DeMarco Murray was the Cowboys’ third round choice in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Cowboys certainly got their money’s worth from the former Oklahoma Sooner who gave Dallas all he had during his four years wearing the Cowboys’ star.
In their history, the Dallas Cowboys have selected numerous running backs in the first round of the NFL draft who have gone on to stardom. In 1969 the Cowboys selected Calvin Hill, a multi-talented back who was the first Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. One year later, Dallas took silky smooth Duane Thomas who helped lead Dallas to its first Super Bowl title following the 1971 season before forcing his way out of town due to dissatisfaction with his contract. The 1977 draft brought Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett to Dallas, and all the speedy halfback from western Pennsylvania did was make it all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 13 years after the Dorsett pick, the Cowboys struck gold again selecting Florida’s Emmitt Smith who would pace Dallas to a record three Super Bowl wins in four years and end up enshrined in Canton along with Dorsett. And this past season, first round selection Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm and seems destined for the type of stardom Dorsett and Smith achieved.
When listing the best seasons for a running back in Cowboys history, a third round choice from 2011 muscles his way into the mix alongside the backs selected in the first round. Coming to Dallas in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, DeMarco Murray ended his four year stay in Dallas with a season to remember.
Murray, who turns 29 years old today, set a Cowboys’ record with 1,845 yards rushing in the 2014 campaign and became the first back in NFL history to open a season with 100 plus yards rushing in the first eight games of a season. Murray reached the century mark in a Cowboys’ record 12 of the team’s 16 games, one more than Smith had in the 1995 campaign. In 2014, Murray and the Cowboys’ talented offensive line helped change the team’s offensive identity from a pass-first group to one that more resembled the early to mid-1990s teams that leaned heavily on Smith and “the great wall of Dallas” offensive line to control games.
According to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value number, Murray’s 2014 campaign ranks right behind three vintage Smith seasons as the best season for a running back in Cowboys’ history:
BEST SEASONS IN COWBOYS’ HISTORY- RUNNING BACK
Approx Value Year Back
20 1992 Emmitt Smith
20 1993 Emmitt Smith
20 1995 Emmitt Smith
19 2014 DeMarco Murray
17 1978 Tony Dorsett
17 1991 Emmitt Smith
17 1994 Emmitt Smith
16 1973 Calvin Hill
16 1977 Tony Dorsett
16 2016 Ezekiel Elliott
Murray’s time in Dallas was brief, as the workhorse back left the Cowboys following his special 2014 season to join division rival Philadelphia. A combination of Murray’s departure and injuries to quarterback Tony Romo caused a dramatic falloff in the Cowboys’ production as the 12-4 division winning squad of 2014 slumped to a miserable 4-12 in a mostly forgettable 2015 campaign. The only good thing coming out of that season was that the Cowboys’ bleak record put them in position to find a worthy successor to Murray in the talented Elliott who helped reestablish the effective style Murray and the Cowboys had demonstrated in 2014.
After a miserable season in Philadelphia in 2015, Murray rebounded to gain 1,287 yards rushing and score nine touchdowns for the Tennessee Titans last season. The hard-working back demonstrated the style that made him a fan favorite in Dallas in 2014. Happy 29th birthday whose Cowboys’ career was brief but certainly spectacular.
Tony Romo threw for four touchdowns and completed all but two of his pass attempts on the day in Dallas’ 42-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on December 21, 2014.
All of us have days when everything seems to go perfectly. For the Dallas Cowboys in December of 2014, there were a few of such days. Probably the best example of that came two years ago today when the Cowboys demolished the Indianapolis Colts 42-7 to clinch a NFC East title and help silence the critics who seemed almost gleeful to question the Cowboys’ mettle in the season’s final month.
Dallas entered the game with two impressive December road wins already behind them, having beaten Chicago 41-28 on Thursday December 4th and having handled the Eagles at Philadelphia 38-27 ten days later. With the team’s offense on a roll and with the Colts’ somewhat defensively challenged, conditions were ripe for a Cowboys’ clinching party and the home team did not disappoint the 91,899 in attendance.
