NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

DeMarco Murray says he feels great

November, 26, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was a smash in the first eight games of the 2014 season.

Murray
He led the NFL in yards (1,054) and carries (206) and tied for the league lead in touchdowns (seven) the first eight games. Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy (161 carries) and Houston's Arian Foster (766 yards) were the closest to Murray in these categories.

The Cowboys cooled down Murray's carries in the second half of the season. While he still leads the NFL in overall rushing yards, he's fifth in the league with 300 rushing yards the last three weeks and his 62 carries are second to only Chicago's Matt Forte (66) in the same time span.

Does this mean Murray is getting tired?

Does it mean Murray is getting limited carries because the team doesn't want to wear him down?

Murray believes he's getting stronger as the season progresses.

"I feel great," Murray said. "As the year goes on you feel better and I definitely feel like I've gotten stronger throughout the year and I got to continue to work hard during the week and continue to show up on Sundays."

In the last four weeks, Murray has three games where had 19 carries, but he produced four games of 25 or more carries in the seven weeks before that. As the weather gets colder and games become closer, especially with three division games remaining, the Cowboys might rely on Murray more.

The question is can he handle it?

Upon Further Review: Cowboys make second half adjustments

November, 24, 2014
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After the Cowboys dramatic 31-28 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night, we review it in our weekly Upon Further Review.

Church
  1. The Cowboys’ defense performed badly in the first half the Giants. It allowed scores on the first three possessions of the game. Things changed in the second half, and that’s probably the difference in the Cowboys’ victory. Yes, the defense, overall, looked sloppy particularly in the secondary giving you concern about the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense on Thanksgiving Day. But the Cowboys defense kept the Giants in check in the final 30 minutes with two three-and-outs to start the third quarter, and the Giants didn’t even score again until 3:00 remained in the game. Of the six second-half possessions, the Giants scored once, turned the ball over, a Barry Church interception at the Cowboys’ 3 and turned the ball over on downs when middle linebacker Rolando McClain stopped Rashad Jennings short of the marker on fourth down to clinch the victory. The pass rush could have been better, secondary too, but when it counted, the defense made the necessary plays to win the game.

Beasley
 2. Cole Beasley is one of those underutilized players for the Cowboys. Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten get the hype because, well let’s be honest, they’re playmakers for Tony Romo. So is Beasley in a small way. He had just two catches on the night and each was big. His 45-yard catch and run for a score in the third quarter cut the Giants' lead to 21-17. Beasley, a slot receiver who uses his small frame, 5-foot-8 to and speed to slice through defenses, also made a 21-yard catch in the fourth quarter. Beasley’s grab moved the Cowboys from their 43 into Giants territory on the game-clinching drive. Sometimes it’s not about the big plays made in a game, the small ones, such as Beasley’s two catches, that helps teams win games.

Mincey
 3. When you review the offseason moves by the Cowboys, defensive end Jeremy Mincey and McClain appear to be the smartest decisions made by the front office. McClain had 11 tackles, 10 solo along with two tackles for loss, in the victory. Mincey had four tackles, two solo, one sack and two quarterback hits. McClain continues to be the glue for this defense with his hard hits and smart plays. Tyrone Crawford is probably the best young defensive linemen on the team and Henry Melton had a recent surge of solid play, but Mincey has played consistently well at a high level for the majority of the season.

Cowboys remember when Jason Garrett took over

November, 21, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- When Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips as head coach in the middle of the 2010 season, the Dallas Cowboys were a mess.

A 45-7 loss at Green Bay the previous week forced owner Jerry Jones to do something he never wanted to do: fire a coach during the season.

So in came Garrett, then the offensive coordinator, who was faced with taking on the New York Giants on the road in his first game.

The interim head coach wanted to change the culture around Valley Ranch, everything from dress codes to the approach. And the result, at least that day in East Rutherford. New Jersey worked.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsJason Garrett has changed the culture of the Cowboys since taking over as their coach.
 The Cowboys beat the Giants, 33-20, for Garrett's first victory.

"I remember we had a really good team, and we weren't winning," defensive end Anthony Spencer said of the time. "We needed a win. I loved Wade and the year before we went to the playoffs. But things just didn't work out for us the next year."

Many players didn't really know Garrett.

To deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur, Garrett was simply known for the color of his hair.

