PHILADELPHIA -- DeMarco Murray is having the season LeSean McCoy was dreaming about during training camp. Murray, not McCoy, is leading the NFL in rushing. Murray, not McCoy, is on pace to make a run at 2,000 yards for the season. Murray, not McCoy, has benefited from a consistent (and healthy) offensive line.

When the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys Thursday, they hope to derail Murray's push for 2,000 yards. Doing that, they believe, will give them a chance to beat the Cowboys and take the lead in the NFC East race.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Steve Flynn/USA TODAY SportsDeMarco Murray, not LeSean McCoy, leads the NFL in rushing this season.
"It's going to be a great challenge for us," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "This is the top rusher in the NFL and they're committed to the run, so we know we have a big challenge of stopping the run game this week. And I think as the season's progressed, we've got better and better, especially the inside run. It's tough to run inside on us. "

The Cowboys rely on stretch running plays, with Murray running behind linemen and looking for a cutback lane to break a big run. It is a style of running that the Eagles have encountered several times this season, and have had some success against.

"The stretch is their No. 1 play," Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews said. "They've got counters, so we have to have our eyes right this week. Getting penetration is big, and being sound in your gaps. It's a one-cut run. That's where they get the big yards.

"DeMarco, when he gets in the open field and is able to hit the hole, that's when he's at his best. If you can get him to stop his feet and change direction, that's where you can shut him down."

The Eagles'3-4 defense has been very good against the run this season. Part of that is a side-effect of the Eagles' pass defense, which is ranked 30th in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed. If teams can throw the ball easily enough against you, there isn't much reason to run the ball.

You'd think the Cowboys would be delighted to let Tony Romo chuck the ball to Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and his other weapons. But Dallas has been much more committed to its running game this season, which is why Murray has rushed for 100 yards or more in 10 of 11 games.

"If you shut down the run, it shortens the playbook," Matthews said.

"Any offense's balance is always harder," Davis said. "When you got a one dimensional team, whether it's all run or all pass, at least schematically when you're calling a game, it's easier to just say, OK, this is what we'll do and this is what we'll stop. Those teams that commit to the run on first and second down almost always put themselves in that third-and-four or less, which makes it difficult. So the balance, the tact that they have now is a big part of why they're winning."

San Francisco's Frank Gore is the only back to top 100 yards against the Eagles this season. Green Bay's Eddie Lacy carried the ball just 10 times, but averaged 6.9 yards per carry. Other than that, the Eagles have been pretty solid against the run.

"The San Francisco game, we had issues on the edge," Davis said, "but really have kind of cleaned that up. That'll be challenged this week, because they are an edge rushing team. We're looking forward to the challenge and we'll see how we stack up."

Last year, Murray didn't play in the first game against the Eagles. In Dallas in December, he carried the ball 17 times for 48 yards. The Eagles will happily take those numbers Thursday.

Tony Romo ready for the 'mental' week

November, 25, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – Playing two games in five days will not be an issue for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Romo
Romo went through a full practice on Tuesday -- even if it was just a little bit faster than a walkthrough -- and will practice again on Wednesday as the Cowboys go through their red-zone and short-yardage plan.

“The game will be Thursday so you do everything you can to get yourself feeling at your best around 3:30 on Thursday,” Romo said. “That’s my job, and I’m going to wear out the mental side of it to get ready and to have the Eagles down cold by the time we get there.”

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The stress of the Thanksgiving week is more mental than physical. The players have not worn helmets during the two practices so far. Romo said the Cowboys used their bye week to implement some plays that could be part of the game plan this week as a way to work ahead.

Romo has fared well on Thanksgiving in his career. The Cowboys are 6-1 in his starts and has thrown 18 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.

“I mean the mental challenge is there, but I’ve played in enough Thanksgiving games to understand what is going to give you some advantages to the short week, to give you a leg up,” Romo said. “You’ve got to really grind it out. And you’ll be a little bit exhausted on the mental side of it but that’s a good thing in this sort of week.”

Cowboys respond to Eagles' trash talk

November, 25, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The trash talking has started between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles in anticipation of their Thanksgiving Day clash at AT&T Stadium.

On Monday, Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan didn't seemed impressed with the Cowboys' offensive line.

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"They’re OK," Logan told CSNPhilly. "Yeah, they’re OK. I don’t really know what’s great about them."

