NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

IRVING, Texas – A week ago today, DeMarco Murray had surgery to stabilize a fourth metacarpal in his left hand with a plate and eight screws. The stitches still remain.

But Murray did not have any setbacks, according to coach Jason Garrett.

In fact, Garrett called Murray’s 22-carry, 58-yard, one-touchdown game in the 42-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts his best of the season.

“He’s had other games where the numbers are a little bit gaudier, more impressive, but just his mindset and his demeanor all week long and what that meant to our football team was really, really significant,” Garrett said. “I think it reflected in how we played as a football team. And he was amazing. He ran the ball in this game. He ran it tough. He ran it hard. He blocked in this game. They’re bringing safeties, he’s turning around and picking them up. I just thought he was fantastic, and I can’t tell you how meaningful that was to everybody else for him to have the mindset that he had.”

Garrett said the plan is for Murray to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins. He will continue to wear the hard plastic shell on the top of his glove for added protection.

He needs 29 yards to break Emmitt Smith’s record for rushing yards in a season (1,773 in 1995), but Garrett is not concerned with that.

“And it’s not important to DeMarco either,” Garrett said. “It’s all about winning. It’s all about what’s best for our football team. Now, those two things coincide. It’s good for our football team when DeMarco is running the ball well and we control the game by running the football. That’s been a formula for success for us all year long so we’ll certainly try and do that this week. But the idea that we’re going to get a player some kind of statistic, it’s not really part of our thinking.”
IRVING, Texas – Even with only a slight chance at being one of the top two seeds in the NFC, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will rest players for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Washington Redskins.

In order to get homefield advantage, the Cowboys need to beat Washington, have the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions tie in their meeting and need the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals to lose.

Even with a loss to the Redskins they can still get a first-round bye ... if thethe Seahawks and Cardinals lose.

With the Cowboys playing the early game, they will not know what happens in Arizona or Seattle.

“A lot of different scenarios can come up in this situation,” Garrett said. “Our plan is to practice as well as we can practice and go play our best football game with the guys who are available to us. We’re excited about that opportunity. That’s what we do here. We focus on each day. We focus on being our best and that’s what we’re going to do this week getting ready for the Redskins. We don’t really concern ourselves with all of the different scenarios.”

Garrett said DeMarco Murray (hand), Zack Martin (ankle) and Jason Witten (knee) came out of Sunday’s win against the Indianapolis Colts fine. Doug Free is dealing with a bone spur issue that kept him out of the game. Josh Brent has missed the last two games with a calf injury but was running sprints Sunday in pre-game warmups.

The Cowboys have won three straight games to secure their first NFC East title since 2009, but the bulk of this team has not experienced a lot of success. Garrett said he wants to keep his team sharp and focused with the playoffs ahead.

“There are some teams who are more mature, maybe they have been there before, they know how to handle that situation, rest and healing up might be more important to them,” Garrett said. “But our football team – we need to play. We need to go play and play well. It starts with practice. It starts with our preparation, and then when the game starts go play as well as you can play.”
IRVING, Texas -- If you’re looking for an impressive statistic for the Dallas Cowboys' defense from Sunday's 42-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts, stop with this one: The Colts had 10 carries for 1 yard.

Now, the Colts are nowhere near an elite rushing team, but 1 yard? That is incredible. Tony Romo had more rushing yards than the Colts, with 28 yards on three carries. Lance Dunbar had two carries and more yards (4) than the Colts.

It is the fewest rushing yards the Cowboys have allowed in a game in franchise history and tied for the ninth fewest in NFL history.

“Shout out to us," defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford said.

But it was more than just the run defense. The Colts entered the game with the No. 1-ranked pass offense, and Andrew Luck threw for just 109 yards and was intercepted twice before his day mercifully ended. Yes, he did not have T.Y. Hilton because of a hamstring injury, but would that have mattered that much?

“We won on first down a lot,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We won on second down a lot. They got into some longer third-down situations, hard to convert those and keep drives alive. What they were doing early on in the ballgame was as important as what the offense was doing.”

The Colts did not record a first down until the second quarter. By that time the Cowboys had a 28-0 lead. J.J. Wilcox ended the first half with an interception of Luck in the end zone.

It was the fifth shutout the Cowboys have recorded in a half this season. They blanked the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans in the first halves of those games. They shut out the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of the season opener.

