The Dallas Cowboys didn’t try to run from the December questions last week. Instead, they ran right through them Thursday.
The Cowboys kept repeating all week that they are equipped to handle the season’s final month for one reason: No. 29. That was put to the test on a cold but bearable night in Chicago.
DeMarco Murray touched the ball a career-high 41 times. He gained 179 rushing yards and scored a touchdown in leading the Cowboys to a 41-28 victory over the Bears.
“We didn’t intend on getting him the ball that many times, but it played out that way, and he responded,” Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown said. “It’s a great team effort. It’s not just him. It’s the guys up front blocking for him and things like that. But, no, we didn’t anticipate 41 touches.”
In the first half, Murray had 24 touches, while the Chicago Bears had 20 plays. Only three other Cowboys had touches in the first half — Dez Bryant with five catches for 39 yards; Jason Witten with two catches for 26 yards; and Cole Beasley with two catches for 18 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought he played a really good football game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Murray. “He obviously ran the ball well. There were some dirty runs early. I thought we did a good job sticking with the run and just finding ways to make bigger runs as the game wore on, whether it was getting to a new call or him hunting and pecking a little bit and finding his way and finding some creases. I thought he did a good job being persistent running the football.”
Murray was money as he regained his touch, and the Cowboys regained their identity.
After being held to a season-low 73 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Murray rebounded with another 100-yard game. He has 11 in 13 games.
“Obviously he’s been our go-to all year,” Cowboys guard Zack Martin said. “He’s fun to block for. He’s a back that goes out every day and gives it his all. We know we’ve got to be up for the challenge each week, and we were able to come in and open some holes for him.”
It was the 10th time this season Murray has had at least 20 carries. He had 19 in the three others.
He also caught nine passes for 49 yards Thursday, with his 41 touches the second-most in team history behind only the 42 that Emmitt Smith had in a 1994 game against the Giants.
“I pride myself on starting fast and finishing strong,” Murray said. “I want to be strong every time I touch it.”
Fortunately, though, the Cowboys have 10 days before their next game.
“With that many carries, the 10 days off is really good,” Brown said.
For the season, Murray has 1,606 yards on 320 carries. It puts him on pace for 1,977 yards.
Smith holds the team record with the 1,773 rushing yards he had in 1995. It seems inevitable that Murray will break it, barring injury.
Eric Dickerson’s NFL record is a longer shot. The Hall of Famer had 2,105 yards in 1984. Murray would have to average 167 yards in the final three games to break it.
“Just coming out here running ball plays, giving us a chance to win,” Murray said. “Whether it’s running, passing, we just try to win games. It’s not about yards. Whatever happens at the end of the year happens. We’re just taking it week by week and trying to come up with some wins.”
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760