"Just knew him as Red and he was the quarterbacks coach, calling plays and then he goes by Coach Garrett," Ladouceur said. "Different freaking business now. I think he was overwhelmed, too I think every coach is thrown into it. It's like any job, you got to be a rookie at some point and you got to learn and learn on the fly, which as a NFL head coach, is even harder because you're scrutinized like crazy. But where we've been and where we're going and the way he's been handling [things] I think he's been doing a good job."

Of course, Garrett became the head coach permanently, and the Cowboys have finished the past three seasons at 8-8, missing a postseason berth with a loss in the regular-season finale.

Sunday night, Garrett takes his Cowboys, tied for first in the NFC East into MetLife Stadium again, to take on the Giants nearly four years since he became the coach.

A victory would give Garrett eight wins for the fourth consecutive season, and it would be the first time he's led a team to it's eight before December in his career. In the past three seasons, the Cowboys didn't earn it's eight victory until mid or late December.

Reaching eight victories now could fuel discussions the Cowboys might finally end their four-year playoff drought.

The players have brought into Garrett's one-game-at-a-time mantra. There are awards for scout team players, sayings posted on the walls of the practice facility about doing your job/not giving up and remaining focus on the task at hand.

Garrett has changed things from the hard nosed old-school approach of Bill Parcells and grandfatherly ways of Phillips, to how the Cowboys' did things in the 90s, when they won three Super Bowls.

Popular players such as outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware were released to make way for younger players.

“Well, we knew we had to make some hard decisions from the outset, and we had to make some decisions to move on from some players who had been cornerstone players for us and then get new players in here and along the way you have to compete. So that’s what we tried to do," Garrett said.

Along the way, they found a dominant running attack, which they have with DeMarco Murray who leads the league in rushing, and a young, hungry offensive line. The Cowboys invested three first round picks on linemen and changed the defense from a 3-4 to the 4-3, led by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli who demands his players hustle.

It's all changed for the better.

"My honest opinion, I’m just speaking on our personnel relationship, I didn’t too much understand his mindset because he went to Princeton, I’m from this small, country town [Lufkin, Texas], I didn’t understand his whole type of structure," wide receiver Dez Bryant said. "I used to always think, coach, he’s always on me, he’s always on me. I guess as I grew, he didn’t treat me no different as he treated the rest of the players. He seen a lot of potential in me, and I took that as he believed in me, so it was my job to show him what he want me to be or better, and I think he does an outstanding job with us. He don’t BS around with us. He lets us know the truth."

The truth is the Cowboys have a chance to do something for themselves in the next few weeks with a win on Sunday night. But it all started that windy day at MetLife when Garrett took over the Cowboys.

Cowboys prepare for Eli Manning

November, 20, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Anthony Spencer had to make sure he was hearing it correctly: Eli Manning threw five interceptions last week in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Manning
It was the second time Manning had thrown five interceptions, yet Spencer and several other Dallas Cowboys said the New York Giants quarterback remains a dangerous man.

“He had five interceptions?” said Spencer. “We’re not worried about what they do, we’re just worried about what we do and we have to affect him any way we can.”

In his career, Manning is 10-10 against his NFC East rival and has thrown more touchdowns (41) and interceptions (22) against the Cowboys than any other team.

Manning threw three touchdowns in the first meeting between the teams this season, a 31-21 Cowboys victory at AT&T Stadium.

He didn’t have receiver Victor Cruz in that game because he was nursing an injury and he won’t have him again this week since Cruz is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery.

He does have rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who cornerback Orlando Scandrick said is getting better each week.

With the Giants' season withering away less than two months from the close of the season, the Cowboys expect a proud Manning to rebound from his difficult game the previous week.

“Eli, he won two Super Bowls, the guy can play,” Scandrick said. “Last week was unfortunate, he had a tipped ball, missed a couple of throws, but Eli can play.”

Added Jason Garrett: "Well, he’s just a really good player and has been for a long time. When you play that position in this league, you’re going to have some games where it doesn’t go your way and he’s proven throughout his career that he always comes back.”

DeMarco Murray will see box stacked

November, 3, 2014
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The future of Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray will have six- and seven-man fronts.

It comes with the territory when you're the NFL's leading rusher. Murray finished with 79 yards on 19 carries in Sunday's 28-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Murray
Murray had to grind for his 4.2 yards per carry and failed to get one yard on a key fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.

Yet, if the Cowboys are going to rely on him in the big picture of things, they must find a way to get running lanes open for him. Sunday against the Cardinals, Murray didn't have quarterback Tony Romo (back) and two starters, left guard Ronald Leary (groin) and tackle Doug Free (foot).

