CHICAGO, Illinois – It was only one run, but it effectively knocked DeMarco Murray’s chances of returning to the Cowboys next season down to one percent.
Against the Chicago Bears, Murray had his best individual game of a season that will be the best ever by a Cowboys running back, but it was the one run by Joseph Randle that said so much.
Late in the third quarter, Randle ripped off an impressive 17-yard touchdown run to give the Cowboys a 35-7 lead. It was the only run by a Cowboys player other than Murray all game.
Randle was running behind All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, and an offensive line that is young and has been the NFL’s best all season.
The Cowboys are not going to pay Murray, who is scheduled to be a free agent after the season, because the projected drop in production will not be worth the price, or offset by another player.
“It’s not about yards,” Murray said after the Cowboys' 41-28 win in Chicago on Thursday night. “Whatever happens at the end of the years happens.”
The Cowboys may not (don’t?) believe Randle is Murray’s equal, but this line is so good it can make good running backs look great and this offense will not collapse without him.
The Cowboys better not be kidding themselves – with Tony Romo’s back liable to go pop at any moment, this team will not thrive without superior production from their running back. The Cowboys have demonstrated they are better as a run-first, power team.
The Cowboys are 9-4 thanks in large part to Murray, and they defeated the Bears largely because of him.
Murray ran 32 times for 179 yards, and caught a team-high nine passes for 49 yards. All of those figures are season highs.
At one point in the first half, he had touched the ball 23 of their first 31 plays.
“I feel great,” Murray said. “It was a lot of singles and doubles out there tonight. Just one hit, one hit. I want to be strong every time you touch it. You can’t go for the home run on every play, and I tried to do that a couple of times.”
Murray may leave yards on the field by not always following the best lanes, but seldom does he go backwards and backwards. One play after he ran for 40 yards in the fourth quarter, he actually got stuck going backwards and ended up with a rush for negative 14 yards.
Otherwise, his was nearly flawless night when the Cowboys repeatedly asked him to do everything.
He now has rushed for more than 100 yards in all but two games this season, and is this team’s best offensive player.
With three games remaining, he still has an outside shot of catching Eric Dickerson’s single season NFL rushing record, but the better odds are that he will reach 2,000 yards.
“I don’t take a lot of hard hits. Carries might be up, but I don’t get a lot of damage,” he said, almost trying to reassure the Cowboys and the NFL he is not beat up by a position that routinely spits people out. “That’s good. I feel great.”
Murray is a good candidate to win the NFL’s offensive player of the year, and then he is probably gone.
As evidenced by Randle’s one run, and that offensive line, the Cowboys are not going to overpay Murray, and specifically his position.
Because they don't want to pay Murray will it mean they don’t need big production from his spot. They have to know season's like this are not plentiful.
The Cowboys are good this season for a variety of reasons, Murray one of them.
They may not need Murray by name, but they are going to need Murray-like production from that spot.
Every Cowboys older than 12 months felt it coming. The Cowboys had managed to turn a 35-7 third quarter lead into a 10-point margin with 6:09 remaining.
In the past few years, the Cowboys have created quite a niche for themselves blowing massive leads. Losing this lead, given their history, seemed plausible.
“It was definitely a roller coaster. We can do a better job from that standpoint,” tight end Jason Witten said. “You got that lead, and then it’s shortened and shortened. Definitely nervous a little bit.”
* This is worth mentioning: The Chicago Bears are not good. They came into the game 5-7, and looked every bit like it. Soldier Field was dead, and once the Cowboys started to move the ball late in the quarter the game felt over.
The Cowboys were favored by 3.5 points for a reason.
This sign at the Field Museum in Chicago may as well apply to Jay Cutler, who despite his ability to throw the prettiest pass in the NFL inspires nothing.
1.) Jerry Jones did not talk to the media after a win.
2.) Jason Garrett will have a winning record for the first time in his tenure as a head coach.
3.) The Cowboys are 6-0 on the road.
* Defensive back Orlando Scandrick had a big game with some nice physical tackles in the first half, a blocked extra point, and a "game-perserving" interception in the end zone at the end.
Fellow cornerback Brandon Carr, however ... well ... no need. The man is struggling.
* Receiver Terrance Williams is still on the team, but Tony Romo did not throw his way once against the Bears. Meanwhile, Cole Beasley caught two touchdowns - one just before the end of the first half, and the second on the first drive of the third quarter.
Williams has four catches in the past four games. Beasley caught three passes against the Bears, and now has three TDs in the last three games.
This should certainly liven things up for him on Twitter, where @Bease11 is a must follow. He is unafraid of the haters.
"Those guys will find anything to pick at me for," he told me. "There will be some guys that will bash me still, but ... who cares? It's fun to interact with everybody, even when it's bad. I like to make the people that come at me feel worse."
* Middle linebacker Rolando McClain looked considerably better on Thursday against the Bears than he did one week ago against the Eagles.
He has been dealing with a knee that limited him against the Eagles, but the week off helped.
Against the Bears, he led the team with 10 tackles.
McClain has to be the leader for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award. The only question is – what did he come back from?
* Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent played for the first time in two years. He … pretty much did nothing. Brent’s playing time was limited to about 20 snaps, and he was credited with two tackles.
“It was an experience,” Brent said. “I tried not to focus too much on everything outside of it.”
Brent had not played since he 2012, when he was involved in a drunk driving accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown. Brent was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, and served jail time. He had been suspended for the Cowboys first 10 games of the season.
“I know Jerry is my gridiron angel. I’m a very blessed man and I don’t take that for granted.”
Don’t expect too much from Brent this season. He has not played in two years, is not in football shape, and these things take time.
He is signed for next season, and if Brent is going to productive it will be then. The NFL Network obviously had no idea who he was, as evidenced by this shot of a practice squad player who is not also named Josh Brent.
* Tip of the cap to former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett for his 12-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Marty B is always good for fun, and after his score he “paid homage” to Dez Bryant by throwing up the X.
Marty B is a talented freak, and a total screw off.
* One game after looking/playing scared, Tony Romo was about as good as he has been all season.
Against the Bears, he was 21 of 26 for 205 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was able to step into his throws, and move around in a way he did not against the Eagles.
He did not take a pain killing shot last week against the Eagles, but did for the Bears. He said that was a mistake, but clearly this man is in pain.
“It was a difference,” Romo said. “You are probably protecting (the back) last week but this felt good. ... Getting a full week (of rest) is a game changer and it will be that way the rest of the year.”
* UP NEXT: The Cowboys travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Sunday night football. The last time these teams met … you know what happened - the Eagles defeated the Cowboys 33-10 on Thanksgiving Day.
Proof there is a God: Another Terminator is coming. With Ahhhnuld.
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