The Cowboys have the NFL's leading rusher in DeMarco Murray and an offensive line with three first-round draft picks, including Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith.

Starting left guard Zack Martin, the Cowboys' 2014 first-round selection, is getting consideration for the offensive rookie of the year award.

"The running back’s having a good year running, but I don’t see anything spectacular about them," Logan said. "Same offensive line we faced last year and they have one new guy. We faced them [before]. They’re OK linemen."

Cowboys center Travis Frederick, like Martin and Smith, a first-round pick, didn't take the bait.

"I'm not really a big bulletin-board guy," Frederick said after Tuesday's practice at Valley Ranch. "For me, if you can't get motivated to play a game, this is your job, this is what I do, this is what I love. I'm motivated to play every game. People say things sometimes to the media and sometimes the media spins it a little bit. It is what it is."

Frederick was made aware of Logan's comments by fans on Twitter and Murray didn't know what was said until a reporter told him about it.

"Let's find out Thursday," Murray said with a smirk.

QB snapshot: Tony Romo

November, 25, 2014
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A quick observation of quarterback Tony Romo and how he played in the Dallas Cowboys' 31-28 win in Week 12 against the New York Giants:

Romo
The Romo who played Sunday against the Giants looked a lot different from the Romo who played Nov. 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Romo moved much more freely against the Giants than he did against the Jaguars, which was his first game playing through two transverse process fractures in his back.

The Cowboys also felt more comfortable with him moving out of the pocket on designed plays. Romo said he feels better and expects to be back closer to normal in a week or two.

The challenge Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles is the quick turnaround. He has been limited in his practice work since the second week of the season as he rested and rehabbed his surgically repaired back, but there is no time for rest this week.

Romo has excelled in Thanksgiving games in the past. He has posted a 6-1 record with 2,033 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. His only defeat came in 2012 when he lost to Washington 38-31 while throwing for 441 yards on 37-of-62 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions. These Cowboys are not as pass-happy with their focus on the running game, so the burden is not as heavy on Romo to do everything.

QB snapshot: Robert Griffin III

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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A quick observation of quarterback Robert Griffin III and how he played in the Washington Redskins' 17-13 loss to the 49ers in Week 12:

Griffin
The Redskins’ passing game was a mess Sunday and part of that stemmed from Griffin. It’s tough to blame him for all the woes, however, as there were definite protection issues -- especially at both tackle spots. On a couple instances, Griffin could not step into throws. So to blame him alone for Sunday’s net 77-yard passing day would be incorrect. But when you take a struggling quarterback combined with protection issues and numerous third-and-longs (eight of 13 were at least 7 yards), it equals trouble. Major trouble.

Still, Griffin, who threw for 106 yards, rarely threw decisively except for two play-action passes over the middle. And it’s hard to say that he did anything to make the offense better Sunday. Griffin did not look like a confident quarterback in the pocket, either because he wasn’t trusting himself or because the Niners were perhaps providing looks he did not anticipate. The result was not stepping into throws more -- when he could have, that is -- and an inability to sustain drives.

It adds up to another week of questions about his development and future in Washington -- and whether he’ll even start Sunday vs. Indianapolis. Coach Jay Gruden said Monday his intent was to start Griffin, but we'll find out Wednesday if that's actually the case.

QB snapshot: Mark Sanchez

November, 25, 2014
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A quick observation of quarterback Mark Sanchez and how he played in the Philadelphia Eagles' 43-24 win in Week 12:

The Eagles lead the NFL with 27 turnovers. Take away their quarterbacks, Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez, and that number decreases to six turnovers. Foles threw 10 interceptions and lost three fumbles before breaking his collarbone in the game at Houston. Since replacing him, Sanchez has thrown six picks and lost two fumbles. He had two interception Sunday against Tennessee.

The Eagles have gone 8-3 in spite of all the turnovers. It stands to reason that in close games, turnovers will loom that much larger. So Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys would be a good time for Sanchez to cut down on the turnovers.

“You try to eliminate those, but they happen,” Sanchez said. “Am I ever going to physically throw a bad ball again? Yeah, I’m sure it will happen.”

It wasn’t a big deal against the Titans on Sunday. It will be against the Cowboys.