Luck’s second pass of the second half was tipped by Nick Hayden and intercepted by rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens.

“I think we did a great job this week throughout the week just being focused in and locked in in the classroom and on the field,” Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said. “The small details make big differences in games, and guys were on point with their keys, alignment and technique. We were able to get off the field on third down, which is great.”

The Cowboys lost their chance for their first shutout since Week 17 of the 2009 season when Carr was flagged for a dubious pass interference penalty in the end zone, negating what would have been his first interception of the season.

But they sent a message that maybe they can be more than just "the other guys," when compared to the Cowboys' offense.

“We’ve always had confidence,” Carr said. “This was a great opportunity for us to come out here and show the world once again who we are. Sometimes we don’t play the way we’re supposed to play, but that’s all part of the game. We have to fight each and every week when we step on the field. Guys were clicking as far as the play calls and the execution. It was outstanding.”

Dallas Cowboys' playoff possibilities

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
IRVING, Texas -- Figuring out the playoff possibilities is a near impossible task, so we'll let the NFL do it for us.

In all likelihood, the Dallas Cowboys will be the No. 3 seed in the NFC when the playoffs begin, but they have chances, albeit slim, of gaining home-field advantage or a first-round bye with a win Sunday at the Washington Redskins.

Here are the scenarios from the NFL:
Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DAL win + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB tie

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DAL win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR
2) DAL win + DET/GB tie OR
3) DAL tie + SEA loss + ARI loss OR
4) DAL tie + SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB does not end in a tie

I believe it is possible for the Cowboys to earn a bye even with a loss to the Redskins, provided the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals lose their finales.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jason Witten and Tony Romo showed up to the Dallas Cowboys in the same year. Actually, the same courtesy shuttle as well.

Witten was the third-round pick with the expectations. Romo was the undrafted rookie nobody knew.

They have been linked ever since.

[+] EnlargeJason Witten
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsOn this 25-yard TD pass to Jason Witten, Tony Romo became the Cowboys' all-time leading passer.
That link took on an historical note in Sunday’s 42-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Romo broke Troy Aikman’s team record for career passing yards on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Witten in the third quarter.

“I think right now it’s still too new,” Romo said, “but looking back one day it will be special because me and Jason have been through it all together. We literally were on the same bus from the airport when we arrived in Dallas for our first rookie minicamp. He obviously has a special place in my heart and I want more success for him than maybe anybody on the planet. He deserves it and I want him to have it.

“For him to be the guy is just a bonus. He has done it throughout his career.”

Witten ran a seam route on the second-and-11 play from the Colts 25. Lined up in an empty formation, Romo surveyed the Colts’ defense before finally coming back to Witten, who had a step on the defender. Romo placed the ball perfectly over the linebacker’s helmet, Witten reached out for the grab and the record was his.

“If the defender isn’t looking I always feel like the guy is not covered just because he is not going to have the chance to make a play on the ball,” Romo said. “Even though the defender was in close vicinity, his eyes weren’t there in position to make a play.”

Said Witten, “That was a heck of a throw.”

Romo and Witten have combined for 628 catches for 7,090 yards and Sunday was their 35th touchdown together.

That’s a long way from the courtesy shuttle in 2003.

“I don’t think anybody saw that,” Witten said. “But just the way it’s kind of unfolded for him, it’s pretty special -- undrafted, the backup for three and a half years, the adversity that he’s gone through, not only coming up short in the playoffs but the injuries. Just to continue to battle and play as well as he has, probably the best year I’ve seen him play, it’s special for him. I know he’s going to keep the perspective on playing for more, but when he hits his head on the pillow tonight, he should be proud of what he’s done. It’s remarkable. He makes everyone around him a lot better. He should take pride in that.”

Dez Bryant continues hot season

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
Dez Bryant is making sure his name become synonymous with the Pro Bowl.

 On Sunday, Bryant caught five passes for 73 yards with one touchdown in the Cowboys dominating performance over the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterback Tony Romo made it look easy for Bryant as he threw four touchdown passes and missed just two throws out of 20 attempts in compiling a 151.7 quarterback rating.

A hot quarterback helps.

“I know people don’t want to listen to me, but hopefully they’ll start,” Bryant said of his quarterback. “But Tony is doing what Tony do.”


