DeMarco Murray is closing in on Emmitt Smith’s single-season rushing record and should get it if he plays Sunday in Washington.
But that record chase isn’t on the forefront of Jason Garrett’s mind when it comes to Murray. Instead, the Cowboys coach remains in awe of what Murray did by playing against the Indianapolis Colts six days after undergoing surgery on his left hand.
Murray rushed for a season-low 58 yards on 22 carries, but him simply playing is what had Garrett gushing once again Monday.
“DeMarco’s performance in yesterday’s game by far was his best performance of the year,” Garrett said. “He’s had other games where the numbers are a little bit gaudier, more impressive, but just his mindset and his demeanor all week long and what that meant to our football team was really, really significant.
“He was amazing.”
Murray didn’t practice last Wednesday and was limited Thursday and Friday. It’s unclear what his practice schedule will be this week.
But Garrett made it seem like he intends to play Murray in the season finale, which should almost assure him of gaining the 29 yards necessary to break Smith’s record.
With 1,745 yards, Murray has essentially already locked up being the NFL’s leading rusher this season. He leads the next highest rusher, Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, by 404 yards. Murray has also carried the ball a league-leading 373 times, the most by a running back since Atlanta’s Michael Turner had 376 in 2008.
Tony Romo’s name is gaining steam in MVP conversations. He leads the league in completion percentage (70.3) and passer rating (114.4), and is playing his best football down the stretch.
Owner Jerry Jones and the players stated a case for Romo to be in the mix after clinching the NFC East. Garrett wasn’t ready to touch that subject yet.
“We don’t really get caught up in all of that,” Garrett said. “Obviously, he’s had a fantastic year for us. He’s been a great leader for our team. He’s played really well. He’s made some big plays.
“Again, we’re not really talking about individual statistics and individual awards. It’s about our football team playing good football.”
Garrett addressed why he kept Romo in the game even when the Cowboys took a 35-0 lead late in the third quarter.
“[If the Colts] start making some plays and it feeds off each other, all of a sudden you’re in a dogfight,” Garrett said. “Guys that are healthy and ready to play, we’re going to keep them in there. At some point, we say it makes sense to take them out.”
The Cowboys came out of their win fairly healthy.
Murray said his hand bothered him some during the game, but there were no significant issues. Right guard Zack Martin also had little trouble playing with a sore right ankle for the second consecutive week.
Both Murray and Martin were pulled from the game in the third quarter when it got out of reach.
Defensive tackle Henry Melton and tight end Jason Witten each missed snaps with minor injuries in the game, but returned.
The biggest question seems to be whether right tackle Doug Free (ankle) will return for the season finale after sitting out the Colts game. A source said Free would likely miss the season finale, and there’s no reason to rush him back at this point with the postseason guaranteed.
“I don’t think you want to force a player into a situation where he’s not ready in a game that you think is important,” Garrett said. “Conversely, you don’t want to do the other thing. Guys are ready to play, let’s go play.”
One and done
Garrett couldn’t recall a time he’d ever seen a stat line in which a team rushed for just 1 yard.
But the Cowboys’ defense pulled off the impressive feat by holding the Colts to 1-yard rushing on 10 carries. That’s the fewest rushing yards ever allowed by the Cowboys in a game, and tied for ninth fewest rushing yards allowed in NFL history.
“It’s a really, really impressive job by the defense,” Garrett said.