Dallas Cowboys: Lesean Mccoy

DeMarco Murray does well late in games

October, 8, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- DeMarco Murray is off to a fantastic start to the season. He leads the NFL in rushing yards (670) and he’s on pace to set the franchise record in carries.

Coach Jason Garrett wants to limit Murray's carries as the season progresses so he won't get worn down late in the season.

Yet, there’s one other area where Murray is also doing well in, and that’s situational football.

He leads the league with 29 fourth quarter carries, Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy is second at 27. Murray is fifth with 99 fourth-quarter yards. When the Cowboys need to close out games, Murray has been just as good.

“Sure and that’s an instinctive thing, an intuitive thing for a back to have,” coach Jason Garrett said. “And I think he has that. He does that a lot. It’s not give-up football. It’s just understanding where the play is and taking care of yourself and taking care of the ball.”

On several fourth-quarter runs, when the Cowboys are trying to stretch the clock, Murray has been pushed toward the boundary and instead of going out of bounds, he’ll do a baseball slide to keep the clock moving.

Murray has never played baseball, yet it’s smart plays like these that gives Garrett confidence he’s got the right man carrying the ball late in games.

Murray has 24 rushing yards in the final two minutes of games and of those five carries, three are been for first downs, which leads the NFL.

“I think they’re giving us an opportunity to do that,” Murray said of the Cowboys’ running attack. “The offensive line is playing well. The tight ends are blocking well on the edge and like I said before Dez [Bryant] and Terrance [Williams] and Dwayne [Harris], great receivers, blocking downfield. It makes it easier for those guys when we’re running well with the play-action and things like that. I think we’re playing fine.”

Chat recap: Need vs. best player debate

May, 1, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Another lively chat Wednesday with more than 100 questions from you guys wanting to know this, that and everything about the Dallas Cowboys.


Who would be the best first-round pick for the Cowboys?


Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

In the chat we talked about:

  • The return of Anthony Spencer.
  • The chances of Johnny Manziel coming to the Cowboys.
  • The chances Kony Ealy comes to the Cowboys.
  • The Morris Claiborne "trade" talks. I put quotes around that on purpose.

  • To read the whole chat, click here.

    Let's talk about the whole 'need vs. best player' debate some more:

    Kyle from Virginia asked: With Will McClay playing a bigger role in this draft, do you see Dallas taking the best player available regardless of position more often this year or just filling their needs? I am hoping they are focusing on the long-term, not just the upcoming season.

    Here is my answer: I'm not being a wise guy here, but the answer is: Yes. We always speak in this perfect world of taking the best player available, but you have to factor in need. The key is to not make the need overwhelm the evaluation process so you're inflating a player's worth. I do believe the Cowboys look at the draft as a multi-year deal not specific to one year, but need will always play a part in the process. It just has to. You can't eliminate it.

    To elaborate, much of the draft operates in a gray area. Ideally everything is crystal clear. I'm sure in the past I've said, 'You always take the best player available.' Heck, I probably said it two weeks ago, but I'd like to add two caveats:

    You always take the best player in the first round. You always take the best player when the best player's grade is much higher than the player you are going to take.

    It's clear the Cowboys need defensive line help, though I think the signings they've had in free agency helps steer them away from reaching for a player at No. 16. If they are unable to get one of their top defensive linemen at No. 16, be it Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald or whomever, then don't reach for the next-best defensive linemen if you don't believe he is better than somebody at another position.

    That's why I've had the Cowboys taking Zack Martin in the mock drafts I've been asked about. The Cowboys look to be in no-man's land at No. 16 when it comes to the top defensive linemen. Too low for Donald and Barr. Too high for Ealy or Easley. If they trade back in the first round, then it becomes a little more palatable to take one of the lower-ranked guys.

    In 2009, the Cowboys should have drafted LeSean McCoy in the second round. They had a first-round grade on McCoy but instead of taking him they traded down to get third- and fourth-round picks from the Buffalo Bills.

    At the time the Cowboys had Marion Barber on a big-time deal and drafted Felix Jones in the first round in 2008. They also liked Tashard Choice. They probably thought they were stacking it up at the position if they took McCoy. So what? You had a chance to get a first-round player with a pick in the 50s. Do it.

