Murray, who missed the last six games with a sprained foot, needed just two carries _ covering 22 yards on the team’s first two snaps _ to regain his status as the Cowboys’ rushing leader this season during a 38-33 victory over Philadelphia at Cowboys Stadium.
Murray steadily built on that hot start, adding a second-quarter touchdown and a third-quarter stretch where he ground out 60 yards on nine carries _ including one for 27 yards, the team’s third-longest rush of the season _ to finish with 83 rushing yards while helping the Cowboys improve to 6-6 for the season.
It marked Murray’s highest rushing total since gaining 93 yards against Baltimore in the game where he was injured on Oct. 14. Murray also romped for a season-high 131 yards on opening night against the New York Giants, Dallas’ lone 100-yard outing of the season.
Murray’s rushing total against Philadelphia (23 carries, 83 yards) easily topped the team’s average of 61.3 rushing yards during the six contests where he was sidelined. Dallas rushed for 368 yards on 123 carries in the six games that Murray missed, averaging just 2.99 yards per carry.
Murray changed the momentum quickly Sunday, averaging 6.1 yards on five carries during the first quarter. But he did his best work in the second half, rushing for 44 of 80 yards on one third-quarter touchdown drive and grinding out 2 yards on fourth-and-1 on the drive that led to a game-tying, 27-yard touchdown strike from Tony Romo to Miles Austin with 13:41 remaining in the contest.
Murray also helped the Cowboys melt the clock once they built a 38-27 lead in the fourth quarter.
“His effort was outstanding,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “He’s still a little ginger there. He let it show but not too much. It was good to have him back.”
Murray’s return gave the Cowboys’ offense balance that had been lacking in recent weeks even though he said he was still “off a little bit” in his return to the lineup.
“That’s something we’ve needed,” Murray said of the more balanced attack. “They’ve been doubling guys and they’re not loading the box as much. Having more of those guys back there (in coverage) has not been good for us.”
In terms of how he felt, Murray said: Once I got out there and got going, it felt good. It’s not 100 percent. There were a couple of times that it got tweaked. I definitely felt it ... I was off a little bit today. There were some times I felt good and some times I could tell I’d been off for six weeks without full contact. I’m back and we’ll see next week. Hopefully, I’ll be better next week.”
_ Jimmy Burch