If defenses try to stop Murray, they have to contend with Romo. But Arizona didn't care for his replacement, Brandon Weeden.

"It's probably the first time we [have] seen it and it probably won't be the last," Murray said of seeing seven- and eight-man defensive fronts.

Murray had just nine carries in the first half but the Cowboys went back toward him in the third quarter with eight touches, and with the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter the Cowboys had to throw the ball.

"Receivers get more catches they get into a rhythm and a quarterback throws more he gets into a rhythm and it goes on," Murray said. "As for myself and the offense line, it was hard to run the ball against those guys with 10 guys in the box. We need to make more plays."

It will get harder as the season progresses.

"We play great defense against the run and because we do have corners who can play man-to-man, we can put eight guys up there or seven up there," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "And our defensive line is penetrating, not sitting back and catching."

Cowboys' D needs to make more plays

November, 2, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brandon Carr sat at his locker trying to find the words to describe his feelings. The Dallas Cowboys' cornerback was in full uniform as his teammates were pulling theirs off. He was searching for answers.

"Frustrated, but a little adversity is nothing we haven't been through before," Carr said after the Cowboys' 28-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. "We have to pick our heads up. We got a business trip coming up (to London to take on Jacksonville) and it's an opportunity to end this sked."

The Cowboys' defense has struggled during this two-game losing streak. On Sunday, Arizona was a perfect four-for-four in the red zone, and all this from a team that entered Week 9 with the NFL's second-worst red zone percentage at 42.1 percent.

There were other questions about the Cowboys' defense such as its failure to get opposing offenses off the field on third down. Arizona converted 60 percent of its third-down plays, the second-highest against the Cowboys' defense this season.

Melton
Quarterback Carson Palmer got passes off with defenders at his feet, inches from the Cowboys pulling him down in the back and basically on his face. Palmer completed 22 of 34 passes for 249 yards with three touchdowns. Yes, he was sacked three times, twice by Henry Melton, who has four the past two weeks, and the defense was credited with nine quarterback hurries.

"We were out there a lot," Melton said. "I don't know the play count, it seemed like a lot. We're not the only defense that plays a lot of snaps in game, but once you're out there you got to get it done."

The Cowboys' defense was on the field for 65 plays, the third most this season. Arizona controlled the clock with an efficient run game, 102 yards, and Palmer's passing to eat up 31:28. That's not even close to Washington's time of possession last week of 38:12.

With the Cowboys using a rotation of linemen, which also included the return of rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, guys should be fresher.

Larry Fitzgerald, one of the great receivers of his generation, had five catches for 70 yards, which included a 31-yard reception off a pick-play against Orlando Scandrick.

Palmer completed passes to eight different players and out of 29 carries, the run game averaged 3.5 yards.

"We ain't do enough to win," Scandrick said. "It's a good football team over there. They do a lot of stuff; a veteran quarterback, a veteran receiver, arguably a Hall of Fame receiver, they made plays."

The Cowboys lost starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain and starting defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford to knee injuries in the fourth quarter, and the injuries raises concerns about their availability for London.

Scandrick
The Cowboys' defense has always been this mysterious deal since the start of the season because the expectations were low. Losing DeMarcus Ware and the lack of confidence in the secondary were the main reasons and nobody knew where the pass rush was coming from.

We've seen improved play from Melton the past two weeks, but we need to see more from other players. Rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was pretty active in his first game of the season, producing two tackles and almost sacking Palmer.

Yet, the common theme around here was frustration and a lack of progress. It's like the Cowboys have been stagnated after their 6-1 start.

"We're frustrated but we got 24 hours to be frustrated and stop the ceiling from falling," Scandrick said. "We need to go over the London and get a W. We need a win in the worst way."

The future of Sean Lee is at weakside linebacker

October, 31, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Outside of talking about the status of quarterback Tony Romo, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones discussed a potential position change for one of his best players: Sean Lee.

Lee
 Jones, speaking to 105.3 The Fan on Friday said Lee, the Cowboys' starting middle linebacker, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, could change positions.

Jones said Lee could move to weakside linebacker, a spot where Justin Durant, who is now out for the season with a torn biceps muscle, played.

