IRVING, Texas – DeMarco Murray did have an issue with the way things transpired on the goal line last weekend against San Francisco – just not for the reason you'd expect.
"I would have rather us had six points – no matter how the ball got in the end zone, I definitely wish we would have scored on that drive," Murray said Thursday afternoon.
The primary talking point from Sunday's loss to San Francisco was, and continues to be, the Cowboys' decision to opt away from their workhorse running back in the red zone. With two goal line opportunities in the first half, the Cowboys went with two pass plays – which resulted in a sack and an interception – over their Pro Bowl running back.
The missed opportunities were disappointing, but not for Murray's own carry count, so much as a need to keep pace with the 49ers.
Against a team like that, an offensive team like San Francisco, you know they're capable of scoring points – as many points as we could get would definitely be beneficial for us," he said. "But I don't have a problem with the call or how it was handled. I just wish we would have scored."
Murray has his own misses to consider, like his fumble returned for a touchdown on the second play of the game. All things considered, though, it was a strong debut for the fourth-year running back, who is fourth in the league in attempts and second in the league in yards after one week.
"I feel like I've worked hard in the offseason and during the season to make sure I can handle whatever they throw at me," Murray said. "Whatever you want to call it. I just make sure I'm prepared to carry it as many times as need be."
It stands to reason that those carry totals should go up in 2014. With the help of a strong second half last season, Murray finished 1,121 yards and a Pro Bowl berth – despite the fact that he carried the ball 59 fewer times than next-best back Frank Gore, and 97 fewer times than NFL rushing champ LeSean McCoy.
The carry or yardage totals won't matter to Murray, however, so long as the Cowboys achieve what they failed to do last weekend and get wins.
"There's no magic number for me. Whatever they give to me, I'll handle and take with a smile," he said. "As long as we're winning, I'm fine."
Goal line touches aside, it'll be interesting to see if the Cowboys maintain the mindset of Murray as a feature back. At no point in his career has he averaged more than 16 carries per game, and last year, he finished with fewer than 15 carries in six of his 14 games.
That said, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said he thinks Murray is up to that task.
I've got great confidence in DeMarco. I think we all do, as a staff and as a team," he said. "He's a durable back, he's proven that. He gets nicked here and there, but by and large, he's a steady back that can pound it inside, outside. He's got good versatility to his game."
There's no escaping the fact that how Murray handles the workload could determine who – and how much – he plays for in 2015. This is the final year of his rookie deal, and Cowboys officials haven't expressed much desire to work out an extension before this season ends. For his part, Murray said he understands that side of things.
"It is a [embedded_ad]
business, so you can't get butt-hurt over things like that," he said. "You guys know what I mean. You got to have thick skin, I would say."
Whether it's that looming contract, or his role in the red zone or his pecking order among NFL running backs – all things Murray said he's not concerned with – there are definitely plenty of ways for the Cowboys' bell cow to prove himself to this team and the league at large.
Asked if that's what he what he felt like he has to do, prove himself, Murray said he's only concerned with one person.
"The moment you get complacent and not try to work hard, that's the moment you get lost in the shuffle, so I think every day we're trying to prove something. Maybe not to other people, but to yourself," he said. "How great do you want to be and how much do you want it? Yeah, to a certain extent, I definitely feel like I'm proving myself every day."