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Rookies play big roles for Cowboys

Last year at this time, Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey was still at Oklahoma State, and coming off a game at Kansas in which he missed two of his four field goal attempts.

The next week, Bailey made both of his field goal attempts in a loss to Oklahoma and polished off his collegiate career by making all three field goal attempts in a win over Arizona in the Alamo Bowl.

Flash forward to the present, where Bailey hit a pair of field goals, including the game winner with no time remaining, to help the Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins in a Thanksgiving nail biter.

Bailey has made 27 of 28 field goal attempts in his rookie NFL season, including 26 in a row, one shy of the Cowboys team record by any player, set by Chris Boniol in 1996.

The Cowboys now have seven wins this season, and four of them have come via Bailey game-winning field goals.

Another rookie from the Big 12 has also played a major role in the Cowboys success this season, running back DeMarco Murray.

On the Marco
DeMarco Murray This Season

Murray played sparingly in the first five games of the season, totaling only 73 rushing yards on 25 carries, but has averaged 126.8 rush yards per game in the six games since, in which the Cowboys have gone 5-1.

Through 11 games, Murray has 834 rushing yards, already fourth on the Cowboys single-season rookie rushing list, behind only Tony Dorsett, Calvin Hill and Emmitt Smith. Dorsett is the only Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in his rookie season, totaling 1,007 in 1977.

It was Bailey and Murray’s first Thanksgiving games in the NFL, but that wasn’t the case for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is now a perfect 5-0 in his NFL career on Thanksgiving as a starter, the best record for any quarterback with at least five Thanksgiving Day starts.

Romo threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions, something he’s now done just twice in his NFL career, but rebounded with a pair of touchdown passes, both to Laurent Robinson.

Robinson was targeted twice in the end zone on Thursday, and both throws resulted in touchdowns. Robinson has five receptions this season in the five times he’s been targeted in the end zone.

Best Win Pct by Starting QB
All-Time on Thanksgiving

Romo is now 19-2 as a starting quarterback in the NFL in November, the best record of any starting quarterback in November in the Super Bowl era (minimum 15 starts in the month).

He did struggle throwing down the field in the victory, going just 5-14 on throws of 11 or more yards, with both of his interceptions coming on throws of that distance. Entering the game Romo had only thrown four interceptions on passes of 11 or more yards for the entire season.

Those three players helped the Cowboys to improve to 7-4 this season, one more win they had all of last season, when Dallas went 6-10 for its first losing season since 2004. Dallas has also won five of its last six Thanksgiving Day games.