Dallas dominated the game from the start, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards in 15 plays over eight minutes and twenty four seconds to take a 7-0 lead on Tony Romo’s nine yard pass to Terrence Williams who was as wide open as an NFL receiver could possibly be. A failed pass out of punt formation by the Colts set Dallas up on Indianapolis’ 19 yard line for its next possession, and Dallas struck quickly as Romo and Dez Bryant connected on a 19 yard toss to give Dallas a 14-0 lead.
The 2014 Cowboys, like this year’s squad, were built to grind out long possessions that were designed to break the will of opponents and to keep the Cowboys’ own defense fresh. Dallas’ next two drives, which went 75 and 67 yards, ended with a Romo scoring toss to Cole Beasley and a touchdown run by Demarco Murray to give the Cowboys a 28-0 lead at the half.
The second half was more of the same. On its seventh possession of the game, Dallas went 75 yards in 10 plays over 6:17 to take a 35-0 lead on Romo’s 25 yard scoring pass to Jason Witten. A fourth quarter scoring pass from backup quarterback Brandon Weedon to Williams gave Dallas a 42-0 lead, before the Colts put up a consolation score in the game’s final minutes to end the scoring. The 35 point margin of victory remains the highest ever for the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
Some other notes coming out of the dominant win include the following:
Romo’s 90% completion percentage is the highest ever for a Cowboys’ quarterback in a game where he’s thrown at least 11 passes. Dak Prescott’s 88.9 completion percentage in this past Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay is the second best mark, with Romo’s 88.5 mark in a 2011 win over Buffalo in third place.
Romo’s 151.7 QBR rating was the 14th highest in Cowboys’ history for passers with at least 11 attempts in a game. Craig Morton’s 158.3 rating in a 1969 win over Philadelphia is Dallas’ best ever (Morton went 14 for 18 with 261 yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions in the game), with Troy Aikman’s 158.2 rating on November 7, 1993 (Aikman was 11 for 13 for 162 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with a leg injury) next in line. There’ve been 18 150+ QBR rating games in Cowboys’ history and no player has more than Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, who had six in his magnificent career.
December 2014 was a month to remember for Romo, who led Dallas to a 4-0 record with some of the best performances of his career:
DT OPP Score Comp Att Yrds TD Int QBR
12/4 @Chi 41-28 21 26 205 3 0 138.0
12/14 @Phl 38-27 22 31 265 3 0 129.1
12/21 Ind 42-7 18 20 218 4 0 151.7
12/28 @Was 44-17 22 34 299 2 1 100.0
Cowboys’ quarterbacks have had at least four touchdown passes in a game 31 times. Romo’s effort against the Colts was his tenth such game, the most among all Cowboys’ passers. Danny White is next with eight such games, with Don Meredith in third with six. Other quarterbacks with at least four touchdown passes in a game for Dallas include Aikman (three times), Morton (twice), Eddie LeBaron (once) and Staubach (once).
The 2014 Cowboys had a time of possession advantage in 11 of their 16 games. So far in 2016, the Cowboys have done so in nine of their 14 contests. The Cowboys have won 18 of the 20 games.
Dallas scored at least seven points in each quarter of the 42-7, marking the 62nd time in team history and the fourth time in 2014 that the team had achieved that feat. Like the 2014 squad, the 1967 and 1983 Cowboys had four games where they scored at least seven points in every quarter. The franchise record for most such games is six, set by the explosive 1980 Cowboys’ squad.
The defense did its part in the division clinching win, intercepting Andrew Luck twice and holding the Colts to a single yard rushing in 10 attempts. Since the merger, only two teams have held an opponent who ran the ball 10 or more times to fewer yards. On October 2, 1988 the Bears held Buffalo to zero yards rushing in 10 tries. 18 years and almost two months later, Detroit had minus three yards on the ground in 10 tries against Minnesota.
When the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals square off at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, the teams will be meeting for only the 12th time. The Cowboys will be looking to improve upon their 7-4 lifetime record against the reigning AFC North champions, while the Bengals will be trying to win for only the second time in seven trips at Dallas.
The teams rarely play each other, but their eleven games so far have produced some interesting moments, great performances and unlikely heroes. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the Cowboys-Bengals match-ups.
Middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan anchored the Dallas Doomsday Defense from 1963 through 1976 and during his time in the NFL, no linebacker intercepted more passes than the Excel, Alabama native’s 32.
On November 4, 1973 at Texas Stadium, Jordan had a career high three picks in Dallas’ 38-10 rout of Ken Anderson and the Bengals. Jordan returned one interception 31 yards for a score for the third and final touchdown of his sterling career.
Jordan, who many believe belongs in Canton, trails only defensive backs Mel Renfro (52), Everson Walls (44), Charlie Waters (41), Dennis Thurman (36), Michael Downs (34) and Cornell Green (34) on the Cowboys’ all-time interception list.
Few athletes, or celebrities in general for that matter, are more associated with the city of Dallas, Texas than Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach. But before Roger the Dodger made it big deep in the heart of Texas, he was a high school hero in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Staubach only faced his hometown Bengals twice in his career, but led Dallas to easy victories both times. The Cowboys’ signal caller was particularly sharp in his first game ever against the Bengals.
In the same game where Jordan had his three interceptions, Staubach was 14 for 18 for 209 yards and three touchdowns to lead Dallas to victory. Staubach’s quarterback rating on the day was 154.6, the highest rating he’d have in a Dallas home game. Staubach’s other highest QBR games also came in 1973, a season where he’d lead the NFL in passing. On December 2, 1973 at Mile High Stadium, Staubach posted a 155.8 rating in the Cowboys’ 22-10 over Denver. Two weeks later, Staubach led Dallas to a 30-3 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis while putting up a 155.2 QBR.
LOWERING THE BOOM(ER)
On December 8, 1985 at chilly Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, the eventual NFC East Champion Cowboys ran into a buzz saw against a talented Bengals team that featured a high-powered offense.
The Bengals, led by quarteback Boomer Esiason’s three touchdown passes and James Brooks’ 109 yards rushing and two scores, routed Dallas 50-24 and put up an amazing 570 total yards in the process. The 50 points allowed was the third highest total ever allowed by a Cowboys’ defense, and the 570 total yards surrendered was the fourth most in Cowboys’ history.
A 60 MINUTE ROLLER COASTER RIDE
The amusement park Six Flags Over Texas is not too much more than a Troy Aikman bomb’s distance from the Cowboys new home at AT&T Stadium. When the Cowboys and Bengals squared off at Texas Stadium in Irving on October 13, 1991 they were not in close proximity to any theme parks, but the events of that game provided all the thrills of any roller coaster.
In 1991 the Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson were emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the NFC, and the Bengals were a talented team that could score from anywhere on the field. The Bengals showed their quick strike ability by putting up the game’s first 10 points, but Dallas rallied for three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-10 lead. The visitors would score the game’s next 13 points to take a 23-21 advantage, but Dallas had the last laugh in the contest’s final period. An Emmitt Smith touchdown run and rookie linebacker Dixon Edwards’ 36 yard interception return for a score sealed the deal for Dallas in the Cowboys’ 35-23 victory.
When you think Dallas Cowboys’ touchdowns, the names Smith, Dorsett, Irvin, Hayes, Pearson and Bryant come to mind. On November 12, 2000 at Texas Stadium, an unlikely player joined the ranks of Cowboys who’d reached the end zone in Dallas 23-6 victory over the Bengals.
With the Cowboys holding a slim 10-6 lead midway through the third period, defensive end Ebeneezer Ekuban sacked Bengals’ quarterback Akili Smith and forced a fumble that he recovered putting the Cowboys in position to pad their lead. Six plays later, Dallas found itself facing a fourth and goal from the Bengals’ two. In came rookie kicker Tim Seder, apparently to attempt a chip shot field goal that would put Dallas up by seven points.
But the Cowboys shocked both the Bengals and the crowd at Texas Stadium, as holder Micah Knorr handed the ball to Seder who ran in for the first touchdown ever scored by a Cowboys’ kicker. Seder would reach the endzone again in 2001, scoring another touchdown on a fake field goal in a 28-21 loss to the Raiders at Oakland.
