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Game Notes: Murray Fumbles Again; Austin Delivers Late

Posted Dec 23, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas - As of three weeks ago, DeMarco Murray had gone his entire NFL career without losing a fumble. He has now lost two crucial fumbles in the past two weeks.

The two fumbles came on opposite sides of the field. Last week, in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cowboys handed the ball to Murray in the red zone and he lost it at the 7-yard line, resulting in a turnover.

Murray had an even more consequential fumble on Sunday against the Saints when the Cowboys started a drive backed up near their own end zone. Murray ran to the 7-yard line before fumbling it. The ball was recovered by the Saints, who capitalized by scoring a touchdown three plays later.

After the game, Murray talked about the play when he put the ball on the ground.

“I just got bent around and it just came out,” Murray said. “My body got twisted up and, I don’t know, it just came out. It shouldn’t have come out.”

In a game where Tony Romo played nearly flawlessly, Murray talked about the mistakes that were made on offense that may have cost the Cowboys’ a victory.

“(They were) very costly. Definitely dealing with an offense like that, a fumble should never have happened. That gave them seven points right there. You can’t turn the ball over in this league, let alone against a guy like Drew Brees. You just have to take care of the ball and have to do the right things.”

The ground game was mostly ineffective against the Saints as Murray only rushed for 40 yards. In fact, he had more yards receiving (51) then he did rushing.

Up-and-Down For Austin

By the second half of the game, Dez Bryant was demanding a number of double teams. He had 145 yards by half time and had certainly caught the attention of the Saints’ defense.

In moments like these, one might think Miles Austin would be able to capitalize on the defense’s focus on another receiver. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case.

It wasn’t that Romo did not target Austin. The quarterback looked toward him on a number of plays, particularly in the third quarter and much of the fourth. Austin was targeted eight times in the game, but four of those attempts were incomplete, including three seemingly catchable drops.

But Romo has been playing with Austin far too long to lose trust in him after two or three drops. When the game was on the line, with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys down seven points, it was Austin who Romo targeted for the game-tying touchdown on fourth-and-10. Austin caught the ball in the right side of the end zone after allowing his defender to run past him.

After the game, Austin talked about what was going through his head after a few drops.

“Regardless of what happens … you’ve got to keep playing,” Austin said. “That’s just the way the game goes.”

Austin said that he had complete faith in himself going into the drive that tied the game.

“The No. 1 line on the two-minute drill is to believe you can do it.”

Connor Steps Up

The inside linebacker position has been a rotation of replacements for the Cowboys this season. When Sean Lee went down with an injury, Dan Connor was inserted as a starter to replace him. When Bruce Carter went down, it was Ernie Sims who replaced him.

Last week, Sims left the game with a concussion and Alex Albright played a bigger role in the defense. Sims was cleared to play Sunday against the Saints, but experienced dizziness early in the game. Once again, the Cowboys found themselves thin at linebacker.

But this time, one of those replacements stepped up in a big way. The Saints were able to move the ball efficiently on the Cowboys’ defense, but Connor did his fair share of bringing down runners.

Connor recorded a game-high 12 tackles.

There is still no word on the condition of Sims and what his status will be next week against the Redskins. Regardless, Connor will be relied on as a starter and asked to help contain the running game of Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III.

Quick Hits

The Dallas Cowboys had 446 yards of total offense. This season, Dallas has reached 400-or-more yards eight times to tie the 2009 season for the most 400-yard games in a season in franchise history.

Sunday’s game was Dallas’ third overtime contest of the season. The three overtime games this season tie 2000 and 2011 as the most overtime games in a season in team history. All three of Dallas’ overtime games this year have come at home – the most home overtime games in franchise history. This season marks the first time Dallas had multiple home overtime contests. Dallas now owns a 19-14 overall record in overtime and a 6-5 home record.

Dez Bryant caught nine passes for a career-high 224 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant’s 224 yards marked the 10th 200-yard game in team history. His 224 yards were fourth in a game in team history:

Bryant’s touchdown receptions gave him a touchdown catch in seven straight games to tie the longest streak in club history. Bryant is tied with Frank Clarke (1961-62), Bob Hayes (1965-66) and Terrell Owens (2007).

Two of Bryant’s touchdowns came in the second quarter for 58 yards. It was the first time in team history a Dallas Cowboy had a pair of touchdown receptions over 55 yards on consecutive possessions, and it was the first time an NFL pass catcher accomplished the feat since Buffalo’s Lee Evans did it at Houston (Nov. 19, 2006). Evans did it in the first quarter with a pair of 83-yard scoring catches.

Bryant’s multi-touchdown game was his fourth multi-touchdown game of the season – the most in a season in franchise history. He now has 12 touchdown catches this year to tie the fifth-most in a season in club books:

Bryant’s 224 yards upped his season receiving yards total to 1,311 – the seventh-most in a season in team history:

Dwayne Harris had his first career receiving touchdown on a 16-yard fourth quarter pass.

Tony Romo finished the game completing 26-of-43 (60.5%) passes for 416 yards, four touchdowns and a rating of 123.8. For the season, he now has 4,685 passing yards to establish a club record and become the first Cowboys passer to reach 4,500 yards in a season.

Romo’s 416 yards marked his third 400-yard game of the season and fourth of his career, improving his club season and career record of 400-yard games. His 416 yards were the third-most in his career and the fifth-most in a game in team history.

In topping 300 yards again Sunday, Romo has nine 300-yard games this season to give him a single-season club record.

Romo’s 416 yards gave him 25,519 for his career and allowed him to pass Joe Theismann (25,206) for 61st in NFL history.

Romo now has 28 career three-touchdown games – the most in Cowboys history, third among all-time undrafted quarterbacks and the fifth-most in the NFL since 2006.

Romo’s four touchdown passes marked his seventh career game with four-or-more touchdown passes for the second-most in a career in team history. Danny White has the club-high with eight.

Romo had a passer rating of 123.8. It was his 49th career game with a rating above 100.0 to improve his club record and rank fourth in the NFL since 2006.

Jason Witten finished the game with six catches for 60 yards. For the season, Witten has 103 catches – the second time a Dallas Cowboy reached 100 catches in a season and the third time an NFL tight end has done it. Michael Irvin (1995) was the first with 111. Witten’s 103 catches this season also established an NFL tight end record.

Witten’s 103 catches this season marks the 75th time an NFL pass catcher reached 100 receptions.

Witten’s 60 receiving yards upped his career total to 8,892 and allowed him to pass Mark Duper and Ricky Proehl (8,878) for 55th on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards chart.

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