DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas– Five runs into the game, on No. 164 of the season, bad luck caught up with breakout rookie running back DeMarco Murray, who had carried the load for the Cowboys the last two months.
Just like that, with Murray’s right ankle twisting beneath a tackle, the job belonged to Felix Jones again, for the first time since his ankle took the same awkward turn at New England in Week 6. Jones’ high ankle sprain gave way for Murray’s rise, and Murray’s season-ending high ankle sprain and fracture have propped the door back open for Jones.
“First of all, all my prayers go out to DeMarco,” Jones said. “He’s a hard-nosed runner, a hard, tough runner, a great player, a great asset for the team. It’s just unfortunate. I hope he gets well soon.”
Only two running backs dressed against the Giants, as rookie Phillip Tanner was placed on the injured reserve last week due to bad hamstring and Tashard Choice was released at midseason. Sunday’s game belonged to Jones from the 5:11 mark of the first quarter, and he did a lot with the opportunity. Jones rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries and added another six catches for 31 yards in an effort that came up just short. Jones contributed one six-yard catch and got out of bounds to stop the clock on the last-ditch drive that ended with a missed Dan Bailey field goal.
“You know it’s tough,” Jones said. “It’s tough in this league to do that. We’ll learn from our mistakes and go from there. We’ve got a couple of games ahead of us, and we’ve just got to learn from that and focus and keep moving on.”
Enjoying great success behind the lead blocking of newly-healthy fullback Tony Fiammetta, Jones’ lone major mistake of the game was ultimately quite costly. The Cowboys took over possession on their own four-yard line with 1:38 to play in the first half, and Jones had what appeared to be a nice run for 14 yards, but got the ball punched out by New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul before his knee touched down. The Giants recovered the fumble then went on to kick a field goal, and while the Cowboys rebuilt their two-point lead with a field goal of their own immediately afterward, three points eventually was the difference in the game.
“The ball just came out,” Jones said. “I didn’t have it secured good enough. Another lesson learned, and we’ve just got to take care of it.”
With Jones their only healthy back on the 53-man roster, the Cowboys will need to address the position this week. They have one back, Chauncey Washington, on the practice squad, but he has only four career carries, none since 2004, and is now in his fifth season since leaving Southern Cal.
“We’re going to have to sit down and talk about it and see what we’re going to do,” running game coordinator Hudson Houck said. “We haven’t even thought about it at this point, just trying to get through the game. Felix did an outstanding job. He’s a good running back, and he’s a good, solid starter. We had two starters.”
The Cowboys have come full circle at running back this season, which isn’t so terrible, all things considered. At least they still have Jones, the opening day starter.
“But that’s all we’ve got right now,” Houck said. “You need more than one in this league.”