IRVING, Texas (AP) — Cowboys rookie DeMarco Murray ran himself into the record books and into an appointment with Tony Dorsett on Tuesday.
His 253-yard performance against the Rams on Sunday drew a series of tweets — and a phone call — from Emmitt Smith, plus so many more calls and texts that more than 24 hours later Murray hadn’t even checked them all.
“It’s crazy,” he said Monday afternoon, stepping out of a running backs meeting and into a series of media obligations.
Murray had the kind of breakout game every player dreams of and few ever get to savor.
In his sixth NFL game, and the first he was expected to have a big role, the third-round pick from Oklahoma ran 91 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the afternoon.
It was his first career touchdown and the second-longest in franchise history. He cracked 200 yards and passed Dorsett’s best day on his 22nd carry, then a few handoffs later outran the best day by Smith, the leading rusher in NFL history, and any other Dallas player.
His total was ninth-best in NFL history, behind a list of greats such as Walter Payton and O.J. Simpson, and current stars such as Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. He also replaced Jim Brown for the most yards ever gained against the Rams, erasing a mark that had stood since 1957.
When he got home, Murray didn’t even watch it, preferring to stick with the replay in his head. After watching the game film Monday, he emerged with this review: “There were some good runs, but there are definitely a lot of things I need to clean up.”
The asterisk to Murray’s performance is that it came against the Rams, who already were ranked last in the NFL at stopping the run.
Many of the holes he ran through were so big that Dorsett or Smith might’ve racked up more than 100 yards even at their current age
and physical condition.
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So the challenge for Murray is having another strong performance, even “just” 100 yards, against a better defense. And then there’s the real hallmark of the careers of Dorsett and Smith — doing it again and again, month after month, season after season.
Smith alluded to as much in this tweet Monday: “In order to be the best, you must be consistent for a long time. Hopefully this is the start of things to come.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett hit on the same theme in his day-after review.
“I think he ran hard,” Garrett said. “He certainly made some good cuts. His vision was good and he was able to stick his foot in the ground and run through some tackles. The other thing with a guy who hasn’t carried the ball that much to carry it 25 times in a game for that many yards, to have the endurance that he had throughout the ball game. … It’s just a sign of hopefully things to come. That’s not to suggest that he’s going to have these kinds of days. But the first opportunity he got to get the ball like he got it in college, he took advantage of it. Now he’s just got to keep taking the next step week to week.”
Dallas has two other offensive players who were unheralded until having breakout performances, and have been able to keep it up: Tony Romo and Miles Austin. They were both undrafted guys from small schools. Murray has a head start by being an early round pick from a major power.
His progression from college star to NFL notable was slowed by a hamstring injury that landed him on the non-football injury list when he reported to training camp. He got into the final two preseason games, but was still the third-stringer when the season began, backing up starter Felix Jones and third-down back Tashard Choice.
A high ankle sprain left Jones in a walking boot last week, giving Murray the chance to show what he could do. Choice got the start, but that first carry changed the rotation for the rest of the day.
And maybe longer.
Garrett said he and his staff haven’t discussed their lineup for the next game, Sunday night in Philadelphia. While he wouldn’t commit to Murray being the starter, he said Murray “certainly has earned the opportunity to get the ball a lot, no question about that.”
Murray went into the game with 71 yards on the season. He came out with 324 and the team lead.
The Cowboys went into the game averaging 84.8 yards per game, 29th in the NFL. They came out averaging 119.7, up to 13th in the league.
More importantly, Dallas is 3-3, a game out of first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys also finally have at least the threat of a running game, which should help buy time for Romo and perhaps clear up room in the secondary for Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
“The game slows down when you are able to run the ball like that,” Romo said. “Defensively, there’s only so many options they have once you start running the ball like that. They have to come down and stop the run. You can’t disguise coverages, you can’t do things nearly as well. … Our football team will use that. It will be advantageous for us going forward.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)