One did much of the heavy lifting, while the other got the glory. Together the Tony Romo-christened “one-two punch” of DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar established the Dallas Cowboys’ dominance on the ground in their 31-24 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium.
Murray carried the ball 17 times for a modest 63 yards, but his career-high three touchdowns were significant as Dallas (7-5) won its second consecutive game and moved back into first place in the NFC East. The third-year pro had both Dallas first-half touchdowns on a pair of short runs, and the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter.
“It was a testament to the offensive line,” said Murray, whose season touchdown total went from four to seven. “Those guys were blocking well, finishing blocks, tight ends were blocking well on the edges, as well as receivers. Offensively, we had a great day.”
The Cowboys ran for 144 yards, their second-highest total of the season. Dunbar and Murray had 133 of those yards in the second half as Dallas took the lead while controlling the clock.
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The Cowboys also found that elusive offensive balance that’s been a point of contention throughout the season. Romo threw for 225 yards.
“I thought we ran it well,” Murray said. “Romo, obviously, threw the ball extremely well and when he’s throwing that way… we have to take advantage of that. Dunbar came in and gave us a huge spark. The offensive line did a great job blocking for us and we were clicking.”
Dunbar made the most of his 12 carries with an electric showing, especially in the third quarter. The North Texas product racked up 78 yards in the third, including a 45-yard scamper up the middle that helped set up Dez Bryant’s game-tying touchdown.
Dunbar came into the game with only 18 rushing attempts on the season. He made the most of his carries Thursday.
“You still have to go out there and make plays,” Dunbar said. “I got a couple of touches and I was able to get a feel for the game and make plays.”
Dunbar finished with a career-best 82 yards before leaving the game with a hyperextended left knee in the fourth quarter. At that point, Murray had taken over, piling up 48 yards in the final period.
“That’s how this offense is built,” Dunbar said. “Wear and tear. Keep pounding them and pounding them. By the fourth quarter, things will open up.”
Dunbar left the field under his own power and is scheduled to have an MRI on Friday. The Cowboys are off until Dec. 9, when they have a Monday night game at Chicago.
The Cowboys have a half-game lead over Philadelphia (6-5) in the NFC East. The Eagles host Arizona on Sunday.
“We have a really good division,” Murray said. “We still have a couple of other teams that are really good and right there, but at the same time we can’t think about that. We’ve got to take it one game at a time, control what we can control and continue to play like we’ve been playing.”