"That's really going to be hard," Jones said of losing Durant. "That's quite a loss for us, he plays a key spot, that weakside linebacker in what [defensive coordinator] Rod Marinelli and [assistant head coach/defense] Monte Kiffin want to do with this system. It's probably likely, and we're probably getting ahead of ourselves but it's where Sean Lee will end up. That's when you got a guy who can play that way, he becomes next to what they call the three-technique or quick tackle on your defensive front, your pressure player, that guy comes right there with him as an important player."

The thinking of moving Lee, who has yet to finish a 16-game season due to injuries, allows him to take on fewer blockers by playing the weakside.

At middle linebacker, he faces guards and centers on nearly every play. With Lee out for the season, the Cowboys have started Rolando McClain at that position, but he's retired twice in his career and prior to this season, there was concern about his commitment to the game.

After the solid start to the season, McClain's commitment hasn't been an issue, still the Cowboys have to be cautious regarding the middle linebacker position if Lee doesn't start there in 2015.

Of course, the team could move Anthony Hitchens to that spot, and he's performed at all three linebacker positions this year. Durant's solid season and now his loss, in addition to how McClain is playing, raises some interesting questions.

"Durant has been that for us and to a lot of peoples surprise, he's really come onto his own," Jones said on 105.3. "Having said all that, we're going to miss him. He had his best game ever last week as you read about and heard about. We're going to not be able to replace him heads up."

Rolando McClain returns to practice

October, 30, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session with a sore shoulder.

 Quarterback Tony Romo (back), left guard Ronald Leary (groin) and tackle Doug Free (foot) missed practice.

The Cowboys, preparing for the Arizona Cardinals on a short week, didn't practice in helmets on Wednesday but did so on Thursday.

Also, suspended defensive tackle Josh Brent practiced for the first time.

He saw limited work on Wednesday but was able to get scout team action Thursday.

Henry Melton coming off his best game

October, 29, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys defensive tackle Henry Melton enters Sunday's game against Arizona coming off one of his best games of the season.

Melton had two sacks, three tackles for loss and was credited with two quarterback hurries in Monday's overtime loss to Washington. Melton, who plays defensive tackle, was moved to defensive end on several plays against the Redskins to create some mismatches.

Melton
"It felt pretty good and I was moving around a little bit to trying to give me better looks and I was in position to make some plays," Melton said. "It felt good. It was something we looked at and said we were going to try and do in the game. I did it in practice a little bit and it transferred a little bit to the game."

This isn't the first time Melton was moved to end during a game. When Melton played for the Chicago Bears, then-defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, moved him around the defensive line to maximize his potential.

Melton was signed to become a starter at defensive tackle, but he's coming off the bench behind Tyrone Crawford. Melton was coming along slowly after his recovery from a torn ACL yet he's generating more pressures the past few weeks.

In addition to his two sacks, the first multi-sack game since the 2012 season opener, Melton has five quarterback pressures the last three weeks. If his health continues to improve the Cowboys expect him to have a bigger impact.

"It's an ongoing process," Melton said. "We'll see keeping my reps up and still working through it week-to-week. It felt pretty good."

Justin Durant most likely out for the season

October, 28, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- An MRI exam confirmed a torn bicep in Cowboys weakside linebacker Justin Durant's right arm.

Durant
Durant suffered the injury in the second half of the Cowboys overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

After the game, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Durant was out for the season. Tuesday coach Jason Garrett, as his custom, wouldn't rule out a possible return for Durant but it's doubtful he'll play the rest of this season.

There have been incidences where players didn't go on season-ending injured reserve and recovered from a torn biceps which included former Cowboys' linebacker Ken Norton Jr., and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis torn his triceps in a game against the Cowboys in 2012.

Cowboys guard Brian Waters tore his triceps last season but couldn't return.

"It’s a serious injury," Garrett said of Durant. "We’ve got to see the extent of it. There are degrees to tearing a bicep. It’s a serious injury and we’re going to sort out how severe it is, what degree it is and sort out what the options are and then make our best decision."

Based on the coaches statistics, Durant leads the team with 61 total tackles and is tied with Rolando McClain with four tackles for loss.

"He played really well," Garrett said of Durant. "He was really active in the game, around the ball a lot. He played really well and take a player like that out, he makes a big difference. But the first play Kyle Wilber is in there, he makes the tackle for a one-or-two-yard gain. Those guys have played before and understand what their roles are to go in there and function. I thought he did a pretty good job."

Also starting left guard Ronald Leary suffered a pulled groin muscle late in regulation and was replaced by Mackenzy Bernadeau. Leary's playing status for Sundays game against Arizona is unknown.