QB snapshot: Eli Manning

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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A quick observation of quarterback Eli Manning and how he played in the New York Giants' 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12:

Manning
 Manning was pressured on 31 percent of his dropbacks Sunday night, which is right in line with what he has faced (29.8 percent) during the Giants' six-game losing streak. The difference Sunday was in the way he handled that pressure. Manning was 7-for-11 for 61 yards and no interceptions when facing pressure Sunday, as compared with 3-for-13 for 48 yards and two interceptions the week before against San Francisco.

The pressure isn't going anywhere. Manning's next two games are on the road against Jacksonville and Tennessee, teams that rank No. 3 and 4 in sacks so far this year. The Giants' offensive line continues to struggle with consistency. Manning will have to overcome quarterback pressure and run the offense in spite of it.

Tony Romo taking part in light practice

November, 25, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The calendar might say it’s Tuesday but for the Dallas Cowboys it is a Thursday in terms of their practice schedule, which means quarterback Tony Romo will take part in a full workout.

The nature of the practices this week is light because of the quick turnaround with the Cowboys playing the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, and Romo took part in Monday’s walkthrough as well. Since the second game of the season Romo has not practiced a full week because of his surgically repaired back, but that will not be the case this week.

The only players missing from Tuesday’s practice are defensive end Jack Crawford, safety Jeff Heath, linebacker Dekoda Watson and cornerback Tyler Patmon. Crawford and Heath had surgery Tuesday morning to repair broken thumbs. Watson has a hamstring strain, and Patmon is working his way back from a sprained knee.

Wide receiver Terrance Williams is on the practice field. He suffered a fractured index finger against the New York Giants but will wear a splint and continue to play.
video Will Hill was the best player on the New York Giants' defense last year.

If you'd forgotten that, then watching Hill cover Jimmy Graham and return an interception for a touchdown Monday Night to help the Ravens beat the Saints brought it all back home for you. Hill is a special talent, and he would undoubtedly be an asset to a struggling Giants defense that's especially banged up in the secondary.

But none of that means the Giants were wrong to release Hill in June after learning of his third drug suspension in as many seasons.

"When you run a business, you have to be able to rely and depend on people to be there when you need them to perform their duties," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said at the time.

And that's it. Releasing Hill had nothing to do with the Giants' feelings about drugs, about Hill personally or about his ability to help them win their Week 12 game. It was all about the Giants deciding, with good reason, that they couldn't trust Hill to show up for work. He misses games due to a drug suspension literally every single year. His next suspension would likely be for at least a full year, if not longer. You can't keep investing time and resources and a roster spot in a player who has proven he's not going to be able to play every game.

There are players all over the league who get injured and miss games every year, and it's easy for people to understand the idea of moving on from those players because they can't get on the field. This should be even easier to understand. Hill doesn't have injury issues, which wouldn't necessarily be his fault. He has bad-life-decision issues, which are his fault and which he has shown an inability and/or unwillingness to correct.

"Will knew the situation he put the Giants in. He forced their hand," Giants safety and Hill confidant Antrel Rolle said at the time of the suspension. "For him to keep moving himself in the wrong direction is not a good thing. It's too easy to do right to keep doing wrong."

The Giants are happy to see Hill succeeding in Baltimore, where he sat out the first six games of the season after his latest suspension. They liked him as a person and loved him as a player, and no one in their building is surprised to see him playing well. But in order to get the benefits of Will Hill, you have to accept the drawbacks -- the most significant of which is the likelihood that he tests positive once again for drugs and can't play for you anymore. The Giants decided they'd had enough of assuming that risk, and just because Hill had a big game Monday Night, it doesn't mean it was the wrong decision.
In two of the past three offseasons, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III worked with Terry Shea, focusing on fundamentals of the position. Coach Jay Gruden is fine if that continues -- but there’s a limit to how it can help for an obvious reason.

And, Gruden said, the answer is that sometimes less is more.

“Sometimes, when you have too many voices in your head, you think about too much,” Gruden said. “We need to get him to think about less and just play, have some fun playing and be a little more decisive with his reads and his progressions and getting the ball out of his hand and not taking some of these sacks.

“It’s just part of the process. Sometimes you think too much, and it makes you less decisive. We’ve just got to get him to be more comfortable and more decisive and good things will happen.”

Griffin worked with Shea leading up to the 2012 draft and then again last offseason, spending a week with him before offseason workouts began and then again before training camp. They focused more on where he held the ball, his base and his footwork -- trying to get his feet lined up with his eyes.

