ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys finally broke their string of narrow finishes. All it took was giving the ball to rookie DeMarco Murray and letting him run over the Rams’ shoddy defense.
In his first extended playing time, Murray ran for a franchise-record 253 yards, including an early 91-yard touchdown that got the Cowboys started toward a 34-7 victory on Sunday.
Murray – a third-round pick bumped up in the rotation because of an injury to starter Felix Jones – topped the best single-game performances by NFL rushing king Emmitt Smith and fellow Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett. It’s also the ninth highest total in NFL history, and the most rushing yards by anyone in the NFL this season.
Murray’s TD was the second-longest in team history, topped only by an NFL-record 99-yarder by Dorsett in January 1983.
As impressive as Murray’s performance was, it came against the Rams, who fell to 0-6 and came in with the NFL’s worst defense against the run, allowing 163 yards per game. There were so many holes that when Murray went out with an injury, fourth-stringer Phillip Tanner finished that drive with 35 yards on four carries, including a 6-yard TD run.
For the local fans, it was a terrific start to a baseball-football doubleheader between teams from Dallas-Fort Worth and St. Louis. Game 4 of the World Series began just down the street less than an hour after this game ended. Josh Hamilton of the Rangers and Lance Berkman of the Cardinals showed up in uniform as honorary captains for the pregame coin toss.
Dallas (3-3) never trailed on its way to ending a two-game losing streak. This was the first non-nail-biter of the year, too, ending a streak of 11 straight games decided by four points or less. There also was no reason for team owner Jerry Jones to question coach Jason Garrett’s play-calling – except maybe asking why Murray hasn’t gotten the ball more this season.
The 91-yard burst came on his first carry, on a drive that saw the Cowboys starting from their 2-yard line after Bryant decided to let a punt land and roll toward the end zone.
Murray went through a giant hole opened in part by new starting left guard Montrae Holland, who was unemployed until signing Tuesday, cut through an attempted ankle tackle, then outran a defensive back. It was a heck of a way to score the first touchdown of his career, and it more than doubled his career rushing total of 71 coming into the game.
In the fourth quarter, Murray might’ve had a 70-yard TD, but fell down after 43 because of what appeared to be an injury. His form was off and he went down on his own. Still, that was the run that pushed him past Smith’s record of 237 set Oct. 31, 1993, at Philadelphia.
He finished with 25 carries and an average of 10.1 yards. Dallas ran for 294 yards overall, which will spike a season average of 84.8 that had been among the league’s worst.
The Rams were the perfect foe for the Cowboys to cure all that ailed them. In addition to their trouble stopping the run, they were without quarterback Sam Bradford and were averaging the fewest points in the league even with him.
A.J. Feeley made his first start since 2007 and was 20 of 33 for 196 yards with one interception and one sack. But the offense gained only 4 yards in the third quarter, and had only one two good drives. The first ended in a 6-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson that got St. Louis within 14-7. The other ended with a fourth-and-goal from the 1 that was stuffed in the final minutes.
Jackson finished with 70 yards, 46 coming on the touchdown drive.
Brandon Lloyd caught six passes for 74 yards in his St. Louis debut. He was acquired from Denver earlier this week.
St. Louis also saw right tackle Jason Smith and backup defensive tackle Darell Scott carted off with head injuries.
Dallas’ Tony Romo was 14 of 24 for 166 yards, with two touchdowns. He didn’t have to throw much because the running game was doing so well. However, he hit receiver Dez Bryant for four passes and a touchdown in the second half, which was significant because they’d hooked up for only two passes after halftime all season. His other TD throw went to tight end Jason Witten.
Copyright Associated Press