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An even hotter receiver also provides some comfort as well. In the past three weeks, Bryant has been targeted 21 times and caught 17 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns.

On the year, Bryant is first in the NFL touchdown catches (14), 10th in receptions (84) and ninth in yards (1,221). There shouldn’t be any doubt regarding Bryant’s trip to the Pro Bowl game this year, or even the amount of All-Pro votes he will receive.

Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson and Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh should be the leading candidates for All Pro along with Bryant, T.Y. Hilton, Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas.

With one game remaining, Bryant has a chance to tie or surpass the franchise record for touchdown catches in a season, 15, set by Terrell Owens in 2007. He also has produced the 11th best single-season performance for a receiver in franchise history in yards. He can easily move up the ranks should he play in the regular-season finale at Washington on Sunday. He just needs 12 yards to move past Bob Hayes (1,232) for 10th best in Cowboys' history and is 161 yards from tying his career-high mark of 1,382, which is the fourth-best mark in franchise history.

“It’s cool, but there’s nothing to be excited about,” Bryant said. “We know what we’re after, and we got another opportunity. We got to go back to the drawing board and seeing where we are we’re going to stay together and we’ve done a damn good job.”
ARLINGTON, Texas – Tony Romo has had three head coaches since joining the Dallas Cowboys: Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett.

While Parcells groomed him and Phillips let him flourish, Garrett has molded him more than any other coach.

That’s why Romo gushed with praise about what Garrett has meant to the Cowboys this season. With their 42-7 victory Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts, the Cowboys have earned a playoff berth for the first time since Garrett became interim head coach in 2010.

“Jason is the best head coach in the league that no one talks about,” Romo said. “I mean, he’s really gifted at his ability to communicate to his players. He’s got a great mind for the game of football … One of the best things Jerry has done was just stand by him and let his system, his mantra, his philosophy play itself out. I think that you’re seeing the dividends. You’re reaping the rewards of having him stay in place. Jason is going to figure it out. He’s as good of a coach as I’ve ever been around. He’s special.”

Since becoming the Cowboys’ coach on a full-time basis in 2011, Garrett’s future has been non-stop theatre. The Cowboys lost three straight Week 17 games to the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles to miss the playoffs in his first three seasons.

He entered the season two games over .500 only because of a 5-3 record as the interim coach in 2010.

On Sunday, he became the fifth coach in team history to win 11 games in a season. Tom Landry did it 10 times. Jimmy Johnson did it three times. Barry Switzer and Wade Phillips did it twice. Sunday’s win was the 40th victory of his career. Only Landry (250) and Johnson (44) have more wins in team history than Garrett.

Once Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones gives Garrett a new contract when this season ends, he should pass Johnson early next season.

Jones still wasn’t biting after the game when asked if Garrett was coming back in 2015, even if it is a foregone conclusion. He has consistently said he wants Garrett for the long term.

“One of the things I’m proudest of the success we’re having is how it’s reflected on Jason and his ability to go forward as the fine coach that he is, but he’s developed a lot of skill,” Jones said. “He’s done what all of us do -- he’s improved, improved, improved -- and our fans need to have the advantage of that as we look forward in my mind.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Tony Romo left AT&T Stadium on Sept. 7, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback felt doubt for the first time in his career.

He threw three interceptions in a 28-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Maybe this was it for him. Maybe two back surgeries in less than a year were too much. How many 34-year-old quarterbacks get better after a diskectomy?

“I felt maybe I wasn’t as good as I once was,” Romo said in a moment of reflection after the Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts on 42-7 Sunday to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2009. “That was tough. I didn’t physically feel right.”

After that game, he promised that he would be better. Things would be different. It didn’t really start to happen for him until he changed his practice schedule, sitting out Wednesdays from the second game of the season on.

The confluence of feeling as good as he has all season -- the back still nags him, as he also fractured two transverse processes and has had torn rib cartilage during the season -- came together with an historic game Sunday.

Romo completed 90 percent of his passes (18 of 20), a franchise record. He threw four touchdown passes and was not intercepted. He threw for just 218 yards, but it was enough to surpass Hall of Famer Troy Aikman for the most passing yards in franchise history.

He has 32,971 yards in his career and holds Cowboys records for passing yards and touchdowns.

“Statistics are just something that are part of the game, but we are all about winning and losing,” said Romo, who completed 16 straight passes at one point. “At the same time it is always an honor any time you are just mentioned with Aikman or [Roger] Staubach or [Danny] White. It is just a fraternity of QBs that is special to be a part of.”