But there’s a difference between working on those mechanics and then fitting them into the offense.

“I know Terry is a good quarterback coach, but as far as system is concerned, he doesn’t know what we’re doing as far as footwork and fundamentals and all that stuff for each given concept of each play,” Gruden said. “As far as balance and his lead foot, his arm -- where he puts the ball, where he holds the ball, all that stuff that he can work with in the offseason -- that’s great if he wants a quarterback coach to work with him. I have no problem with him doing that. But during the season, we have enough coaches in house that can handle his fundamentals and his footwork and his decision making.”
IRVING, Texas -- How good has DeMarco Murray's season been?

Murray
He can rush for 121 yards on 24 carries and it gets lost in the shuffle of the Dallas Cowboys' 31-28 win against the New York Giants.

"I thought he was fantastic," coach Jason Garrett said. "It starts with the offensive line. They blocked very well, but to be able to run the football as well as he's run the football week in and week out, against a lot of eight-man type fronts where they're trying to defend the run, I just think is really, really good stuff. He was physical throughout. Sometimes you get some gaudy numbers running the football because you make some big runs. He had a couple of explosive runs for us, but for the most part it was a grinder. That's really to me, when you're evaluating a back, that's when it gets most impressive. He's had a number of those kind of games where a lot of dirty runs, a lot of five, six, seven yard runs where he's finishing forward. He just did a lot of positive things in allowing us to control the football, make some first downs and really control a lot of the game."

And yet Murray wasn't completely pleased Sunday.

"I definitely felt like I was rusty," Murray said, adding, "I may have missed a few things here and there, but we'll watch the film and get it corrected and see where we go."

Murray entered the season seven games of at least 120 rushing yards in his career. He has six this season. He has recorded at least 100 yards in 10 of the Cowboys' 11 games. He is now third in team history with 17 career 100-yard games, trailing only Emmitt Smith (76) and Tony Dorsett (43).

His 1,354 yards are ninth-most in franchise history. He is on pace for 1,970 yards, which would be a franchise record. Smith had 1,773 yards in 1995. He needs one more 100-yard game to equal Smith's team record for most in a single season.

"I like the word patience better than pace," Garrett said. "Pace kind of suggests that he's pacing himself. But great runners have patience. They have great vision and they have patience. There's a ton of expressions that have been used through the years, slow to the hole, fast through the hole. You're always kind of working on coordinating the runner with the line blocking and the scheme and the timing of that, his depth, his steps, all of those things. And allowing plays to develop is a big part of being a good runner. The best runners I've been around, they kind of see things and ‘Hah!' and they go. And he certainly has those traits."
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys beat the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 23, 2003, Bill Parcells made a memorable statement at his postgame news conference:

“You can’t call them losers anymore,” said an emotional Parcells after the Cowboys picked up their eighth win of that season, “because they’re something else now.”

On Nov. 23, 2014, the Cowboys beat the New York Giants for their eighth win of the season, but there were no bold proclamations Sunday night.

These Cowboys have gone 8-8 in each of the previous three seasons. The bulk of those Cowboys teams under Parcells endured three straight 5-11 seasons.

The Cowboys haven’t won more than eight games in a season since 2009, which just so happens to be the last time they made the playoffs. They finished 11-5 that season and won a playoff game.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones hopes there is some motivation to get that ninth win Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“It’s enough [motivation] just to go down and beat Philadelphia,” Jones said Sunday. “They’ve been a big nemesis for us for many years. But if we needed any, it would be nice to break eight.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, this is only the third time the Eagles and Cowboys will meet when both teams are at least five games above .500. The Cowboys won the previous two meetings: Week 17 in 2009 and Week 16 in 1980.

“Certainly it’s an important game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s a division game. We have the same record. There’s significance to that. And you heard me say this before: You play 16 games, and each one is critical. Every game that you play is the most important game you’re playing because it’s the one you’re involved in, so this is the most important game of the year up to this point. Just like [Sunday] night’s was the most important game.”
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III certainly listened to what Jay Gruden said about worrying about his own game -- and not saying too much. Once upon a time, like a little more than a week ago, Griffin often was expansive with his answers.

But that could get him in trouble at times, too, with words being misconstrued or taken improperly or sometimes just going to a place his coach didn't want him to go.

