28 92.9
Dan Bailey (2011) 25 26 96.2
Rafael Septien (1981) 20 22 90.9
Toni Fritsch (1975) 19 31 61.3
Rafael Septien (1984) 18 20 90.0
This weekend the Redskins play Dallas. Usually there’d be so much buzz and excitement in the city surrounding this game that I wouldn’t have to remind you.
That does not seem to be the case this week. It’s been just another week.
I can remember people driving around honking their horns, free meals from from restaurant owners who wanted us to win, banners everywhere and car flags–for both teams–on every other car. And that’s when I played. Hello–we weren’t very good any of my years here. But the excitement surrounding this game was always intense.
I mean seriously, a 1 p.m. game? This has always made at least 4 p.m. 1 o’clock games are usually considered appetizers for the later games.
Even after I left the game in 2006 and came back home, this game was the one that I’d watch at a sports bar. This may be the first year I won’t. I don’t feel the excitement. On my radio show we have barely touched on the game itself or even mentioned the rivalry. All the focus has been on the state of the team.
It feels to me like the ever-growing frustration of Redskins fans is beginning to show in ways like this.
The Cowboys do seem to be finding a stride as of late and could compete for the division title, which, in a conference this weak doesn’t mean much. The Redskins are facing the possibility of not winning another game this season.
Either way, both teams have struggled with identity problems over the last decade. Let’s face it, neither team has done much about making it to the playoffs or staying in them.
There’s usually a build up of mass proportions this week: Cowboys versus Indians, champion versus champion. My, how times have changed since the glory days of both of these franchises.
We won’t see Darrell Green battling it out with Michael Irvin Sunday. Troy Aikman isn’t playing either, trying to avoid being sacked by Charles Mann or Dexter Manley. We won’t see Ernest Byner taking a handoff from Mark Rypien, no Art Monk making a spectacular play downfield with the greatest of ease. No Emmitt Smith or Deion Sanders on Dallas or Monte Coleman or Gary Clark for the Redskins
Those days are long gone.
Once historically great and proud franchises have sunk so deep into mediocrity that it would appear that the prestige of this matchup is all but gone.
Courtesy: LaVar Arrington | The Washington Post
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) jumps over Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) during the third quarter. Buffalo Bills lost to the Dallas Cowboys 44 – 7 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)
ARLINGTON — DeMarco Murray hurdled one of the Buffalo Bills (Jairus Byrd), clearing the crown of the helmet as if it were a high-jump bar.
Later, Murray opted to lay low. “I definitely think,” the Cowboys rookie said quietly, “I get too much credit.”
Maybe Murray does. It wouldn’t be the first time the media buzzed about a passer or a runner instead of the less glamorous.
But anyone who went across the Dallas locker room, over to where the overlooked, large men dress, heard the other side.
Murray gets too much credit?
“He makes the linemen look good,” one of them said.
There was a sense a month ago Murray had merely run in the right place at the right time when he set the Cowboys’ one-game rushing record. It came against the Rams, after all. When Murray said “a bus” could have fit through some of the holes, most nodded.
“Let’s not start any star-is-born talk,” an Oklahoma City columnist wrote that day.
He had a point. Last season, Sooners fans wondered if Murray should have even been the starter.
Murray announced after the St. Louis game that Felix Jones was still the starter. “I’m ready to be the No. 1 guy, the No. 2 guy, the No. 3,” Murray said that day. “Whatever they want me to do.”
Dallas Cowboy DeMarco Murray plays like first-rounder | Cowboys running back setting franchise records
IRVING, Texas — Jerry Jones routinely requests that his old buddy Barry Switzer studies college running backs, heavily weighing the former coach’s opinions on the position while building the Dallas Cowboys’ draft board.
Switzer didn’t need to watch a single play from the film the Cowboys sent last offseason to strongly recommend Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray.
Here are the notes compiled by the Cowboys’ after the game:
The Dallas Cowboys 37-point win (44-7) tied the 10th-largest margin of victory in team history. It was the club’s biggest win since defeating Arizona (10/22/00) by 41 points (48-7).
