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Saturday, December 10, 2011
Giants facing Murray for first time

By Matt Ehalt

The Giants have faced Tony Romo before. The same goes for Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten. For the most part, the Giants are very familiar with the Cowboys offense --- except for breakout rookie running back DeMarco Murray.

For the first time on Sunday, the Giants will face Murray, the rookie who has revitalized Dallas' run game and is a candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Murray has rushed for 872 yards and two touchdowns on the year and also has 25 catches for 177 yards.

"(He) plays hard," Linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Has good athletic ability. Understands protection schemes and those kind of things."

Over the past few seasons, the Giants have seen the likes of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice in the Cowboys backfield. This year, it's Murray's chance to shine. The third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma has run with the starting position ever since he replaced an injured Jones against St. Louis on Oct. 23.

Murray is a dual threat out of the backfield, providing speed and giving Romo an underneath option if plays don't develop down the field. With Jones now healthy and spelling him at times, it makes the Cowboys very dangerous offensively.

"DeMarco Murray coming out of college was a hell of a player," defensive end Dave Tollefson said. "He was just dinged up. You've seen him get back to that level and they're doing a great job up front, no doubt. They're blocking real well."

Stopping Murray will certainly be a challenge for a Giants rush defense that is among the worst in the league. The Giants give up 127 yards per game on the ground while Dallas is rushing for 114.8 yards per game. Just as recently as two weeks ago vs. New Orleans, the Saints rushed for 205 yards on the Giants.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he "really" likes Murray, calling him a physical runner. He said that the strong run game has made Dallas' offense more balanced and the Cowboys are doing some good things in that regard.

Tollefson said that the Cowboys offense has done a great job each week of doing whatever it needed to do to get the win, whether that be emphasizing the run or emphasizing the pass. With so many weapons on offense, Dallas can beat teams in a variety of ways.

Still, for the Giants on Sunday, stopping Murray will be a key to the game. If the rookie has a big day, it could be a long Sunday night for the visiting team.

"It gives them the ability to do things that they like to do," Kiwanuka said of how Murray changes the Cowboys offense. "They like to run the ball and throw the ball when it's necessary. You take a guy like that out, it changes up their tendencies and things they have to do. We have to understand they're going to be more effective than maybe they have been in recent weeks. As long as we do everything we're supposed to do, we should be fine."