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Sunday, December 11, 2011
Murray injury could be a crusher for Dallas

By Dan Graziano

ARLINGTON, Texas -- DeMarco Murray, the dazzling rookie running back whose emergence brought the Dallas Cowboys' running game back to life this season, could be done for the year with a severe ankle injury. Murray got hurt on an eight-yard run in the first quarter of Sunday night's game against the New York Giants and left the game with help from the training staff. During the third quarter, the team announced that Murray had a right ankle fracture and a high ankle sprain.

The Cowboys made no announcement on Murray's long-term status, only that he would not return to Sunday night's game. But an ankle fracture in Week 14 doesn't sound like the sort of injury that would allow Murray to return before the end of this season -- even if Dallas got into the playoffs and made a deep run.

In the short term, the Cowboys would seem to be fine. Former starter Felix Jones stepped right in and rushed for 81 first-half yards on eight carries after Murray left the game. But Jones is not the same kind of back as Murray, which is why he lost the starter's job to him in the first place. Jones is injury-prone, and not likely to hold up under a 20-carry-per-game workload the rest of the way. He also had a sloppy fumble toward the end of the first half that reminded everybody that he's not the most reliable guy in that area either. Even if they manage to grind out a win tonight against the Giants, the Cowboys likely will need to adjust their offense for the final three games of the regular season and probably ask Tony Romo to throw more. With Philip Tanner on injured reserve and Tashard Choice having been released weeks ago, Jones is now the only healthy tailback on the active roster.

The running game did seem to get the expected boost from the return of fullback Tony Fiammetta, a blocking machine who'd missed the previous three games with an illness. Fiammetta even got a couple of carries and a catch after the Murray injury. But the Cowboys are now dangerously thin at running back and will have to find a way to overcome it the rest of the way.