    We want everything to be black and white when it comes to the draft, but it's not that easy.

    How a Jackson move would affect Cowboys

    March, 24, 2014
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- It certainly sounds as if DeSean Jackson has played his last game for the Philadelphia Eagles. What would it mean for the Dallas Cowboys?

    Jackson has had his moments against the Cowboys. In his first game against the Cowboys in 2008, he caught six passes for 110 yards and would have had a 61-yard touchdown if he hadn't dropped the ball before crossing the goal line. In 2010, he caught four passes for 210 yards and had a touchdown.

    Those are the only two 100-yard receiving games Jackson has had in the regular season against the Cowboys and that is the only touchdown he has against the Cowboys.

    In the two meetings in 2013, Jackson caught six passes for 49 yards. He has had three or fewer catches in six of the 10 regular-season meetings of NFC East rivals.

    The Cowboys might not be sad to see Jackson go -- if he goes -- but they have done a good job keeping him in check, especially Orlando Scandrick.

    Now if the Eagles wanted to get rid of LeSean McCoy, then the Cowboys would be really happy.

    Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

    February, 14, 2014
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas – Part 1 of the Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready. Part 2 comes on Saturday.

    In this post we talk about if the Dallas Cowboys would really pick Michael Sam, Will McClay's role, drafting a quarterback early and/or a wide receiver early.

    Away we go:


    All-NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

    January, 2, 2014
    AM ET
    NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

    IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had eight players on the All-NFC East team with Tony Romo being the biggest snub.

    Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles won the vote of the four NFL Nation bloggers that cover the NFC East. Foles had a terrific season taking over for Michael Vick, finishing with 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Romo also had a terrific season with 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 15 games before back surgery knocked him out of the finale.

    To the victor of the NFC East go the spoils, so Foles got the nod.

    Wide receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten, left tackle Tyron Smith and left guard Ronald Leary were named to the team. Bryant was dynamic. Witten was Witten but his opportunities were down. Smith might have had the best season of any left tackle in football. Leary’s inclusion might speak to the dearth of good offensive line play in the division. Mackenzy Bernadeau played better.

    Normally a case could be made for DeMarco Murray, but not so much in a division with LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris.

    The Cowboys had the worst ranked defense in the NFL and had two players on the division’s defensive squad. Jason Hatcher was one of the two defensive tackles after he finished with a career high 11 sacks. Sean Lee missed five games with hamstring and neck injuries but still showed he was the best middle linebacker in the division. If he can stay healthy he might be able to show he is among the best in the league.

    If there is a snub on defense it would be cornerback Orlando Scandrick. He did well versus Victor Cruz and DeSean Jackson this year and came up with the biggest play in the win at Washington when he took on Pierre Garcon for a third-down deflection. But he had only two interceptions and missed a few others.

    Dan Bailey missed only two field goal attempts on the season and was named the division’s best kicker. There should have been little doubt here. Dwayne Harris averaged 30.6 yards per kick return with a long of 90 yards and 12.8 yards per punt return with an 86-yard TD against the Redskins. He has a great feel for the return game.

    What to make of DeMarco Murray?

    January, 2, 2014
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- With the way the NFL has morphed into a passing league, finding the so-called "franchise" running back is less important.

    Unless it is Adrian Peterson or LeSean McCoy, are there any other "franchise" running backs? There are solid runners. There are teams that win with OK runners.

    Cleveland traded its 2012 first-round pick, No. 3 selection Trent Richardson, to Indianapolis during the regular season. The Colts gave up a lot to get Richardson, but he did not put up big numbers -- 458 yards, three touchdowns. A runner wasn't taken in the first round of the 2013 draft.

    The Cowboys don't have to worry about DeMarco Murray's future until 2015. A third-round pick in 2011, Murray is coming off his best season. He finished 10th in the NFL with 1,124 yards. Of the backs with 200 carries in 2013, Murray had the highest yard-per-carry average (5.2).

    After getting over a knee injury that cost him two games, Murray became a difference maker for the Cowboys down the stretch. He upset the coaches some by not gaining the extra yards, but they did not use him enough at times.

    The Cowboys are 5-6 when he does not play in his first three years. They are 11-0 when he gets at least 20 carries in a game.