As he spoke, Romo wore a T-shirt that read "Cowboys run the East," a nod to their NFC East title. In the previous three seasons, the Cowboys had T-shirts and hats ready for them if they had won Week 17 matchups against the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. But they lost each one.

Romo did not play in the game against the Eagles last December because of the diskectomy. After his first game back this season, he questioned whether he could play at the highest level after telling everybody in the offseason that his best years were ahead of him.

Now, maybe they are.

“It’s hard to play better than he played today,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Great decisions. Great poise. Again and again and he delivered for us.”

Romo’s four touchdown passes went to four different receivers. It was fitting that he broke Aikman’s record with a 25-yard TD throw to Witten down the seam that increased the Cowboys’ lead to 35-0 with 4:41 left in the third quarter.

They were on the same bus to the team’s hotel for their first rookie minicamp in 2003. They became best of friends off the field and nearly unstoppable on the field since Romo became the starter in 2006.

“We’ve been through hell and back together,” Witten said. “To come back the other side on this day and to get a little bit of success and experience that, it was special for sure.”

Nobody has defended Romo more than Witten. After every heartbreaking loss, Witten stood up for his quarterback and sometimes paid a price for it. When he realized that throw broke Aikman’s record, he made sure Romo got the ball.

After the game, Romo wasn’t quite sure where the ball was.

“We’ve got game balls stored away [at home],” Romo said, “and I’m sure we’ll put them together some day so the kids can see their dad did something at one time.”

Always knocked for his late-season performance, Romo is 3-0 this December. He has 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions. In his past 16 regular-season games in December and January, he has 39 touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

But because of the uniform he wears and the quarterbacks he follows in Cowboys history -- Staubach and Aikman are Hall of Fame quarterbacks – Romo needs more than just individual records to achieve a similar legacy.

“I’m going to say it one more time: Somehow, someway,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said, “he needs to have a Super Bowl by his name. He’s that good.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Dallas Cowboys' 42-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.

Built for a run: For the first time since 2009, the Cowboys are in the playoffs. They have the T-shirts and hats to prove it. But they also have a team that can do some damage in the playoffs with its style of play.

The Cowboys have a running game that controls the clock and wears down defenses. They have a passing game that is equal parts efficient and dangerous.

"I would be scared of the Cowboys," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "I mean the film speaks, man."

Fighting on: DeMarco Murray was held to a season low 58 yards on 22 carries, but his numbers didn't tell his story Sunday. Six days after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left hand, Murray played and inspired his teammates.

"It was incredible," quarterback Tony Romo said. "Make no mistake, that's an uncomfortable thing he had to go through tonight. [I'm] just proud of him. He's exactly what you want from a running back. Emotionally, he has the right temperament. Physically and mentally, he's there every day. He's the ultimate team guy that we have, and I just love the kid. He's a great kid. He works as hard as anybody I've been around. He deserves the success coming his way."

Rest or not? The Cowboys will have a decision to make as to whether they want to sit their starters if the season finale against the Washington Redskins will not alter their playoff standing. Romo came out early in the fourth quarter. Murray had eight carries in the second half. The backups on defense played a lot of the fourth quarter.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones wants to build on the momentum.

"I'm not a sitter, especially under these circumstances," Jones said. "I'm going to act like an amateur and play it all. I want to win every first down."

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
ARLINGTON, Texas - A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 42-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium:

What it means: There is not a soul who saw this coming. Not even those inside the Cowboys' locker room.

With their 35-point win, the Cowboys (11-4) not only clinched their first playoff berth and NFC East championship for the first time since 2009, but they also served notice to the conference that they just might be for real.

The Cowboys have a slim chance for a first-round bye. That will require the Arizona Cardinals to lose their final two games and the Seattle Seahawks to lose in Week 17 against the St. Louis Rams.

That the Cowboys are in the playoffs at all is a major accomplishment for a team that had low expectations entering the season and had lost de facto NFC East title games in each of the past three seasons.

Jason Garrett's mantra all year has been to fight. The Cowboys finished the fight Sunday.

