In one fell swoop, Dallas Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray replaced Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith and Jim Brown in the record books.
His mentor, a fellow Oklahoma product, is the only running back Murray didn’t run past in a record-setting day.
Murray rushed for 253 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown, in carrying the Cowboys to a much-needed 34-7 victory over the winless St. Louis Rams. It pulled Dallas into a second-place tie with the Washington Redskins, a game behind the New York Giants (4-2).
“We needed to win this game,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We needed to be 3-3. We’ve got a team that can get out of contention with our record, but if we can be in contention, we’ve got a team that can be better [late in the season].”
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No one in team history ever did it better than Murray did Sunday as the Cowboys took advantage of the worst run defense in the league.
First, Murray passed Dorsett in the Cowboys’ record book. Dorsett set the rookie team record of 206 yards in 1977.
Then, Murray slipped past Smith, who held the Cowboys’ single-game record of 237 set in 1993 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Murray also had the most rushing yards ever against the Rams. The Rams weren’t even in St. Louis when Jim Brown gained 237 against them in 1957.
“Outstanding. Great. Amazing. I can keep going,” Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant said of Murray. “He did an outstanding job today. Hey, he said he needed an opportunity. He got what he wanted, and the rest is history.”
Murray, a third-round draft pick, had more carries Sunday (25) than he had in the first five games (24). He had more yards on his first carry Sunday (91) than he did in his first five games (71).
But if not for Felix Jones spraining his ankle last week, Murray likely wouldn’t have seen the ball so much.
With Jones out, Tashard Choice started. It wasn’t until the fifth play that Murray made his mark. On a draw, Murray followed center Phil Costa and fullback Tony Fiammetta through the line and into the open field, where Murray outran everyone except Bryant to the end zone.
The 91-yard touchdown rush was the second-longest on a player’s first career rushing touchdown.
After that, it was all Murray, all the time.
“This one probably felt a little bit like a few of those [in the 1990s] where you keep giving [Smith] the ball,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who played seven seasons with the league’s all-time leading rusher.
Murray had a 43-yard run in the fourth quarter that put him within 3 yards of breaking Smith’s team record. That’s when Cowboys backup quarterback Jon Kitna informed Murray he was about to make history.
Murray did it on his next carry, an 8-yard run, which won him pats on the helmet from teammates and a standing ovation from the crowd of 80,086. Murray said he was in high school at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas the last time he had a similar day.
“It’s unbelievable,” Murray said. “It is just a humbling experience. I never thought in a million years that I would be here with the Dallas Cowboys [and break] Emmitt Smith’s [record].”
Murray’s teammates began talking about the possibility of him breaking the NFL record, but with the Cowboys safely in the lead, Phillip Tanner replaced Murray to run out the clock. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who played at OU before Murray, set the NFL record of 296 rushing yards in 2007. That also ranks as the only rookie performance better than Murray’s.
“I was impressed,” Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said. “He got a little tired during the game, though, but obviously he carried the ball a lot. We’ve got to work on that conditioning. But he had a hell of a day. He made some nice runs.”
The Cowboys, though, needed the win more than the record. They broke a two-game losing streak and did it easily. After having their first five games decided by a total of 16 points, the Cowboys won by 27. It was their most decisive victory since a 34-3 victory over the New York Jets in 2007.
For all the hoopla of Murray’s record, the game ended with Kitna kneeling on the ball in victory formation.
“I wish all games ended like this,” Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman said.
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760