    "We've always felt good about DeMarco," coach Jason Garrett said. "If you think about his rookie year, when he had opportunities to play, he played well right from the start. He made a big impact on our team. He, like some of the other guys on our team, has dealt with injuries. When he's been out of the lineup over the course of his career, we haven't played as well. When he's been in the lineup and going and playing well and feeling healthy and playing like himself, he has been a really, really effective player for us and helped our team create some of that balance we haven talking about."

    Murray's play late in the season started to alter what I thought he could be. I viewed him as just another back, one whom you could find every year in the draft. But he developed a feel for the zone scheme as the year went on, is solid as a pass catcher and can block.

    Is he the heir apparent to Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith? No. But he looks as if he could be what Julius Jones never developed into after a strong start to his career.

    I'm not sure you commit big bucks to him after next season, but he might have more value to the Cowboys than to another team.

    How do you view Murray? Is he an elite back, just below the Peterson/McCoy level? Is in an average back with one good season? Is he someone the Cowboys should lock up long term?

    Welcome to AT&T Stadium

    December, 29, 2013
    PM ET
    ARLINGTON, Texas -- Welcome to AT&T Stadium where the Cowboys can clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2009 with a win against the Philadelphia Eagles or finish 8-8 for the third straight year with a loss.

    It is the third straight season the Cowboys are playing for the NFC East title in Week 17. The bad news: They lost the first two against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. The good news: Neither has been at home.

    In Orton they trust: With Tony Romo out because of back surgery, the Cowboys will turn to Kyle Orton, who will be making his first start since the 2011 season finale with the Kansas City Chiefs. Orton has thrown 15 passes in two seasons with the Cowboys, directing two scoring drives in blowout losses to the Chicago Bears.

    Orton has experience (69 career starts), and most importantly knows what he isn’t. He will not be able to extend plays the way Romo does and will rely more on Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray to make plays for him.

    In 1990, the Cowboys needed backup Babe Laufenberg to deliver a win in the final week while subbing for an injured Troy Aikman. The Cowboys lost to the Atlanta Falcons and finished 7-9.

    “Anytime you get down to Week 17, everybody in this locker room is excited,” Orton said. “It’s a good excitement to have. It’s a good stress to have. Win and you’re in. I’m sure those guys in Philadelphia are feeling the same way. Handle your emotions. Don’t be too high for the game and go out and play great.”

    Take off the pressure: Jason Garrett often says the running game can be a quarterback’s best friend, but he has often treated the running game as a distant cousin.

    Murray is the first Cowboys rusher to have more than 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones in 2006. He has had at least 86 yards rushing in five of the last six games. He should have had three straight 100-yard games but took a 9-yard loss on his final carry against the Redskins last week to finish with 96 yards. He made up for it with the game-winning touchdown catch.

    “If they do, then great,” Murray said when asked if he would get more carries. “If they don’t, then so be it. I’m preparing like I do any other week. I’m working hard, making sure I know my assignments and knowing my keys and things of that nature, so I’ll be ready.”

    Get a stop: The Cowboys' defense has been bad for most of the year but had its shining moment against the Eagles in October.

    Dallas held Philadelphia to three points, LeSean McCoy to 55 yards rushing and Nick Foles to 80 yards passing.

    That defense had Sean Lee. The middle linebacker will not play Sunday night because of a neck injury. DeMarcus Ware did not play in the first meeting either, but he has hardly been the Ware who terrorized quarterbacks for years. On top of the nagging injuries that have bugged him most of the year, Ware hurt his elbow in Thursday’s practice and is listed as questionable.

    He said he will play, but how effective will he be?

    Pondering the 46: Down to the corners

    December, 28, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have yet to place Tony Romo on injured reserve. They really don't have the need to make the formal move just yet, so as we Ponder the 46, Romo will be one of the inactives.

    Sean Lee is out with a neck strain. Ernie Sims is doubtful but he has not practiced the last two weeks because of a groin injury. Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will also be inactive. Martez Wilson has been inactive the last two games, so he is likely to be down for his third straight game.

    That leaves one spot and with Morris Claiborne coming back from a hamstring injury, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb is in the crosshairs.

    Webb has been active for every game, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore the last few games. Maybe the Cowboys cover themselves by bringing a fifth cornerback to the game in case Claiborne aggravates his hamstring again, but they have had only four active for the season.

