DeMarco Murray showed last weekend that he does love to play against the St. Louis Rams as he rushed 26 times for 175 yards and added a touchdown to boot. He had a couple of runs of 30+ yards and was able to maneuver through the line of the St. Louis defense with ease. Murray had another big game against the Rams two years earlier, as a rookie he rushed for a rookie record, 253 yards from 25 carries. In two games against the team from Missouri, he has rushed for 428 yards of off 51 carries. Impressive numbers, right? Sure they are but they are only against one team that Murray seems to flourish against. How are his numbers otherwise?
If he had not played against the Rams in his rookie season, he would have had 644 yards rushing from 139 attempts out of 12 games. He would have averaged 4.6 yards per rush for that 2011 season as well as having 11.6 touches per game. In 2012, he was often injured and missed 6 games as he carried the ball for 663 yards off of 161 carries. He scored 4 touchdowns last season, 2 his rookie season, and 1 so far this season.
To break this down, he has a total career yardage of 1, 418 yards without playing the boys in blue and gold. The two games against dear, ole St. Louie account for 23% of his total rushing career. Is this a fluke? Does he just like playing the Rams? Or does this mean his numbers are going to start showing signs of a premier running back? The other question that could be posed, did Brian Waters have an effect on Murray’s performance? Waters started playing more on the offensive line this past weekend and overall, the offensive line turned in one of their better performances against the lackluster Rams.
The offensive line had 2 holding penalties throughout the game as Waters and Tyrone Smith were caught. There was another holding penalty but it was committed by the special teams unit as Brandon Carr was caught holding on a punt return. Quarterback Tony Romo was sacked once for a 7 yard loss. Other than that, the offensive line did their jobs in remarkable fashion.
The Rams are not exactly high in the defensive rankings for the NFL, so the fact that we played a porous defense didn’t help any but it does pose a question. With the improved line play, can DeMarco Murray breakout with his first 1,000 yard season? Can the play of the line help his health? And can the Cowboys finally become the balanced team that they want to be?
Murray has the potential to play up to a season worthy of 1,000 yards. At his current rushing rate, provided he stays healthy, he should rush for over 1, 250 yards based on averaging every three games he rushes for 250 yards. He would have to get at least 83 yards per game the remainder of the season. Along with that, he will have to get the carries in as well. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan will need to keep up the balanced play calling and not give up so easy on the running game if it struggles. As Murray has shown, he can run the ball it is just a matter of touches. It is the belief that Waters and the rest of the offensive line could continue to play at the level they did last Sunday. Even Doug Free managed to go penalty-less.
With a potential 1,000 yard season with an offensive line that allowed only 1 sack per game, staying atop the NFC East standings will not be so hard to do if the Cowboys can continue the consistency in not just the playing on the field but the play-calling as well. Callahan has been a proven winner as an offensive coordinator in his past, there shouldn’t be any reason for this to not to continue.
It doesn’t hurt that the defense played a good game as well. The sack-less wonder, Sam Bradford was sacked 6 times and defense was able to recover a fumble. How does this help Murray? If the defense is playing well, putting in several short defensive drives then the offense should be able to produce and play at a balanced level. Having the defense play at the level they have against the Giants and Rams will be key. They didn’t do too badly against the Chiefs and even the Giants game wasn’t exactly the best despite the 6 turnovers (face it, they still allowed New York to score 31 points).
This week they have the San Diego Chargers and from looking at the data, Murray should have another 100+ game as the bolts allow 130 yards rushing per game and 27 points per game this season. Dallas’ improved offensive line play can also allow the passing game to flourish as well. The Chargers give up 340 yards per game.
Looking ahead, Murray has the potential to breakout and finally get that 4-figure rushing season. He was close in his rookie season gaining those 897 yards in 13 games. Had he played the remaining three, he would have been the second Cowboys rookie to break a thousand. Tony Dorsett scampered for 1,007 yards in 1977 enroute to a Super Bowl XII victory. Emmitt Smith came close in his rookie stint with 937 back in 1990. Murray can be the real deal provided he remains out of the training room for any type of injury. Injuries have plagued this young athlete early in his brief career but perhaps with our line playing well and Romo able to keep drives going with good play-calling, Murray could one day be mentioned in the same whisper as Dorsett and Smith.
Watch the Cowboys this Sunday as they travel to the West Coast to play their 4th game of the season at 3:25 CST. FOX will be televising the game.