Dallas’ 44 points scored today were the most for the club since racking up 45 against the N.Y. Giants (9/9/07).
The Cowboys scored a touchdown on each of their first four drives today. It was the first time the club scored a touchdown on its first three drives since doing so against Seattle (11/27/08). We are looking into the last time the club managed a touchdown on each of the first four drives, and that will not be completed tonight.
Dallas’ 28 points scored in the first half today was the most for the club in the first half since scoring 28 against Detroit (10/19/03).
Dallas also converted eight-of-12 third down opportunities. The club’s 66.7 third down conversion percentage was the third-most in team history as far back that can be researched today. The top-two spots were a 72.7 percentage(eight-of-11) at Atlanta (10/29/95) and at Cleveland (9/7/08).
For the second consecutive week, the Cowboys had three interceptions in a game. It was the 13th time in franchise history Dallas had back-to-back three-interception games. The others were in 1967, 70, 73, 77, 80, 81 (twice), 82, 83, 84, 94 and 2007.
With 433 yards of offense today, the Cowboys have five games with 400-or-more yards this season. It ties the third-highest figure in team history. The highest was eight (2009), followed by six (1979, 81, 83, 2007 and 2010) and five (1966, 68, 71, 76, 78, 86 and 88).
Dallas native, Fred Jackson, returns home as a Buffalo Bill … will face his favorite childhood team, the Dallas Cowboys (Video)
One spot in the southeast corner of Cowboys Stadium literally will feel like home to Bills running back Fred Jackson this Sunday.
Confused? Don’t be. Our friends at BuffaloBills.com can explain.
|Bills running back Fred Jackson will have homefield advantage when he plays at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. (BuffaloBills.com/)|
You see, right in that area of Jerry’s World is where Jackson’s childhood home once stood (we’re not kidding) — that is until Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tore it down to build his own $1.3 billion home for his team.
The Jackson family home wasn’t the only one swept aside, though. Plenty of other folks suffered the same fate.
This all happened in 2004, when Jones was planning where to build his palatial football palace and happened to settle on the Arlington neighborhood where Jackson grew up. At the time it happened, Jackson was paying his dues playing for the Sioux City Bandits of the National Indoor Football League.
One might think Jackson would be bitter about this. Hardly. He’s pretty excited to return for the critical showdown against the Cowboys, whom he and his family rooted for during his childhood. Right when he walks into the building, he’ll be trying to map out the old neighborhood.
“Definitely during pregame,” Jackson said, “when I’m out there getting loose, trying to figure out, piece it together, you know, ‘This is my friend Jason’s house, would be right here where I am now.’ Things like that, I’m sure, will be going through my head during pregame, and I’ll definitely be looking for stuff like that.”
Don’t get too nostalgic, though, Fred. You have a big game to play.
Alternate link to video:
Related post … Check this out:
HOMER NEWSPAPER: Fred Jackson returns home to Dallas, as a star
Running back Felix Jones will miss his fourth consecutive game. He said Friday his high left ankle sprain is not ready yet, and the Cowboys have ruled him out of Sunday’s game. Jones has missed the past three games with the injury. In Jones’ absence, rookie DeMarco Murray has run for 466 yards. It is the best three-game stretch in team history. Emmitt Smith’s best three-game run was 446 yards in 1993.
Receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring) also will not play this week.
Right guard Kyle Kosier (foot), linebacker Sean Lee (wrist) and punter Mat McBriar (foot) are questionable.
Did you know? You can check the official Dallas Cowboys injury status (and their weekly opponent) right here on The Boys Are Back blog. Just click on the “INJURIES” tab at the top of every page.
Arlington paved over Fred Jackson’s neighborhood and put up a parking lot.
Photo: Mark Mulville /Buffalo News
Running back Fred Jackson will feel right at home Sunday when he and the Buffalo Bills go to Dallas to face the Cowboys.
That’s because he literally will be playing in his old backyard.
