DeMarco Murray topped the century mark on the ground for an NFL-record seventh straight game to start the season, and the Dallas Cowboys cruised once again. With a 31-21 win over the New York Giants, Dallas affirmed its place among the league's best teams.
Murray had a scare in the second quarter, when he left the field limping with an apparent ankle injury. He returned in the second half and didn't appear any worse for the wear. He had 73 yards in the first half, and added 55 and a touchdown in the second for a total of 128 yards on the ground on 28 carries. Murray now has 913 yards rushing through seven games, which is the third-most ever behind only Terrell Davis in 1998 (1,001 yards) and Jamal Lewis in 2003 (971 yards). Murray is obliterating his contemporaries:
>>>>>MT @ESPNStatsInfo: DeMarco Murray: 913 rushing yards. Only 3 other players have more than 500 rushing yards: pic.twitter.com/w9Eo03LoQ1— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) October 19, 2014
Murray's performance was part of a holistic win. Tony Romo was solid outside of a first-half interception, finding Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar (twice) for touchdowns. Dez Bryant was once again a big-play man downfield, catching nine passes for 151 yards -- an average of 16.8 yards per catch.
The early portions of the game suggested that a shootout was brewing. Eli Manning had passing success to start the game, throwing touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and Daniel Fells in quick succession to give the Giants a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Cowboys held a nine-minute time of possession in the first half, however, and the extra rest may have keyed a big second half for the Dallas defense. Nothing came easy on the ground or through the air for the Giants, who coughed up the ball twice on fumbles in the second half.
Three things we learned:
1) The Giants are weird as hell
The Giants fell, but at least they were competitive for a little while, unlike during their blowout/shutout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Manning was steady. Jason Pierre-Paul was great with two early sacks. Beckham continued his maturation and appears as if he's going to be a great receiving target going forward.
It's still an inconsistent squad from play to play, much less game to game. When the Giants' offense looked as if it was getting momentum back in the second half, it gave the ball back on dumb turnovers.
Why, exactly, the Giants are unable to keep a good thing going from moment to moment is unclear. At this point, there's no reason to expect the team to change its schizophrenic ways anytime soon.
2) The Cowboys' offense is ridiculously deep
Dez Bryant is the Cowboys' leading receiver by receptions and yards, but it's Terrance Williams who leads the team in touchdown receptions with six. Jason Witten is the Cowboys' leading tight end, but he has just one touchdown reception to Gavin Escobar's three. Escobar caught two scores Sunday, including this beauty:
The Cowboys have enormous receivers across the board, and can get unexpected production from the likes of Escobar, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle and Dwayne Harris on a weekly basis. That depth of talent makes Dallas' offense perhaps the most dangerous in the league right now.
3) We're now giving the Cowboys the benefit of the doubt
The Cowboys have contingencies for once. In the past, we'd be watching a tight game involving Dallas patiently waiting for Tony Romo to either win the game or lose it. Now, if the passing game sputters, the running game can pick it up. Or if nothing works on offense, the defense is there to force turnovers and lead the way, or vice versa. The most accurate kicker in NFL history is a cherry on top.
The Cowboys can win a number of different ways which they have been unable to do in recent years, and that makes them an understandable Super Bowl favorite (among other strong teams, of course) at the moment.