Austin On Dallas: Murray Must Lead Path To Victory Over Saints


When spotlighting a running back and his importance to victory, naturally a huge part of that responsibility also falls on the offensive line.  Since assuming starting running back duties for the Dallas Cowboys, there are staggering statistics illustrating the importance DeMarco Murray’s involvement and effectiveness hold to securing a Cowboys victory.


Since supplanting Felix Jones as the feature back in Week 6 of the 2011 season, Murray has played 15 games in which he carried the ball a minimum of 10 times.

In 8 of those 15 games, DeMarco surpassed 80 rushing yards, and the Cowboys locked down a stellar 7-1 record.

The lone loss was a tooth and nail war with a then healthy, dominant Baltimore squad.  Dallas fell short by a mere 2 points as Dan Bailey missed an unnecessarily long 51 yard field goal in the final seconds.

With a few more yards closer for Dan Bailey to attempt that kick, the Cowboys would likely be a perfect 8-0 when Murray rushed for over 80 yards in a contest.

Conversely, Murray has recorded 7 games with at least 10 carries in which he failed to reach 80 rushing yards.  The Cowboys’ record in those 7 contests is a below average 3-4.


It’s no accident the Cowboys become very dangerous when DeMarco effectively threatens a defense and allows the Cowboys offense to stay balanced and unpredictable.  Which is exactly what Dallas will need to accomplish to outscore the explosive Saints offense.

In his NFL career with the Cowboys, DeMarco Murray has recorded 8 games in which he ran the ball 20+ times.  In those 8 games the team record is a flawless 8-0.  This precisely illustrates the extreme potency of the Dallas offense when operating as a well-balanced machine.

In contrast, Murray has started 7 games in which his total carries ranged within 10 to 19 attempts.  Of those 7 games the Cowboys’ team record is a miserable 2-5.


Facing an offense as productive and powerful as the Saints, coupled with many Cowboys defensive injuries, it’s imperative for Dallas to hold onto the ball as long as possible and limit Drew Brees’ opportunities.

Once again, the way to do this is keep DeMarco Murray involved, active, and continue to move the chains with frequency.

Of utmost importance in this game will be Dallas capitalizing with touchdowns in the red zone to cap off lengthy drives.

Frequently settling for 3 points in the red zone has been the Achilles’ heel of the Cowboys for much of the year, especially in the first half of ballgames.  A dynamic offensive team like New Orleans will not hold back while Dallas leaves points by the wayside.


If there is one defense the Cowboys offensive line and DeMarco Murray should be glad to see it is this soft Saints bunch.  New Orleans surrenders 146 yards rushing per game, at a 5 yards per carry clip.  Both of those numbers are good for second worst in the entire NFL.

At first glance it seems the Saints may have improved their run defense over the last 3 games by allowing a more reasonable 108 yards per game.

However, a closer look reveals those yards were achieved at 4.9 yards per carry, right below their season average.

Translation, opponents’ rushing yards declined due to running the ball less.  When they did travel on the ground, teams still had the same type success as was allowed all season.


The Cowboys have virtually zero margin for error these final two weeks.  With a loss in either game they are all but guaranteed to miss the postseason.

If Dallas loses to the Saints they will need the following highly unlikely outcomes to occur to make the postseason…

To Win The NFC East (with a Cowboys loss to Saints on Sunday):

Washington Redskins to lose to BOTH Philadelphia and Dallas


New York Giants to lose to EITHER Baltimore or Philadelphia

To Claim The Final Wildcard (following Cowboys loss to Saints, Redskins win over Eagles)

Dallas defeats Washington Redskins in the finale


New York Giants lose to either Baltimore or Philadelphia


Chicago Bears to lose to BOTH Arizona and Detroit


Minnesota Vikings to lose to Green Bay in their final game

To recap, a loss to the Saints all but ends the Cowboys 2012 playoff aspirations.  Which brings us back to DeMarco Murray, the offensive line, and the Cowboys run game.

Murray must carry the ball 20+ times and gain over 80 total yards to give the Cowboys their absolute best chance to win.

If they accomplish these two simple goals, DeMarco’s statistical history as a Cowboy almost guarantees he will lead his team on to victory and bury this flimsy Saints defense.

There’s little doubt Jason Garrett and Cowboys players fully realize the extra importance the running game demands in this crucial contest. The offensive balance they will utilize will play a critical role in vanquishing a resilient New Orleans effort.