    Perhaps they could go lighter on the defensive line, but with LeSean McCoy running and DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jarius Wynn and George Selvie all nicked to some degree, that doesn't seem to be the wise choice.

    So the inactives will be: Romo, Lee, Sims, Weems, Hamilton, Wilson and Webb.

    Double Coverage: Eagles-Cowboys

    December, 27, 2013
    AM ET
    Kyle Orton and Nick FolesAP Photo, Getty ImagesDallas QB Kyle Orton, left, and the Eagles' Nick Foles didn't open the season as starters, but are expected to be leading their teams Sunday night with the NFC East title and a playoff berth at stake.
    IRVING, Texas -- The NFC East title is at stake Sunday at AT&T Stadium when the Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Cowboys have been in this spot for the past three seasons, but for the first time the are likely to be without quarterback Tony Romo, who sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen is not expected to play. The Eagles were not expected to be in this situation in Chip Kelly’s first season.

    ESPN.com NFL reporters Todd Archer and Phil Sheridan dissect the matchup in this week’s Double Coverage.

    Archer: Nick Foles was awful when these teams met earlier in the season. Where has that guy gone?

    Phil Sheridan: This is the great mystery of the Eagles’ season. Theories abound. Foles had been on the Eagles’ injury report the week before that with a groin injury. Was it the groin? He left the game with a concussion. Had he suffered it earlier and been affected by that? He didn’t play well in a bowl game at Arizona. Did he shrivel up in big games? Did Jerry Jones have his family tied up in a dungeon?

    It was just such an outlier of a performance from anything else he’s done this season, it seemed like there had to be some explanation. Best guess: He had a bad day. A really bad day. And he moved on from it and hasn’t let it happen again. In his next game, he threw seven touchdown passes in Oakland. He’s been outstanding since.

    We’ve heard a lot about how involved Romo has been in running the offense. How much would that change with Kyle Orton in there? And is there any way he’s ready to play at all?

    Archer: Honestly, I don’t believe it changes all that much. The scheme will be the same. What they will miss is Romo’s ability to make things up as things break down. That is not Orton’s game. The offensive line has played much better down the stretch, especially running the ball. The pass protection has been good enough, but needs to be better because Orton simply doesn’t move like Romo. But Orton has the arm strength to push the ball down the field, and his receivers like him even if they have not had much work with him. I’ll go back to 2010 when the Cowboys lost Romo to a collarbone injury and Jon Kitna took over. In the six games Kitna started and finished with Garrett as interim head coach, the Cowboys averaged more than 30 points a game. They need to have Orton trust the system the way Kitna trusted the system.

    How much credit does Chip Kelly deserve for getting the Eagles to this point? Certainly things didn't look stable when the Cowboys visited in October.

    Sheridan: Kelly deserves tons of credit. The Eagles were a smoking husk by the end of the Andy Reid era, as evidenced by their 4-12 record last season. Change was necessary, and Kelly is about as big a change as you can get. The players bought into it immediately, and they really seem to enjoy playing for him. He got a great effort from them Sunday night against the Bears, just hours after the Cowboys won and the Eagles knew they couldn’t clinch the division.

    I think two things happened to account for the rough patch the Eagles hit in October. The Giants had found some ways to disrupt the Eagles’ run-blocking scheme, and the Cowboys deployed a similar approach. Also, the quarterbacks were both terrible and injured, in that order, in back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Giants. Kelly adjusted the run blocking, Foles came back, and the Eagles are 6-1 since.

    Let me ask the flip side of the Foles question: The Cowboys didn't have DeMarcus Ware in that first game. They dominated Foles and held LeSean McCoy to 55 rushing yards. What happened to those guys?

    Archer: Injuries have happened. The Cowboys have lost Sean Lee to hamstring and neck injuries, and he’s not likely to play Sunday because of the neck. Morris Claiborne has missed six of the past seven games with a hamstring injury. He might play Sunday, but he’s not been effective when he has played. Ware has not been anywhere close to form because of a variety of injuries and just poor play. Jason Hatcher has slumped after a solid start. Brandon Carr has slumped, too. Bruce Carter has not played well. Are you sensing a trend? To me there is a huge crisis of confidence with this defense from a player and coach standpoint. I don’t know if the players trust the coaches, and I don’t know if the coaches can dial up changes to stop anybody. But they can hang their hat on that first game as they enter this one, so we won’t have to bring up Kelly’s collegiate success vs. Monte Kiffin as much.

