ARLINGTON, Texas – From the outsider's perspective, DeMarco Murray's chance to play with a broken hand on Sunday came down to a game time decision.
Murray himself made the decision to suit up earlier than that – much earlier, in fact.
"The day after I had surgery. I was ready to play," he said.
Officially, Murray had the worst day of his phenomenal 2014 season. He rushed 22 times for just 58 yards – an average of just 2.6 yards per carry – and he added a touchdown. The impact Murray's presence had on his team, six days removed from surgery on a broken hand, is a little harder to quantify.
"He was just so damn determined – 'I'm playing in this game,'" said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "There was no way we were going to keep him out of it. He did everything we asked him to do as the week went on. To go play in an NFL football game five days after you've had surgery on your left hand, it's something else."
To see Murray suited up and carrying the ball might have been surprising to some, but not to many within the Cowboys' locker room or organization. Murray had the surgery on Monday evening, and he was practicing by Wednesday morning. He practiced all three days of the week, in fact, giving a pretty clear indicator of his intentions.
"I'm not going to lie, there was a lot of doubt he probably wasn't going to play. But I'm his boy. I knew he was going to play," said Dez Bryant. "He a animal, he a beast. That's what beasts do. If he can walk, if he can catch, he can go. That's exactly what he did."
It'd be easy to look at that effort and call it super-human, but Murray is not. Speaking with reporters after the game, he said the pain in his fourth metacarpal – broken in the waning minutes of last week's game – was very real.
"It affected me a little bit. It was hurting me throughout the game, but I made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to play," he said. "I was happy to be out there, happy to do whatever I can to contribute to this team. It was awesome with a win."
That effort didn't go unnoticed on a team with so many stories about playing through injury. While the Colts focused on Murray, Tony Romo, who has played the last eight weeks after breaking bones in his back, lit up the scoreboard. He set the franchise passing record with a touchdown toss to Jason Witten, who famously played a month with a lacerated spleen.
Asked about it postgame, Romo was effusive in his praise for his running back.
"It was incredible. Make no mistake, that was an uncomfortable thing he had to go through tonight," Romo said. "I'm just proud of him. He is exactly what you want from a running back."
It might not have been his prettiest night, but Murray's ability to play has to be viewed as encouraging for the Cowboys' coming weeks. Without sustaining further injury, it seems likely he'll be available to play in Week 17 against Washington, where he'll be just 29 yards shy of setting a new Cowboys' single-season rushing record.
As usual, Murray was much more concerned with the scoreboard than the stat sheet. The Cowboys clinched their first playoff berth of Murray's tenure, with Murray once again pacing the ground game – regardless of how unlikely that scenario once looked.
"Guys go through adversity, teams go through adversity and pain. You've got to be able to fight through it and do it for the better cause," Murray said. "You play to win games, and obviously we won tonight. It was a good win for us."