T.O. MEANS K.O FOR CINCINNATI
After losing in the first round of the 2007 playoffs after posting an NFL best 13-3 record, the 2008 Dallas Cowboys looked to make amends behind an offense that featured talented players at virtually every position.
On October 5th of that season, Dallas’ weapons were on display in a 31-22 victory over the Bengals. Quarterback Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns, running backs Felix Jones and Marion Barber combined for 180 rushing yards and Terrell Owens electrified the crowd with a fourth quarter 57 yard touchdown catch and to spark Dallas’ effort.
The win moved Dallas to a 4-1 record on the year, but trouble was on the horizon for the Cowboys in the form of an injury to Romo. Their quarterback’s injury led to Dallas losing three of its next four games, and a solid November streak of three impressive wins in a row couldn’t offset a December collapse (1-3 mark) that had Dallas on the outside looking in for the 2008 post-season.
On December 9, 2012, the Cowboys took on the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium only a few days after teammate Jerry Brown was killed in a motor vehicle accident that was the fault of fellow Cowboy Josh Brent. With the team reeling over the loss of one of its own, the Cowboys and Jason Garrett faced a tough task against a Bengals team that would finish 10-6 and earn an AFC wildcard playoff spot.
Dallas played valiantly throughout most of the game but with a nine point deficit as the fourth quarter began, it appeared as though the Cowboys were destined to lose the game. That was, of course, before Tony Romo and the Dallas’ offense went to work.
Taking over at their own 32 yard line with a little less than 10 minutes left in the game, Romo led Dallas on a scoring drive that ended with 27 yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant that pulled the Cowboys within two at 19-17. A key sack of Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton by Anthony Spencer got the ball back for Dallas, and the took possession at their own 28 yard line with 3.44 left in the game.
While the Cowboys’ touchdown drive earlier in the quarter featured big plays (Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for 23 yards and Miles Austin for 15 in addition to his 27 yard scoring pass to Bryant), their final drive chewed up yardage in small chunks. Heavily featured in the drive was running back Demarco Murray, who gained 32 yards combined and helped set up Dan Bailey for the winning 40 yard field goal as time expired.
The Doomsday Defense, featuring a bevy of talented players like Jethro Pugh (#75), tormented Bob Avellini and the Chicago Bears defense all day long on December 26, 1977 as the Cowboys routed the visiting Bears 37-7 at Texas Stadium in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The Cowboys would go on to win Super Bowl XII.
The Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears do not play each other often enough to be considered big rivals, but they have fought some interesting battles over the year including two post-season games. Dallas is 12-11 in the regular season and 2-0 in the post-season against the Bears, but they’re 0-2 against Chicago at AT&T Stadium.
Here are 10 memories that come to mind for me when I think of the Cowboys-Bears contests over the years.
#10- An Afternoon to Forget
The 1985 Dallas Cowboys were a division winning team, but the Chicago Bears of that season were a cut above not only the Cowboys but over the rest of the NFL as well. On November 17th of that season, the Bears embarrassed the Cowboys at Texas Stadium by a 44-0 score that was one of the worst losses in Cowboys’ history. Dallas has had some excellent defensive teams over the years and they’ve faced some top level squads over the years, but I don’t think one would get too many arguments by claiming that the 1985 Bears team featured the best defensive team the Cowboys have ever gone up against.
#9- Ending a Drought
By December of 1991, the Jimmy Johnson-led Dallas Cowboys were coming into their own as a legitimate NFL contender. At Soldier Field on December 29th, the Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1982 in a 17-13 victory over the Bears. Fittingly, the gritty Cowboys’ win was secured when long-time Cowboys favorite Bill Bates intercepted a Jim Harbaugh pass.
#8- The Replacements
In their glory days, the Tom Landry-era Dallas Cowboys were known for having excellent depth at most positions. That depth was tested twice in six years in Cowboys-Bears games at Texas Stadium at perhaps the most crucial position on the field.
On October 24, 1976, first year Cowboy Danny White replaced an injured Roger Staubach in the second half and threw two touchdowns to Preston Pearson to help Dallas to a 31-21 victory.