    LeSean McCoy for MVP? It sure seems like he's perfect for what Kelly wants to do.

    Sheridan: Bears coach Marc Trestman nailed it after McCoy went for 133 rushing yards Sunday night: “I don’t think it would matter what offensive system he plays in. Chip has done a tremendous job putting his offense in, no doubt about it, but he is just a great back.”

    One of the perennial gripes about Andy Reid was that he called running plays about as often as he turned down a second helping. That was true when he had Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and McCoy. But McCoy was effective in Reid’s offense. It’s just that Kelly loves to run the ball, and his play designs reliably get McCoy into the secondary with one man to beat. And McCoy can beat almost anybody one-on-one.

    MVP? Guessing the Sportsman of the Year Peyton Manning already has his name engraved on the trophy, but McCoy certainly belongs in the conversation.

    What is the sense you get of the Cowboys' mindset? Do they see the blowout in Chicago, the collapse against Green Bay and the struggle at Washington as three bad games in a row? Or does pulling out the win Sunday give them a feeling they're back on the right track? And are they right?

    Archer: If you asked me this after the Redskins game, I would say they are riding high. It was the kind of win that can carry a team emotionally. But with the Romo news, I think that deflates them some. This team has shown a resiliency. They bounced back after tough losses to Denver, Detroit and Green Bay. I’ll give Garrett credit for that. He has a mentally tough team. He just doesn’t have a terribly talented team. Romo creates so much for this offense that they will need others to raise their games. It’s possible. They still have Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and Miles Austin on offense. That’s not a shabby group by any stretch. And Orton is smart enough to know what he isn’t. I think with the Romo news coming early in the week, it will allow them to prepare knowing he probably can’t play.


    How did Dallas D dominate Eagles?

    December, 26, 2013
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- It’s one of the biggest mysteries of the NFL season.

    How did this Dallas defense dominate that Philadelphia Eagles' offense? How did Monte Kiffin’s vulnerable bunch shut down Chip Kelly’s explosive group?

    The Cowboys rank last in defense, allowing an average of 418.6 yards per game. The Eagles average 420.7 yards of offense, ranking second in the league. Kelly’s Oregon offenses put up an average of 601 yards and 50 points in three Pac-12 matchups against Kiffin’s USC defenses.

    [+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
    Elsa/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys were able to contain LeSean McCoy in their first meeting with the Eagles this season.
    But the Cowboys limited the Eagles to 278 yards and a field goal Oct. 20 in Philadelphia, keying a 17-3 Dallas win that was critical to making Sunday night’s rematch a win-or-go-home affair.

    “We hustled and just really played well that day,” Kiffin said. “We have to do it again. They’re better now.”

    The Cowboys defense, to put it kindly, is not better now. Middle linebacker Sean Lee, whose outstanding performance against the Eagles earned him NFC defensive player of the week honors, is sidelined with a strained neck. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher hasn’t recently resembled the dominant force who wreaked havoc that afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. Cornerback Brandon Carr, who frustrated Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson (three catches, 21 yards), has been struggling.

    The Eagles offense, on the other hand, is better than ever, coming off a 54-point explosion in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears.

    It appeared on Oct. 20 that Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles, who was still considered Michael Vick’s backup at the time, was exposed. However, his poor performance (11-of-29 for 80 yards) turned out to be the exception.

    Foles has the NFL’s highest passer rating (118.8) and has thrown 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions, putting him in position to set the league record for touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has averaged a league-high 10.0 yards per attempt since looking so bad against the Cowboys, leading to some speculation about when he actually suffered the concussion that caused him to leave that game in the third quarter.

    “I felt like he just missed a couple of throws that game,” said Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who repeatedly referred to the Eagles offense as an “extreme challenge.”

    To the credit of the Cowboys’ front four, it affected Foles frequently that afternoon despite DeMarcus Ware missing the first game of his NFL career. But the Cowboys haven’t been able to generate a consistent pass rush often, ranking 31st in the league in sacks (29) and last in sack percentage (4.5).