A gritty effort: DeMarco Murray missed 11 games in his first three seasons with ankle, foot and knee injuries, which left many to question his durability. Just six days after undergoing surgery to stabilize a fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand, Murray showed a toughness that should take away the durability question. He was held to a season-low 58 yards on 20 carries, but he was able to score a touchdown in his fourth straight game. He needs 29 yards to surpass Emmitt Smith's team record for yards in a season, but he won't get that chance if the Cowboys rest some of their regulars in Week 17.

Game ball: On a day a Hall of Famer's record was broken, it's hard to give this to anybody but Tony Romo. With a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the third quarter, Romo surpassed Troy Aikman as the franchise's leader in passing yards. Aikman had 32,942 yards from 1989-2000. Romo now has 32,971 yards, and he has started 122 games in his career. He completed 18 of 20 passes for 218 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. It was the fifth time in the past six games Romo has had at least three touchdown passes. His completion percentage (90 percent) is also a team record.

Stock watch: Facing the NFL's top quarterback in Andrew Luck, the Cowboys' defense offered up their best performance of the season. It was aided by how well the offense played, but it opened the game by not allowing a first down until the second quarter. They flustered Luck -- who was without his best receiver, T.Y. Hilton, because of a hamstring injury -- into two interceptions before he was sent to the sideline, and they forced three turnovers overall. The Cowboys lost their chance at their first shutout since Week 17 of the 2009 season with 5:24 to play after a borderline pass interference penalty on Brandon Carr.

What's next: The Cowboys conclude the regular season at FedEx Field to take on the Washington Redskins. In 2012, they finished the season there by losing a winner-take-all game on three Romo interceptions. They don't have to worry about a playoff spot now. The question is whether the Cowboys play their regulars a lot with little on the line.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- While the Dallas Cowboys will have the services of running back DeMarco Murray today against the Indianapolis Colts, they will not have right tackle Doug Free.

Free is inactive because of a bone spur affecting his left ankle. He also has a stress fracture, but the bone spur is more problematic. Jermey Parnell will start in Free’s place. He replaced Free earlier in the year for three games when he had a broken right foot. Rookie Zack Martin will start at right guard after he did not practice during the week. He had been listed as questionable.

Veteran Tony Hills will serve as the backup offensive tackle.

Also inactive for the Cowboys are: QB Dustin Vaughan, OT Donald Hawkins, DE Kenneth Boatright, LB Dekoda Watson, S Jakar Hamilton and DT Josh Brent.

Brent has missed the last two games with a calf injury but he was running sprints on the field before the game.

The Colts will be without leading receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has a hamstring injury. Also inactive for the Colts are CB Jalil Brown, CB Sheldon Price, G Hugh Thornton, OL Joe Reitz, OT Gosder Cherilus and DL Montori Hughes.

Welcome to AT&T Stadium

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Welcome to AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys can win the NFC East and clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2009 with a win against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Cowboys need a win not only to make the playoffs but also to avoid a second losing record at home since moving to Arlington in 2009. They finished 2-6 at home in 2010 on their way to a 6-10 finish.

The Cowboys are expected to have the NFL’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray despite a broken left hand, but how effective will he be? The Cowboys have used the running game to get to this point in the season and can’t allow a hampered Murray to change their formula for success.

Do what they do: While Murray is expected to play today there will be questions about just how much he plays because of his surgically-repaired left hand.

Murray has 63 carries in the last two games. His backups, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar have 60 carries combined on the season.

But the Cowboys have built their success this season on the running game. It has made Tony Romo better. It has made the defense a lot better. And it has to continue whether Murray gets his full workload or not.

The Cowboys don’t want to put more on Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten or the rest of the passing game.

“I think everyone’s job is to go out and do their job regardless of circumstance,” Romo said. “That’s weather, home, away -- whether I was playing or not. I think that’s the approach everyone has to take. I suspect that DeMarco is going to get himself in position to try and play. We’ll see what happens but we just got to go out and do our jobs.”

Don’t get started: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck leads the NFL with 38 touchdown passes and 4,492 yards. He has more than capable targets in T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks, although Hilton is questionable with a hamstring injury.

While the Cowboys have to be ready for Luck to beat them with his arm, they also need to be prepared for his legs. Even at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Luck has an ability to escape trouble. He has 268 yards rushing on 63 carries.

His counterpart today, Romo, has 22 carries for 33 yards.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said the Cowboys demonstrated “a little bit of a professional pass rush last week,” against the Philadelphia Eagles with four sacks and that has to continue this week. But Luck’s ability to move can make that more difficult.

