This is the fifth installment in ESPN Dallas' five-part series on things that went right for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011.
No. 1: DeMarco Murray emerges as the No. 1 running back
DeMarco Murray’s season started with two carries for no yards at the New York Jets on Sept. 11, 2011 and ended because of a fractured ankle on his fifth carry of the game on Dec. 11 against the New York Giants.
Murray didn’t rush for 1,000 yards. He ran for only two touchdowns. But he changed the Cowboys’ season in 2011 and gives them a ton of hope for 2012.
The Cowboys chose Murray in the third round out of Oklahoma with the idea that he would split time with Felix Jones, but he arrived at training camp with a hamstring that would force him to miss al but one preseason game
It wasn’t until Jones suffered a high ankle sprain on Oct. 16 at New England that Murray took off. He didn’t start the next game against St. Louis but he finished it with a franchise-record 253 yards on 25 carries. He had a 91-yard touchdown run.
Over the next six weeks he would carry the ball at least 20 times in five times. He posted games of 139 and 135 yards. The Cowboys went on a four-game winning streak with Jason Garrett calling a more balanced game of run and pass.
His season ended with the fractured ankle against the Giants and the Cowboys lost three of their last four without him.
The final numbers are impressive: 164 carries, 897 yards. He also caught 26 passes for 183 yards.
In 2012 Murray will get the chance to prove he is closer to the franchise back he looked like before the injury than the next Julius Jones, who could not turn his rookie year success into long-term success.
The Cowboys are banking on it.