    Defensive end George Selvie had two sacks in that Week 7 win. He’s had two sacks since.

    Hatcher had seven tackles, a sack and four pressures in that game. He has a total of seven tackles, zero sacks and five pressures in the Cowboys’ past four games.

    The consensus opinion among the Cowboys is that containing LeSean McCoy, the league’s leading rusher, was the key to their defensive dominance in Philadelphia. McCoy gained only 55 yards on 18 carries, about half his average in the rest of the Eagles’ games this season.

    “We just ran and hit and got to the football,” Hatcher said. “There’s nothing different. We’re just going to go and get after the football, contain 25 and affect the quarterback.”

    The Dallas defense did that miraculously well in Philadelphia. We’ll find out Sunday night whether that was a fluke.

    Lee might be harder to replace than Romo

    December, 25, 2013
    PM ET
    Linebacker Sean Lee's likely absence has received a tiny fraction of the attention quarterback Tony Romo's injury has, but it's arguably just as big of a blow for the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's de facto NFC East title game.

    There's no doubt that Lee made a more significant impact than Romo in the Cowboys' 17-3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season.

    Romo had a decent outing on that windy October day at Lincoln Financial Field, completing 28 of 47 passes for 317 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Lee was absolutely dominant, recording 12 tackles (one for loss), an interception, a pass broken up and a quarterback pressure to earn NFC defensive player of the week honors.

    Lee was a major reason that Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who leads the league with 1,476 rushing yards, was not a factor in that game. The Cowboys held McCoy to 55 yards on 18 carries.

    There's also a much steeper dropoff from Lee than Romo to their backups.

    The Cowboys at least have an adequate backup plan in place for Romo, who is unlikely to play due to a back injury. As Jerry Jones noted, Dallas signed Kyle Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million deal so they'd have a seasoned starter ready to go if a situation like this occurred. Orton has a 35-34 record as a starter.

    If Ernie Sims is sidelined by a strained groin for the second consecutive week, the Cowboys will be forced to start sixth-round rookie DeVonte Holloman at middle linebacker again in place of Lee, who is doubtful due to a sprained neck. Holloman's NFL experience consists of a total of eight games, playing primarily on special teams. He converted from safety in college and was drafted as a strong side linebacker, moving to the middle only after injuries to Lee, Justin Durant and Sims.

    The franchise quarterback's bad back is the biggest news at Valley Ranch this week. But the quarterback of the defense's sprained neck leaves a hole that might be even harder to fill.

    Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

    December, 22, 2013
    PM ET

    LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins:

    What it means for the Cowboys: They’re alive. For the third straight year, the Cowboys will play a Week 17 game for the right to win the NFC East and make the playoffs. Somehow.

    Trailing 23-14, the Cowboys rallied on Tony Romo's 10-yard touchdown throw to DeMarco Murray on a fourth-and-goal play with 1:08 to go. The defense was able to come up with a stop, and now the Cowboys welcome the Philadelphia Eagles to AT&T Stadium next week to try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys are 5-0 in the NFC East for the first time since 1998 and snapped a two-game losing streak.

    It was not pretty, but it will do. It also continued to show the team’s ability to bounce back from tough losses. The Cowboys did it earlier in the season against the Redskins after their 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos, and they did it after their 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions when they beat the Minnesota Vikings.

    Stock watch: Terrance Williams, rising. On the winning drive, Williams caught two passes for 66 yards, including a 51-yarder that set up Murray’s touchdown catch. Williams finished the day with four catches for 84 yards, which is his second-most in a game this season.

    Murray hits mark: It should have happened last week against the Green Bay Packers, but DeMarco Murray went over 1,000 yards on the season with a 43-yard run in the second quarter.

    Murray finished with 96 yards on 22 carries and enters the final game of the season with 1,073 yards, which is even more impressive considering he missed two games earlier in the season with a knee injury. He is the first Cowboys running back with 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones had 1,084 in 2006. Murray also had his ninth rushing touchdown of the season when he bulled his way in from the 3 on the Cowboys’ first drive. It’s the most rushing touchdowns by a Dallas back since Marion Barber had 10 in 2007.

    Oh, by the way, he scored the winning touchdown.

