ARLINGTON, Texas – The end zone has been a bit hard to come by for DeMarco Murray in his NFL career – at least until Thursday.
Thursday's matchup against Oakland was the 33rd game of Murray's career, and until that point he had just 10 rushing touchdowns. Even more surprisingly, he had never had a multi-touchdown game.
After 17 hard carries and 63 yards against the Raiders, Murray was celebrating a three-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving night.
"A number of different times it felt like, from my vantage point, that the play was bottled up, but somehow, someway he found creases and made some positive plays for us," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "It was probably one of the better running games we've had all year."
Lance Dunbar kicked in 82 rushing yards on 12 carries to give the Cowboys 144 rushing yards on the night. But Murray's 17 carries led the team, and it was Murray the offense turned to inside the 10 yard line on three separate occasions.
Ever the dutiful running back, though, Murray was sure to spread the praise to the Cowboys offensive line, which paved the way for its backs to average nearly five yards per carry.
"It does more for the offense as a whole. The offensive line, when you get a rushing touchdown, those guys are amped up and excited about that," Murray said. "It's all them, and all the touchdowns were pretty wide open, so you've got to give a lot of credit to those guys."
Murray's career touchdown mark now sits at 13, which is to say his three-score Thanksgiving accounts for 23 percent of his career tally to this point. Murray said he simply played the same style he's been known for.
"You've got to look at the tape, but I was just playing like I always play – not worrying about anything else but just playing hard and doing the most I can do while I'm out there," he said.
Though he might downplay it, the feat looks even larger when you consider the stats. Murray is the first Dallas running back to rush for multiple touchdowns since Marion Barber did it on Dec. 19, 2009, against the Saints. He is the first Dallas running back to rush for three touchdowns since Julius Jones did it on Dec. 6, 2004, against the Seahawks.
Murray became the eight Cowboy rusher to score three-or-more touchdowns in a game – an accomplishment the franchise has managed 18 times.
The leader should be obvious: Emmitt Smith accounts for nine of those.
Here are some more notes from the 31-24 Thanksgiving Day win against Oakland:
Brandon Carr was just a bit excited following his fourth quarter interception of Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin.
McGloin, an undrafted rookie, picked on the Dallas secondary in the first half to the tune of 164 yards. Many of those came at the expense of Carr, who spent much of his time on former Cowboy receiver Andre Holmes.
Holmes got the better of Carr on a 15-yard gain to the Dallas goal line in the second quarter. The play was originally ruled a touchdown before being spotted at the one for an eventual Oakland rushing score.
"Those guys had a lot of confidence. They used their big, athletic size and ability out there and went high point on the ball," Carr said. "But second half, we buckled down and changed the game."
Carr and the Cowboys secondary held McGloing to just 91 yards in the second half, but not before the rookie challenged Carr one more time.
McGloin lofted a fade to Jacoby Ford in the corner of the end zone, but could only watched as Carr came down with his third pick of the year.
"He just threw it up, and they got enough big balls on us throughout the game that I felt it was time to go ahead and make a play and shift the momentum," Carr said.
Trial Run [embedded_ad]
With the final month of the season destined to decide Dallas' playoff hopes, Cowboys owner/general Jerry Jones was grateful for some crunch time practice.
The Raiders raced out to a 21-7 lead, prompting a no-huddle, last-minute drive by the Cowboys to cut the lead to 21-14 before halftime. Tony Romo completed five-of-seven passes for 71 yards in a two-minute-drill.
With 19 seconds remaining, Murray plunged into the end zone to cut it to a one score game.
"I think coming back the way we did, at the end of the second quarter – I don't know how you can get any better practice with a lot on the line than to have a game like that," Jones said. "I think it's something our team can build on, and that's what you hope to have happen – three or four positive endings to maybe get ready to have a big year."
The Cowboys rolled off a 24-0 run in the second half before an Oakland field goal cut it to a one-score win.
The leading receiver on the day wasn't a current Cowboys receiver, but a former one.
Raiders receiver Andre Holmes, who was on the Cowboys' practice squad last year, had a monster performance against his former team with seven catches for 136 yards.
"We liked Andre," said Jason Garrett. "He is a big, strong guy and can make those kinds of plays. He has good length and he has good ball skills, so we certainly have a healthy respect for his because we know him pretty well."
The Raiders' roster was filled with former Cowboys players, including starting cornerback Mike Jenkins. The Cowboys didn't have much success throwing his way, as Jenkins finished with three tackles, a pass deflection and a forced fumble, but Dez Bryant did have a touchdown against him.
Among the other former Cowboys getting playing time for the Raiders was offensive lineman Andre Gurode, who was called for multiple false starts after coming in for injured guard Mike Brisiel.