DeMarco Murray's physical play makes him Cowboys' No. 1 back, motivates offense

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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IRVING -- Before they drafted him, the Dallas Cowboys wondered if DeMarco Murray could be a tough inside runner.

They know now.

His performance in the season opener against the New York Giants, on top of the promise he showed last year as a rookie, has them so convinced, they're no longer even pretending they have a committee or co-starter approach at running back.

"DeMarco Murray is our starter at tailback," coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday at Valley Ranch.

Murray ran for 131 yards on 20 carries against the Giants. Felix Jones got 12 snaps, no carries, two targets, no catches.

"There's definitely a role for Felix, and we like what he does for our offense both in the run game and in the pass game," Garrett said. "Depending on how the game goes, he's going to get more touches or fewer touches."

It's probably going to be fewer as the Cowboys go with the wear-them-down mentality that worked ideally against the Giants.

Murray ran for 111 of his 131 yards in the second half, including a 48-yard run that demonstrated both his bullish power and his open-field dynamic.

"I love it how he explodes into the guy who is trying to tackle him at the end of the run," Garrett said. "His pads are always down, and he's always finishing forward. I think it's good to get yards that way, but I also think it sends a message to the guy who's trying to tackle him."

Murray shrugs.

He came from a spread offense at Oklahoma. He's known as a speed guy. But he's also 6-foot and 215 pounds.

The words are almost visible on his face: Why would anyone wonder if he was a physical player?

"At the end of the day, I'd rather go north and south than go east and west and try to shake and make someone miss," he said. "But it just depends on the situation. There are a lot of good defenders in this league, so there aren't too many times when you can make guys miss, and there aren't too many games when you're one-on-one. But I just try to finish as much as I can."

The running style radiates confidence. Murray has it in himself. He is transferring it to everyone else.

"When we see DeMarco attack, it gets us going, too," left guard Nate Livings said. "You see what kind of mindset he's in. You've got a back that's laying it on the line, too. It kind of makes you feel appreciated for laying it on the line. It just all comes together. It's real appreciated to see that."

Garrett said Murray's physical play allows him to squeeze more out of his runs.

"I don't know if any of us really, really saw how physical he was at the end of plays," Garrett said. "All the great runners that I've been around are guys that finish runs. You think it's a 4-yard run; boy, he made 6. You think it's an 8-yard run; aw, he made a first down. He has that ability. You see that in space. There were a number of plays where he caught the ball in space, made a guy miss, and before you know it, I'm calling a second-and-4 play."

Murray had only one carry over 5 yards in the first half against the Giants. In the second half, he had runs of 9, 48, 9, 15 and 7 among his 15 touches. The Cowboys put the ball in his hands to get the final first down they needed, although it was called back by a penalty.

"It's demoralizing for a defense to get a back that is going to give more to you than you give to him," owner Jerry Jones said. "I think that pays off."

Livings said he didn't hear a peep from the Giants' defense last week.

"No, you didn't hear anything," he said. "You just heard the pop. The pop says a lot."

For Murray, the 6.6 yards per rush against the Giants marked the seventh time he averaged 4.0 yards or more per rush in a game in his young NFL career. In 14 games with the Cowboys, he has rushed for 1,028 yards.

Can't do that without being both a good outside runner and a tough inside runner. The Cowboys used to wonder.

"Now they know," Murray said.

Carrying the load

When DeMarco Murray gets 20 or more carries in a game the Cowboys are 6-0:

Date

Opp.

Att.

Yards

Result

10-23-11

STL

25

253

W 34-7

11-6-11

SEA

22

139

W 23-13

11-13-11

BUF

20

135

W 44-7

11-20-11

@ WAS

25

73

W 27-24

11-24-11

MIA

22

87

W 20-19

9-5-12

@ NYG

20

131

W 24-17

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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