    Defense comes up with stops: The offense did the defense no favors by starting out the second half with turnovers on consecutive possessions that led to Washington touchdowns and a 20-14 lead.

    The Cowboys were able to overcome a bad penalty by J.J. Wilcox on a third-down play to hold Washington to a field goal, then came up with the only punt of the second half when Orlando Scandrick broke up a Kirk Cousins pass to Pierre Garcon. They also flustered Cousins into poor throws on the final drive.

    What’s next: The Cowboys close the regular season at AT&T Stadium against the Eagles. The Cowboys beat Philadelphia 17-3 on Oct. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field with what was their best defensive effort of the season. They kept LeSean McCoy in check (55 yards), limited Nick Foles to 80 yards passing before knocking him out of the game and intercepted Matt Barkley three times in the fourth quarter.

    Cowboys run D to be tested too

    November, 23, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have offered up little resistance with their pass defense. They are allowing 313 yards per game through the air, worst in the league.

    Eli Manning started it all off with 450 yards passing in the season opener with four touchdown passes. He was intercepted three times, but he has had his way with the Cowboys at times in his career.

    But part of the Giants’ resurgence lately has not been with Manning leading the way. It’s been with a ball control offense. On a conference call Wednesday Giants coach Tom Coughlin made note of how much the Giants have run the ball in their four-game winning streak: 31, 32, 38 and 24 times.

    “That’s what they used to do, run the ball and then play-action to pass it,” defensive tackle Nick Hayden said. “They’re just trying to get back to it and being balanced instead of just throwing the ball the whole time.”

    It’s not that the Giants have run it great. They are averaging fewer than 3 yards per carry, but Andre Brown, Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis can be bruising backs. The Cowboys have faced mostly shiftier backs in LeSean McCoy, Reggie Bush and Jamaal Charles.

    “Just harder to bring down guys and they can break a lot of tackles,” Hayden said. “We’ve got to be more physical.”

    And as bad as the pass defense has been, the Cowboys allowed the New Orleans Saints to rush for 242 yards in their last game.

    “We just got the details, be where we’re supposed to be at when we’re supposed to be there,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. “We’ve been playing with a lot of guys, just here and there filling guys in. We’ve been banged up, but I’m not the guy to make excuses. We’ve got to do better. We just have to go out here and concentrate on it and take it one step at a time and we’ll be OK.”

    Cowboys plan for Bush same as McCoy

    October, 24, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- Last week the Dallas Cowboys had a simple game plan for Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy: contain and corral.

    The plan remains the same this week for Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush.

    “They can get outside really quick,” defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “They can hit the hole really quick. They both have good hands. They both play on third downs. Very similar.”

    The Cowboys limited McCoy to 55 yards rushing on 18 carries and caught six passes for 26 yards.

    Bush leads the Lions with 426 yards on 98 rushes with one touchdown. He has caught 23 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns.

    “They both fall into the same category of shifty and elusive running backs coming out of the backfield,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “They move just as quick as wide receivers, so you really have to be tuned into your keys and really stay on top of your technique because if you don’t you can be exposed.”

    Coaches have learned players' strengths

    October, 22, 2013
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    IRVING, Texas -- Most of the time when teams make scheme changes the talk centers around the players getting used to the new offense or defense. Rarely is the talk about the coaches running those schemes getting used to the players.

    In the last two games the Cowboys have played more man-to-man coverage with cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne.

    It seems Monte Kiffin has learned what Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne do best.

    “We all have convictions about what wins in football, what systems we want to use, but you also have to recognize who is on your football team,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You have got to constantly remind yourself to put these players in the position where they can be successful individually and then you can be successful as a unit. When you have new players, there is a challenge to do that and a challenge to do that well, because you don’t know the player that much. But you try to teach and teach fast and teach simply, so the guy can go out there and execute.”

    Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is the father of the Tampa 2 scheme, but the Cowboys have not played that much. They have given more single-high looks with their safeties dropping down to help in the running game, especially last week facing the NFL’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles.

    That puts more burden on the cornerbacks. The Cowboys gave Carr $50 million, traded up to get Claiborne with the No. 6 pick last year, and extended Scandrick’s contract two years ago because of their ability to play man coverage.

    The Cowboys have mixed in zone looks, but Kiffin has learned to trust his cornerbacks.