The Dallas Cowboys sit at 5-1, tied for the best record in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers and the (ick) Philadelphia Eagles. So far, this season has been characterized by unselfish play and a real team effort. But in the midst of all the group success, four players have achieved some individual accomplishments that are impressive. Just in case you didn't catch all of the things that happened in the last game, here is a summary.
Dan Bailey is the most accurate field goal kicker in the NFL Ever.
He has completed 102 of 112 attempts so far in his career, for a 91.1% success rate. The former most accurate kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, had a career success rate of 86.5%. And he has delivered on more than his share of long range and pressure kicks. His challenge now is to maintain his accuracy, since he is only in his fourth season, and hopes to play for another ten years or more.
His superior accuracy gives the Cowboys a true advantage. His miss that forced the overtime against the Houston Texans was stunning because it was so unusual. He had 30 consecutive successful kicks up until then. Of course, the miss just meant he had to start a new streak, now at four - and including the longest kick of his career in the Seahawks victory. At a time when at least one team is struggling because they are having so much trouble finding a reliable kicker, Bailey's remarkable consistency in splitting 'em is pure gold.
DeMarco Murray is the second player to start a season with six 100 yard rushing games.
He is now tied with the great Jim Brown, and can become the all time record holder with another 100+ game against the New York Giants. And he is on a pace to challenge the all-time single-season rushing record. It has gotten a tremendous amount of publicity, but have you really considered the magnitude of this? If you haven't heard, the NFL is a passing league. No one relies on the running game anymore (well, now that the Minnesota Vikings are without the services of Adrian Peterson).
Murray would probably be the first to tell you that he has to share the credit for this amazing stat. The Dallas offensive line is being called the best in the league by some. Tight ends and wide receivers seem to be taking as much pride in blocking for Murray as they do in catching the ball. And, as Bob Sturm explained in his latest "Decoding Linehan" post, Jason Garrett made a deliberate decision late in the 2013 season to pivot the Cowboys from a pass first (and usually second and third) team to a power running franchise. Murray was the man who was chosen to spearhead the change, but there is at least a bit of "right place at the right time" involved.
But when presented with an opportunity, the hard rushing Murray has certainly taken every advantage, and there are likely only a handful of other running backs who could have done as well. He certainly is getting a lot of attention, having been nominated for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week - for the fourth time this season (he has won all three previous times his name has been put forward). If you haven't voted for him, follow the link and do so - he deserves it. (And so does Terrance Williams, who is up for the GMC Never Say Never award this week, for That Catch against Seattle.)
Jason Witten becomes second tight end in NFL history with 900 catches.
It has been a remarkable season for Witten, which is saying something because he has seen relatively few balls thrown his way as he helps out with that rushing game thing. His touchdown catch against the Seahawks gave him 900 catches, making him just the second tight end in NFL history to do so. That came just a week after he became only the third TE to reach the 10,000 yard mark. Oh, and just for good measure, he is the second youngest NFL player to get 900 catches as well, only 16 days older than Andre Johnson was when he accomplished it.
Amazingly, his enthusiasm for the game seems completely undiminished from when he entered the league. Some of the blocks he has thrown in the newly emphasized running game have been the kind you show to tight ends to teach them how to do it right. There can be no doubt he is bound for Canton, with a visit back to AT&T Stadium first to be placed in the Ring of Honor. One day. Hopefully, not too soon.
Tony Romo had his 26th game winning drive in the fourth quarter.
Yeah. That's more than any other quarterback in the NFL since 2006. In the place where the (mostly erroneous) myth of his being a choker started. I love some irony, served with a nice Chianti. He also extended his NFL record of 36 consecutive road games with a touchdown.
But Romo, like the other players in this article, don't really give a damn about their individual accomplishments. They are totally focused on how far this team can go, and that takes everyone. It is just so exciting to see these players having such outstanding seasons so far. And make no mistake about Romo. The past two games have seen him making the kind of Romodini escapes that used to keep Dallas alive when they had no right to be. Now, however, they seem to be accomplishing more than just getting the team back to 8-8. There are still 10 games to go, but this group of players (I'm referring to the entire roster here) is as focused and driven as any I have seen. The approach is strictly one game at a time, and doing everything possible to win that one game.
With that attitude, the records may just be starting to fall.