Dez Bryant: 'We let this one slip away'

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys best receiving threat was slowed down Monday night.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant finished with three catches for a season-low 30 yards and one touchdown in the 20-17 overtime loss to Washington. Bryant was targeted just twice in the third quarter, none in the fourth and once in overtime.

There were two plays Bryant should have made that appeared to be drops, including one in the end zone yet Washington doubled him with tight coverage from a cornerback and then used a safety over the top to prevent deep throws for a majority of the game.

The coverages Bryant faced Monday isn’t something new, just part of the deal that comes with being one of the playmakers on offense.

Bryant
Bryant
“Shading a little bit,” Bryant said of the safeties who were near him. “A little bit of [zone] and they did a good job.”

Normally when defenses employ tight coverages on Bryant it opens things for receiver Terrance Williams and tight end Jason Witten. Those two combined for 11 catches and 139 yards and one touchdown. According to ESPN's Stats and Information, the Redskins tied a season-high by sending five or more pass rushers on 60 percent of dropbacks against the Cowboys.

Yet with more defenders coming at quarterback Tony Romo it should have cleared things for Bryant one on one.

"We moved him around some," coach Jason Garrett said of Bryant."He made some plays in the game and obviously you get used to him making a ton of plays and making a huge difference."

Bryant's second-quarter touchdown catch was just amazing. He caught a short pass behind the line of scrimmage with one hand. The tip of the ball landed in the cup of his hand and after shaking a defender he carried safety Ryan Clark into the end zone.

Bryant didn't want to talk about the touchdown catch, instead focusing on the loss.

Garrett called the touchdown catch amazing.

"To make the catch that he made and then get in the end zone, it was a pretty special play," Garrett said. "But he gets a lot of attention and he always gets a lot of attention. He's got to fight through it."

On the final play of the game, Bryant was doubled and was able to scramble free with Romo moving out of the pocket.

Bryant was open for a moment near the Cowboys’ sideline but Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland stepped in front to knock the pass away.

“We let this one slip away,” Bryant said. “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror. As a team, we let one slip away. I’m scrambling and trying to get open and try to give him a target, guy did a good job on the ball.”

Cowboys defense struggles

October, 28, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the Cowboys defense, this isn't about the statistics.

Monday night, against a third-string quarterback, at home, the Cowboys defense failed in critical moments of the game.

Washington was able to beat Dallas 20-17 in overtime and continue a wacky trend in the NFC that had three quality teams -- Philadelphia, Green Bay and Dallas -- all losing this week.

"I had a simple message for us before the game. [It] was to get it done," cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. "We didn't get it done today. We made too many mistakes, and it don't matter what a team's record is, there's too much talent around this league. We made too many mistakes, and we just didn't get it done."

The Cowboys defense failed to respond when quarterback Tony Romo went down with a back contusion in the third quarter. When it was time for the Cowboys defense to make quality plays, it instead allowed the Redskins to score the go-ahead touchdown.

[+] EnlargeWashington's Jordan Reed
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesThe Redskins completed this 16-yard pass to Jordan Reed in overtime to set up the winning field goal.
In overtime, the defense couldn't make a key stop, get a sack or force an interception. It allowed a 23-yard completion and an 8-yard run before tight end Jordan Reed converted on third-and-3 by catching a 5-yard pass against safety Barry Church.

There was Colt McCoy, the third-stringer who got the start with Kirk Cousins sitting and Robert Griffin not ready to return due to injury, directing traffic during a scramble.

Faced with a first-and-10 from the Dallas 45, McCoy was flushed out of the pocket and then pointed to Reed to move downfield. McCoy lofted a pass over linebacker Bruce Carter and turned it into a 16-yard completion to Reed.

Four plays later, Kai Forbath nailed a 40-yard field goal to give Washington the lead. Dallas had it's own chances to tie or win the game but couldn't even get to midfield.

"Situational football again came to bite us in the butt," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "Across the board, we hang our hat on winning our one-on-one matchups on defense, and too many times today, we didn't win those."

Overall, the Cowboys' defense did pressure the quarterback and record a season-high three sacks and six quarterback hurries. McCoy threw passes underneath for the majority of the game and completed a stunning 25-of-30 for 299 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns, but he threw just one interception, on a deep pass into the end zone that was picked off by safety J.J. Wilcox.

The Redskins run game was strong and gained 4 yards a carry. Speedy, big-play threat DeSean Jackson caught six passes for 136 yards.

McCoy was efficient and worked within the confines of the offense to make things happen.