The house in which Jackson grew up was located on what now is one of the parking lots for the massive new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“It will literally be home-field advantage for me,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he and his family lived in the house from the time he was in fourth or fifth grade through his senior year of high school. Jackson then went off to Coe College in Iowa, and his parents moved to a different home in the Dallas area shortly thereafter. The City of Arlington eventually had to arrange for the purchase of about 168 properties to make room for the 140 acres needed for the stadium and surrounding parking lots.
“They were clearing out all that stuff five to six years in advance of the building of the stadium,” Jackson said.
This will be Jackson’s first professional game in Dallas.
“I’m excited,” Jackson said. “I grew up a Cowboys fan. I think it’s every boy’s dream if they live in a place where there’s a professional team, you either want to play for that team or play against them.”
Jackson, of course, is making a hero’s return. He currently is the No. 3 rusher in the NFL, with 803 yards, behind only Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (825) and Chicago’s Matt Forte (805). Jackson is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,194 yards, behind only Forte (1,241).
At his current pace, Jackson would break O.J. Simpson’s single-season team record for yards from scrimmage of 2,243, set in 1975.
No one saw such success coming when Jackson was playing for Lamar High School, about 5 miles from the current Cowboys Stadium, in Arlington. He was a late bloomer.
“I went back [to Lamar] a couple years ago, and people didn’t even recognize me,” Jackson said. “I was a minute person in high school. I was 5-8, all of 140 pounds. So to come back 6-1, 220, is completely different.”
Jackson barely played for Lamar, which is a prep football power and had about 4,000 students when he attended. He was the third-string running back entering his senior year. He moved up to second string after the season opener but still managed only about five carries for 40 yards for the season. The first stringer, Tommicus Walker, went on to play for Nebraska. Jackson and his Lamar team did make it to the Cowboys’ old home, Texas Stadium, for the state playoffs his senior year.
Jackson was a big Cowboys fan growing up, and Dallas Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith was his favorite player. But he never attended a Cowboys game as a kid. This will be Jackson’s first trip to the new Cowboys Stadium, built at a cost of $1.1 billion and opened in 2009. Jackson gave his parents his two tickets to the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, played last January.
Jackson said he has 25 tickets for Sunday’s game, and he knows too many people in the area to try to accommodate more friends at the game.
“Just family — mom, dad, brothers and sisters,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’ll be fun to see a lot of different people. I’m sure I’ll see a lot of them in pregame in the stands hooting and hollering.”
Courtesy: Mark Gaughan | The Buffalo News
IRVING, Texas — For the second time in three weeks, Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is a candidate for FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week and Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.
Fans can vote for the FedEx Ground award here through 2 p.m. (CT) Friday and the Pepsi Rookie award here through 11 a.m. (CT) Friday. Both winners will be announced Friday on NFL Network’s Total Access and NFL.com.
Murray had 22 carries for 139 yards (186 all-purpose yards) in last Sunday’s 23-13 win over the Seahawks. His 466 rushing yards in the last three games are the most all-time in that span by any Cowboys running back.
Murray won both awards for Week 7, when his 253 yards broke Emmitt Smith’s single-game rushing record and his 10.1-yard average was the league’s highest for any player with at least 10 carries that week.
“His quick development is not a surprise, but it’s certainly something that is very impressive,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “We thought he was a very complete back coming out of the school. His track record shows that. He started early there. He has all the rushing records and receiving records, scoring records there at such a great school with so many great players who have come through there. So we felt really good about him as a player.
“Again, with him missing so much of training camp and not having an off-season, his development to get to that form as quickly as he has has been very impressive.”
Murray also has impressed the Cowboys with his work ethic and his demeanor.
“He had the big game a couple of weeks ago against St. Louis [when he rushed for a team-record 253 yards], and then Wednesday, he’s out there playing scout team,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said Monday. “It’s like, ‘I don’t think you need to be the scout-team back any more, DeMarco. I love the mentality that you have but get some rest. We need you over here.’
“But I think that mentality pays off for him. He’s been great. He’s been a dynamic player for us. Our offense, and really our team, has been better and had success because of the way he plays.”