DeMarco Murray: Most Touches in a Season

workhorseA big debate for at least part of his offseason is whether the Cowboys should or will sign free-agent running back DeMarco Murray. A significant part of that conversation will focus on Murray’s workload in 2014 and the effect it could have on him moving forward.

He had 449 touches in 2014, which is the most for any running back in team history during a regular season. Here are the numbers:

Murray had another 48 touches in two games to give him 497. By comparison, Emmitt Smith had 439 regular-season touches in 1995 and added another 80 in three playoff games. Smith also exceeded 500 touches in 1992, when he had 432 regular-season touches plus another 84 in three playoff games.

Smith was one of the most durable running backs in NFL history, but his numbers did decline after his record-breaking 1995 season. He played nine more season but never rushed for more than 1,400 yards again. Of course, part of that had to do with an aging offensive line during the late 1990s, but he was never quite the same back after 1995.

Murray ranks 6th in NFL history for touches in a regular season (Smith now ranks 10th). Of the five players with 450 or more touches, here is a quick summary of the rest of their careers.

5. Edgerrin James (Indianapolis, 450 touches, 2000): James had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons between 2003 and 2007. However, following his 450-touch season in 2000, he played in only six games in 2001 and 14 games in 2002.

4. LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego, 451 touches, 2006): Tomlilnson was the back who could have challenged Smith’s all-time rushing title, but Tomlinson had only two more seasons with more than 1,000 yards after touching the ball 451 times in 2006.

3. Eddie George (Tennessee, 453 touches, 2000): George had two more 1,000-yard seasons after 2000, but he never averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry after touching the ball 453 times that year.

2. Larry Johnson (Kansas City, 457 touches, 2006): Johnson played in all 16 games only twice during his career, including the 2006 season when he touched the ball 457 times. He never played a full season again and never came close to matching his rushing totals from 2005 (1,750 yards) or 2006 (1,789 yards).

1. James Wilder (Tampa Bay, 492 touches, 1984): Wilder had never rushed for 1,000 yards until he carried the ball 407 times and caught another 85 passes in 1984. He had only one more 1,000-yard season after 1984 before he started suffering injuries.

Green Bay 26, Dallas 21: Sickening Call, Blown Chances

Thanks to one of the most frustrating rules in the NFL, Dez Bryant did not catch this pass.

Thanks to one of the most frustrating rules in the NFL, Dez Bryant did not catch this pass.

The replay of Dez Bryant’s incredible catch in the fourth quarter—which was subsequently overturned—will haunt every Cowboys’ fan this offseason just as much as Tony Romo fumbling the snap on the field-goal attempt in 2006 or Patrick Crayton failing to run the correct route in a playoff loss to the Giants in 2007.

The circumstance: Dallas faced a 4th-and-2 from the Green Bay 32 with 4:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Dallas trailed, 26-21. Tony Romo threw a fade pass to Bryant, who jumped over Sam Shields to grab the ball. Bryant took at least three steps before beginning to stretch for the goal line. Referees initially concluded that Bryant had made the catch and marked the ball inside the 1.

However, the tip of the ball hit the ground and bounced up slightly. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, and officials overrruled the call. Green Bay took possession, and the Dallas defense was unable to stop the Packers.

Green Bay 26, Dallas 21. Season over.

It was no guarantee that Dallas would have won, even if the Cowboys scored after the Bryant catch. Dallas made numerous mistakes during the game, and those mistakes had as much to do with the loss as the call.

The Cowboys led 14-7 in the second half and had a chance to increase the lead before halftime. However, facing a 3rd-and-1, the Cowboys tried a pass. Romo could not find a receiver, setting up a field-goal attempt.

Dan Bailey has been nearly automatic during his career, but he has not been automatic this postseason. He missed an attempt against Detroit last weekend, and he missed his first attempt on Sunday. He had a second chance, however, when officials waived off the play. Nevertheless, he missed the second try from 51 yards, as Green Bay appeared to tip the ball.

Green Bay managed to move the ball 33 yards in 30 seconds to set up a field goal, so instead of Dallas leading 17-7 at the half, it was 14-10.

Early in the second half, DeMarco Murray took the ball, and it appeared he might be off to the races. Instead, Julius Peppers stripped the ball, and Green Bay recovered. A Packer field goal cut the lead to 14-13.

The Cowboys answered with a touchdown drive. On the ensuing kickoff return, Reggie Cobb fumbled. However, James Hanna could not recover that fumble, and Green Bay retained possession.

Later in that drive, the Packers faced a 3rd and 15 from the Dallas 46. Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams, who got behind Sterling Moore and made J.J. Wilcox miss. Adams’ touchdown cut the Dallas lead to 21-20.

The Packers took the lead with just over nine minutes remaining in the game, and the overturned call killed any chance of the Cowboys coming from behind.

Another long offseason. This loss was sickening.



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