IRVING, Texas – Head coach Jason Garrett said he was shocked the Cowboys were able to draft DeMarco Murray last year, and his physicality at the end of plays is an asset he didn't realize Murray possessed at Oklahoma.
Rather than duck and juke around contact, Murray sought out and lowered his shoulder against defenders while totaling 131 rushing yards on 20 carries against the Giants in the opener.
At times, he had to improvise, as he did in the waning minutes of the third quarter. Murray bounced around the backfield, running into fullback Lawrence Vickers, before finding running room down the right sideline for a 48-yard gain.
"It's exactly like we drew it up, right?" Garrett said. "Ran into six guys, Vickers almost tackled him for a 3-yard loss, and he spun out of it and made a great run, and again, we never tell our runners where to run. We think the runners that we have are very natural."
A healthy Murray is providing the Cowboys the type of runner they hoped for when they selected him in the third round last year. At the time, Garrett didn't understand why Murray fell down the draft charts, allowing the Cowboys to scoop up the dynamic backfield threat.
"We were all looking at each other in the draft room saying, 'Are we missing on something with this guy?'" Garrett said. "Everybody kept saying, 'Well, he has an injury history.' I'm like, 'What's the injury history?' 'Well, he missed six games. But he also had 80 touchdowns and he caught all these passes.'"
Garrett said the Cowboys have gotten the same runner Murray was at Oklahoma and even more. He turns 4-yard gains into 6-yard gains, and 8-yard gains into first downs.
Murray averaged 6.6 yards per carry against the Giants, also catching two passes out of the backfield. He had just 20 yards after the first half, but the Cowboys stayed committed to the run and featured Murray immediately in the third quarter.
Both of Murray's catches came on the opening drive of the second half, when he touched the ball on each of the first five plays.
"Obviously, they are awfully good on the defensive front, and you don't want to get into a passing game exclusively with these guys and let them rush the passer," Garrett said. "So, we wanted to make sure that throughout the game we kept trying to run the ball downhill, and in the second half we got some good runs to take control of the game."