Commentary

Murray lets play speak for self

Running back rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown in easy Cowboys' victory

Updated: September 23, 2013, 4:20 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON -- Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray did his best to downplay it all week, but he was salty and he should've been.

Hey, it's your fault.

All of that silly chatter about the Cowboys needing to insert Lance Dunbar or Joseph Randle into the starting lineup irritated him, even though he claimed to ignore any and all critics outside the team's locker room.

The conversation about Murray's lack of vision and acceleration bothered him, too. If you know Murray, even a little bit, then you knew he was going to play well this week against St. Louis.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesCowboys running back DeMarco Murray let his play speak for itself Sunday.

Murray is a cerebral dude, who's not much for small talk unless the topic is mixed martial arts. He's serious about his craft and his game is steeped in pride whether we're talking about running, blocking or catching the ball.

He's not Adrian Peterson -- who is? -- but he can help you win games.

He proved it, once again, Sunday with a career-high 26 carries for 175 yards and a touchdown as the Cowboys thumped the St. Louis Rams 31-7 at AT&T Stadium.

Afterward, Murray declined to discuss his performance, something about a personal matter he needed to handle.

Hmmmm.

Would it really surprise you if Murray was still peeved after the game and opted to silence himself to ensure he didn't say something he'd regret?

After all, much of the criticism he received last week after carrying 12 times for 25 yards was laughable.

The blame should've started with Jason Garrett because he's the head coach and should demand from time to time that playcaller Bill Callahan and Tony Romo run the ball. Then the blame should've shifted to Callahan, who called consecutive running plays just twice against Kansas City.

That's a joke.

Until you consider it, he did it just four times against the New York Giants in the opener, a game the Cowboys led throughout.

All of that changed against St. Louis.

Murray had 16 carries in the first half, and Callahan called consecutive running plays seven different times in the game.

"I do know," said Garrett, "the commitment to the running game in practice and during the ballgame was excellent."

In the third quarter, after the Rams had pulled within 24-7, Callahan called Murray's number five consecutive times and he ripped off runs of 13, 8, 4, 1 and 3 yards as the Cowboys stopped St. Louis' momentum with three first downs before punting.

The rest of the blame for last week should've been doled out to the offensive line, which was shoddy at best, and the tight ends, whose contribution to the running game was minimal at best.

Then, if you choose to heap some blame on Murray, feel free.

Whether you're focused on the 34 rushing attempts, the 193 yards rushing or the 33:28 the Cowboys kept the ball, don't get seduced by the numbers. Instead, focus on the big picture: Running the ball makes life easier for everyone.

Understand, it's not about a certain number of attempts each game, it's about offensive balance. All you really need to know is throwing it more than 70 percent of the time, as the Cowboys did in their first two games, is not conducive to consistently winning.

More important, the Cowboys have won nine straight games when Romo throws fewer than 30 passes, and they're 21-4 in his career when he does that.

It's not a coincidence.

Romo has always had a gambler's mentality. The more times you let him throw the ball, the odds increase he'll make one of those indiscriminate passes that leaves you flinging your remote at the flat screen and screaming vulgarities.

Against the Rams, Romo passed for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

"We wanted to run the football today," Romo said. "And we did a good job of having production, which made it easy to do so."

For what it's worth, the Rams were the perfect opponent to get the running game working against because their defensive ends, Chris Long (268 pounds) and Robert Quinn (264 pounds), are undersized players much more interested in chasing quarterbacks than playing the run.

Murray's four longest runs of the season -- 41 yards, 36 yards and a pair of 14-yard jaunts -- came against the Rams. His 2-yard run around left end pushed the Cowboys' lead to 17-0 with 9:10 left in the third quarter.

He surpassed the 100-yard mark in the third quarter, and by the middle of the fourth quarter, Murray was standing on the sidelines wearing a white baseball cap.

His helmet was nowhere to be seen.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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