LANDOVER, Md. – Every person on the Cowboys' sideline knew what was at stake when DeMarco Murray rolled off a tackle and into open space – which is why they were all furious when a record-breaking run was called back.
Murray was ruled down on a tackle, despite never touching the ground, and his opportunity to break Emmitt Smith's franchise rushing record of 1,773 yards in a single season would have to wait.
That wait was exactly one play, as Murray took the next snap 32 yards and into the Cowboys' record books. The anger turned into elation on the Dallas sideline.
"Obviously a lot of people had a helping hand in this – coaches, obviously the offensive line had a huge factor, tight ends, quarterbacks, receivers, fullbacks," Murray said. "It's an honor for us to take this record and we're excited about it."
Murray finished his career-best 2014 season with 1,845 rushing yards – most in franchise history and the 17th-highest single-season rushing total in league history. It was the natural conclusion to one of the season's dominant storylines, as Murray rushed for 100 or more yards in 12 of 16 games.
He also topped another of Smith's marks, as his 20 carries on the afternoon gave him a whopping 392 on the year.
"You have to be mentally tough to have a record like that, because you have to endure not only the physical aspect of it, but you've got to endure being tired and pushing on," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "Like a lot of the great ones, the more he got tired, the better he got during this season."
The running back Murray passed on Sunday was plenty great himself, as no Cowboys fan needs reminding. Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher – among other accolades – had nothing but kind words about Murray's accomplishment.
"I am proud of him because I know how hard it is to do what he did this year," Smith said. "I am also proud because I've watched him bounce back from some injury setbacks in his first few years. He's a worked through all that, and he deserves to have this record."
Murray has been complimentary of his predecessor throughout the second half of the season, as it had become apparent he'd be setting some records. Notified of Smith's comments after the game, he said the same.
"It means a lot, it means a lot coming from one of the best running backs to ever play the game – especially in this great organization," Murray said. "He's held a lot of records, a lot of them will never be touched."
Having finally passed Smith in the record book, Murray was bound to comment on the accomplishment. But in talking to a crowd of reporters, his comments returned to the same theme they've followed all season long – turning the focus to the team.
"At the end of the year, those records don't mean much. We're fighting for something a lot bigger," he said.
With the Cowboys returning to the postseason for the first time since 2009, Murray will join Dez Bryant and several other big-name Cowboys in their first career playoff game. Having finished discussing the record, he was asked how far he thought the Cowboys could go.
"As far as we want," Murray said. "I think it's up to us as a team to play and prepare like we've prepared throughout the weeks and execute on Sundays."