There have been weeks when picking who to award the BTB Game Ball to was a chore. This week, five and a half minutes into the game, I turned to my wife and said "I think I have a winner." DeMarco Murray had just busted loose for his 91 yard touchdown, and all he did for the rest of the game was confirm that he deserved it.
It is such an obvious pick that you don't really have to think about it, but it deserves some thought. This was not just an outstanding individual performance. It was a performance that influenced the game and possibly the rest of the Dallas Cowboys' season.
I'll explain what I mean by that, but first, a few words about some other people who did very well.
More . . .
When one Star burns so brightly, it is easy to lose sight of the other bright points on the team, but this was a team victory. No unit or group on the Cowboys had a bad game, and only one individual could be said to have underperformed. (Yes, Tashard Choice, I am talking about you.) I could name a dozen players at least who did something well, but I've already mentioned most of them in another post. There are two, however, that I want mention specifically.
Abram Elam would likely have gotten this Game Ball if DeMarco had not been so dominating. He had eight tackles to lead the team, three for a loss, and one forced fumble/recovery that not only served to break the Rams' spirit but showed admirable presence of mind and intelligence. When the ball came out, Elam had a foot out of bounds. He alertly got himself reestablished in the field of play and then scooped the ball up. The play stopped the first real offensive threat by St Louis and led to a Dallas touchdown. When Elam was signed, there were many comments that he was another JAG, but his performance has been a real asset to the team. Rob Ryan knew what he was doing bringing in someone who was familiar with his system. Frankly, the Big Robowski seems to know just about everything he needs to.
The other guy I have to mention is our own Lumpy, Montrae Holland. His name did not get called on any play, and that is the whole point. He just got the job done on an offensive line that desperately needed an infusion of competence. After being cut for being overweight and out of shape (a move I fully supported), he decided that he had to take matters into his own hands and enrolled in the only offensive line academy in the country. It was evidently a brilliant move and showed that the Cowboy Way is apparently something that can be learned. I think his presence along with Tony Fiammetta's return at fullback had an awful lot to do with the magnitude of Murray's day. It was good enough that Jason Garrett has declared him the starter at left guard. I never thought I would say this, but, it is sure great to have Lumpy back. Besides, there are so many jokes we will be able to make, only now they will be well intentioned.
But the Game Ball has to go to the new primary stud running back (to differentiate from the new assistant stud running back, Phillip Tanner, who had a pretty impressive debut himself). DeMarco Murray was another person whose selection by Dallas, in his case with this year's third round draft choice, was not universally praised here at BTB. Many were puzzled why he was selected with Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice already on the team. Even after MBIII got cut, there was a lot of grumbling since Murray came into camp injured and limited in practice. A lot of people thought it was a draft pick that could have been better used, if not a total waste.
Well, that talk should be over. Not only did DeMarco have a record setting performance, but he had an immediate impact on the game, and could have a great deal of influence on the rest of the season.
Consider the situation going into the Rams game. Dallas had a seemingly endless string of consecutive games decided by 4 points or less. The team was struggling to establish itself as a solid winner. And the Rams had been a trap game for the Cowboys before. Most of us were pretty sure the Cowboys would win, but I don't think I was the only one with vulture sized butterflies in my stomach. And look at the game situation before Murray came into the game: Dallas was on its first possession. Things were off to a bit of a rocky start, and after a penalty, they had a 1st and 19 at their own 9 yard line. Not a good position.
91 yards later, things were a lot different. Dallas was on its way to the beat down win it needed, and can now look forward to the Philadelphia Eagles game with a lot more confidence. By the end of the game, DeMarco Murray had put his name into the record books. And the benefits to the Cowboys go far beyond individual recognition.
Suddenly, Jason Garrett's play calling looks a lot smarter. After Murray ripped off that big run, the Cowboys ended up calling 34 running plays and only 24 pass plays. That is 59% rushing attempts.
Now look at the first five games of the season:
|Game||Run||Pass||Total Plays||% Runs|
I was one who complained mightily about JG not doing a good job of situational play calling. Well, folks, slap me up side the head and call me a fool, because it took him all of one play to figure out it was time to flip the percentages. Amazing what having a runner on fire will do for a coach.
And a quarterback. How many times have we heard "How Tony Romo goes will determine how the Cowboys go"? That's not much pressure, now, is it? But suddenly, Tony is no longer the only offense on the field. I don't know if there are any closeups available, but I am willing to bet that one of the biggest smiles on the field when DeMarco was breaking off another big run was on Tony "My Rib Ain't Gettin' Hit On This Play" Romo's face. He must also be looking forward to the adjustments defenses are going to have to make because of a certain running back.
Oh, and don't forget the offensive line. Yes, Lumpy is back, but this takes on a bit of a chicken and egg aspect. Did the changes on the line make Murray more effective, or did Murray make the line look better? I don't know, and I don't really care (although I would guess it was a bit of both).
The whole nature of the Cowboys offensive attack just changed. Because one player had a huge breakout game. The St Louis game turned on his performance. Maybe the whole season did, too.
DeMarco Murray, here is one huge, incredibly deserved Game Ball.