After Sunday's 17-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Griffin was mindful of his words, avoiding the sort of headlines that would pop up in the past. In some ways it was more of a Derek Jeter-type performance: say something without saying a whole lot. It's a strategy that might not make headline writers happy, but it's the route Griffin needs to go -- at least for now. The only headlines his coaches would like to see him make now involve his performance and a win. Problem is, in his last 17 full games, his record is 3-14.

Here's some of what he had to say:

On the Redskins' third-down struggles: "We just have to find ways to generate plays for our receivers down the field and I have to find ways to make it happen. I have to play better and find ways to make those big plays happen no matter what's going on."

On taking a lot of hits: "I feel fine. There's one thing we're not going to do and that's quit. No matter how grim it might look or whatever's being said, we're going to stay positive. We're going to go back, watch the tape and try to get better. Trust the process, trust what we're doing, trust what [coach Jay Gruden] is doing. We did that today. We just couldn't get it done down the stretch."

On two failed drives in the last three minutes of the game: "We just have to make it happen. We'll go back, watch the tape, look at it. Aside from that I'm not going to speculate on what happened or anything like that. Just have to be better. We will be -- I believe that. I believe in those guys in that locker room."

On whether he felt pressure after the past week: "No. I felt like you go out each week and you try to hammer in the game plan, whether it be the running game or passing game, and then be the best you can be at it and show coach that you're doing everything he's asking you to do, and take care of your house. Take care of your house so that when you look at it on tape, you can say, 'All right, this is where I need to be better, this is what I did well.' I think all the guys will do that. We're not down, we're not out."

On the sack-fumble at the end: "I'm going to watch the tape. Justin Smith is a great player. Aldon Smith is a great player and they have many great players on their defense. They played well and it just so happened that they played better than we did today. We'll figure out why that was and fix it."
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are expected to be without safety Jeff Heath and defensive lineman Jack Crawford on Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles because of upcoming thumb surgeries.

Crawford
Heath
Heath and Crawford are scheduled to each have surgery on Tuesday morning, but the injuries are not expected to be season-ending. Heath would not rule out playing Thursday but admitted it is a long shot. Crawford's absence would open up a spot on the defensive line for Terrell McClain or Josh Brent to play against the Eagles. They were inactive in Sunday’s win against the New York Giants.

Heath suffered his injury in the first half against the Giants and played one snap in the second half before coming out for good. With Barry Church cramping late in the game and Heath out, C.J. Spillman saw time with the first-team defense.

Coach Jason Garrett said wide receiver Terrance Williams fractured the tip of his index finger and will play with a splint. Garrett did not anticipate it being a problem for Williams in catching the ball. Officially Williams was listed as not practicing, but he did do some drills during the portion of practice that was open to the media.

Officially, Tony Romo was listed as not having participated in practice, but he was on the field during the portion of practice open to the media. Tyler Patmon (knee) and Dekoda Watson (hamstring) also did not practice. Josh Brent (groin), Tyrone Crawford (knee), Doug Free (foot), Nick Hayden (shoulder) and Rolando McClain (knee) were listed as full participants.

Heath saw time in the dime defense against the Giants before the injury. His absence should put Jakar Hamilton on the game-day roster for the first time this season.

"It's a setback," said Heath, who is second on the team in special teams' tackles with eight, "and that kind of sucks, but I’m pretty confident I’ll be back soon."

The Washington Redskins placed linebacker Adam Hayward, their special teams captain, on injured reserve and promoted linebacker Steve Beauharnais off the practice squad. And there's a chance corner Tracy Porter, who injured his shoulder in Sunday's loss to San Francisco, could have a "lengthy" absence, coach Jay Gruden said.

Hayward
Meanwhile, Gruden said he has "high hopes" that left tackle Trent Williams will return for Sunday's game at Indianapolis after spraining his right MCL the previous week. Williams sat out Sunday's 17-13 loss at San Francisco. If he can't play, then rookie Morgan Moses would make his second straight start.

Corner E.J. Biggers will undergo the concussion protocol. Tight end Jordan Reed is day to day with a strained right hamstring. Nose tackle Chris Baker also is day to day with a sternum injury. Corner Greg Ducre suffered a hip contusion Sunday.

Porter sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder in the first half Sunday.

As for Beauharnais, who played collegiately at Rutgers, he was drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL draft. When he played, it was primarily on special teams. He was considered suspect in coverage and, at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he's not the biggest guy. But he was known for his smarts with the Patriots.

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