“He’s a good athlete,” Marinelli said. “This guy is a terrifying athlete, man. Boy, he can run now, especially he’ll hit up and inside and he takes off. He can break both ways. And he’s strong. Really strong and fast. And very decisive when he goes. It’s not like he sees it and goes.”

The ref: Bill Leavy will be the referee for today’s game against the Colts. It is the second Cowboys game his crew has called this season. They worked the win at the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6. Here is a breakdown of what Leavy’s crew did last week in the Green Bay Packers-Buffalo Bills game.
IRVING, Texas – Christmas came early for the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.

With the Washington Redskins beating the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys can clinch the NFC East and a playoff berth with a win Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys have chances at having homefield advantage or a first-round bye in the playoffs if they win their final two games. They close the season Dec. 28 at the Redskins.

For a team that has lost three straight Week 17, winner-take-all, NFC East championship games, the chance to cement their first playoff appearance since 2009 with a win in Week 16 – or any week – was something few expected at the beginning of the season.

But now comes the hard part.

The Cowboys are just 3-4 at AT&T Stadium this season. The Colts have the NFL’s passing leader in Andrew Luck and a high-scoring offense (30.3 yards), although they could be without their leading receiver T.Y. Hilton because of a hamstring injury.

The Cowboys expect DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, to play despite breaking his left hand last week and having surgery on Monday. He is officially listed as questionable.
IRVING, Texas – Earlier in the week assembled reporters from NFL Nation and NFL Insiders to discuss the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award.

The focus was on Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt and, yes, Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.

Packers NFL Nation reporter Rob Demovsky gave this assessment of Murray’s chances:
He absolutely should be on the list, and around the midseason point he probably was considered one of the front runners. That has waned a little since then. Running backs are underappreciated in the league today, but he's truly special regardless of whether he's playing now or whether he played when MVP runners such as Thurman Thomas, Emmitt Smith and Terrell Davis were in the game.

Murray is fighting history a bit and the fact that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league.

Tony Romo’s name did not come up in the discussion. They were focused on these five candidates, but I’ve mentioned before how Romo should be in the discussion for MVP.

Even with Murray expected to play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts less than a week after undergoing hand surgery, he just can’t be the same runner, can he? Will the Cowboys give him the ball 30 times? I can’t see it happening.

So, to me, that puts more on Romo and will help his MVP case if the Cowboys beat the Colts. If Romo delivers wins and big performances in the final two games, he has to insert himself into the conversation. The preseason expectations for the Cowboys were as low as they have been since the early 2000s when they were putting up three straight 5-11 records. Romo's numbers are terrific, but it is not just the stats. It's how he is doing it and when he is doing it.

On Thursday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones was asked if this has been Romo’s best season. He didn’t want to go there. Yet.

“I don’t want to say that, because we’re not through,” Jones said. “But it has the potential to be his best season. I guess the factor that would impact the most in my mind would be if we do have the kind of season that we’re all dreaming about here, then it would be his best. Of course, he’s played well at the position. He’s played well as a quarterback, all of his percentages are certainly qualified to be one of his best. The way he’s doing it is really getting, and should get, a lot of weight as to comparing his seasons. But we’d all say let’s see how many wins we’ve got, and let’s see what the wins get for us.”
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is on the practice field for the third straight day, but the right side of the offensive line -- tackle Doug Free and guard Zack Martin -- isn’t.

Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Friday, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he is “pretty positive,” Murray and Martin will play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The Cowboys are not as sure about Free.

Murray is attempting to play with a broken hand that was surgically repaired on Monday. Free and Martin have ankle injuries. Coach Jason Garrett said there are no hard and fast rules as to whether Martin, a rookie, has to practice in order to play.

As for Murray, Garrett said the running back “looked good,” in Thursday’s practice in which he took limited team snaps but he wasn’t ready to commit to Murray playing against the Colts.

“He hasn’t done much with the ball in his left hand,” Coach Garrett said, “He’s just trying to work his way back. He had surgery a couple of days ago. I think his mind is right, but he has a long way to go. We’ll take it day by day and see how he is come game time.”

Defensive tackle Josh Brent (calf) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) are not practicing and will likely miss Sunday’s game. Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden is missing practice for personal reasons.