On Thanksgiving Day 1981, it was White’s turn to go out with an injury. White was replaced by third year Cowboy Glenn Carano, who led a fourth quarter drive that allowed Dallas to escape with a 10-9 win over the Bears.
#7- A Tale of Two Games
The Dallas Cowboys traveled to cold Chicago in December in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Both games were played at night and both featured lots of scoring, but the results could not have been different.
On December 9, 2013, Bears’ backup Josh McCown carved the Cowboys’ defense up like it was a Christmas turkey, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-28 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Almost one year later on December 4, 2014, it was the Cowboys’ turn to flex their offensive muscles as Dallas surged to a 35- 7 lead after four quarters and won 41-28. The Cowboys’ attack was led by Tony Romo (21-26, 205 yards, three TDs) and Demarco Murray (32 carries, 179 yards, one TD) in a game that effectively ended the Bears’ chances for a playoff spot in the 2014 season.
#6- Tuna on Turkey Day
Thanksgiving Day 2004 saw the Bears visit Texas Stadium to take on Bill Parcells and the Cowboys. And while the 2004 edition of the Cowboys didn’t achieve a playoff berth like the team did in Parcells’ first season in Big D in 2003, the late November holiday game had a happy ending for the home team. Rookie Julius Jones was the grand marshal of the Cowboys’ holiday parade, gaining 150 yards rushing and scoring two touchdown in a 21-7 Dallas win.
#5- A Clean Cut by the Barber
The 2007 Dallas Cowboys came to Solider Field on Sunday night September 23rd sporting a 2-0 record and looking very much like a team that would be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. As a game progressed, it was clear that the Bears weren’t the ones who were going to stop the Cowboys’ rush toward a 13-3 record and a division title.
Marion Barber was the driving force in Dallas’ win, gaining 102 yards rushing and scoring two touchdowns as the visitors out-gained the Bears by almost 200 yards. Romo also starred in the nationally televised contest, throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
#4- It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn
An October 1971 visit by the reigning NFC Champion Cowboys to Soldier Field ended in a shocking 23-19 loss to a seemingly inferior Bears team, with an added wrinkle being that the defeat came with Dallas alternating quarterbacks Craig Morton and Roger Staubach on every play. Dallas moved the ball well but was hurt by penalties and turnovers, in a game that convinced Coach Tom Landry that he needed to select one of the quarterbacks to lead the team going forward.
Landry ultimately made the right choice, as he selected Staubach to quarterback a team that would not lose over the rest of the year in route to a 24-3 victory over Miami in Super Bowl VI.
#3- Prime Time Returns
There are fewer more exciting plays in a football game than a punt return for a touchdown. Two of the more exciting Cowboys’ punt returns for scores have come in home games against the Bears.
In September 1997 at Texas Stadium, Deion Sanders electrified the sellout crowd with an 83 yard punt return touchdown that salted away a 27-3 Cowboys’ victory. In September 13 years later, rookie Dez Bryant scored the first touchdown of his career on a 62 yard punt return that staked Dallas to an early lead. Unfortunately for Bryant and the Cowboys, the Bears would win that game 27-20.
#2- Aye, Aye Roger
One of the more exciting games in Texas Stadium history came in a week three Cowboys-Bears matchup that saw Roger Staubach lead Dallas to a 24-20 comeback win over a game Chicago team that got 134 yards rushing from Hall of Famer Walter Payton and scored on two long Vince Evans passes (one to former Cowboy Golden Richards) to keep Cowboys’ fans on the edge of their seats all game long.
Fortunately for Dallas, Staubach was at his best on this day throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns including a 22 yarder to Tony Hill with less than two minutes to go that allowed Dallas to escape with a thrilling win.
#1- Charlie In Charge
The 1977 Dallas Cowboys were arguably the best team in the storied franchise’s history. On the day after Christmas in the first round of that season’s playoffs, the Cowboys proved their power to the Bears in a 37-7 rout that was a mismatch in every sense. Perhaps the biggest star for Dallas on that day was Charlie Waters, a player who gave his heart, soul and body to the team. Waters intercepted three Bob Avellini passes on the day, as the Cowboys’ defense controlled the game from the start.