"I wish we could have done more, man," said defensive end Jeremy Mincey, who did have a sack. "We didn't make the plays we should have made. That's what cost us the game."

One of the leaders from this defense, linebacker Justin Durant, is done for the season with a torn biceps. He finished with a team-leading 10 tackles and added two tackles for loss.

Henry Melton, the defensive tackle who was missing for a bit, had his first multi-sack game as well as three tackles for loss.

Rolando McClain (seven tackles and one pass breakup) and Church (six tackles) -- two of the more reliable players -- missed tackles. The Dallas defense made the basic plays, but there were several missed tackles -- two from Church and one from McClain.

"Very disappointed," Church said. "I feel like this has been my worst game since I became a Dallas Cowboy. I played really [badly] overall. It wasn't a great performance in any of the phases."

It's something the Cowboys need to clean up.

DeMarco Murray can't slow down

October, 27, 2014
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DeMarco Murray can’t have a disappearing act right now as the NFC race begins to heat up.

The NFL's leading rusher at 913 yards has been outstanding this season, and current and former teammates thought a stretch such as this was always in Murray's DNA.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/LM OteroDeMarco Murray is on a historic run, and it's one the Cowboys need to see continue.
With Arizona knocking off Philadelphia in the desert on Sunday and all of a sudden the New Orleans Saints looking pretty good again after that waxing of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, things are getting a little interesting in the NFC.

Murray and the Cowboys host Washington on Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium and this is no time for a bad game, especially when the nation is checking to see if you’re really for real.

The Cowboys are for real.

Probably the best team in the NFC, whatever that’s worth at this stage of the season, but Cowboys have morphed into a run-first unit in the first two months of the season and Murray has benefited. He’s an MVP candidate, with a Pro Bowl berth a certainty. A new contract, whether he gets franchised or not, also will happen in 2015.

A bad game can’t happen now.

Murray is human, yet he has produced a superhuman effort. He has carried the ball at least 25 times four times this season and is doing a wonderful job reading his blocks and keeping his footwork when the holes aren't there so he can fall forward and get those junk 2- and 3-yard gains.

The big question for Murray is durability. He sprained an ankle in last week’s victory over the New York Giants and downplayed it. But he has yet to play 16 games and regardless if you like Joseph Randle, the Cowboys can’t afford to lose Murray.

For as strong as Murray has been, he has proven to be more valuable to this offense next to Tony Romo. Murray has even surpassed his buddy Dez Bryant on the depth chart of importance. Bryant is a close No. 3 with Jason Witten not too far behind.

You can add up all the numbers each week and compare Murray to Jim Brown and Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson and Larry Johnson and wonder how long will this streak last?

It’s not about 100 yards for Murray it’s making sure the offense continues to set the tone with the run game. If Murray gets 85 yards on Monday night and the Cowboys win, that’s fine.

If Murray gets 26 yards and they lose, well, that better not be the start of a trend.

Anthony Spencer limited in practice

October, 23, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer was limited in practice on Thursday with a sprained foot. Spencer, who has recovered from microfracture surgery, is expected to play in Monday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Linebacker Bruce Carter (thigh), who missed the last three games, was a limited participant in practice on Thursday. Carter said he felt good and should play against Washington.

"I did all the drills, special teams, I did everything," said Carter, who worked in the base and nickel packages. "I think as the week goes on and me running around, I'll be able to open up more each day and I think I'll be fine on Monday night."

Wide receiver Dez Bryant (shoulder) and right tackle Jermey Parnell (chest) were full participants in practice.

Defensive end Jack Crawford (calf), right tackle Doug Free (foot), safety Jakar Hamilton (personal reasons) and quarterback Tony Romo (back) didn't practice.

Bruce Carter returns to Cowboys practice

October, 23, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter, who has missed the last three games with a thigh injury, returned to practice Thursday. Cowboys officials hope Carter will be healthy enough to play in Monday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Carter
Carter
Also, cornerback Brandon Carr, who finished last week's game against the New York Giants with a pulled hamstring, was participating during the open media access period of practice.

Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, currently on the reserve/non-football injury list, practiced for the first time this season. Okoye has recovered from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition that causes memory loss and seizures. Okoye was in a coma for three months last year.

Safety Jakar Hamilton (personal reasons), quarterback Tony Romo (back), defensive end Jack Crawford (calf) and Doug Free (foot) missed practice.

Romo, however, did participate in the walk-through session.

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