Know the enemy: Saints on DeMarco Murray

METAIRIE, La. -- The Dallas Cowboys have suddenly become a run-first team, leaning more than ever on fourth-year pro DeMarco Murray -- even when they were down 21-0 last week before coming back to beat the St. Louis Rams.

That fact has not been lost on the New Orleans Saints, who have talked this week about Murray being a top priority.

The 6-foot, 217-pounder battled injuries early in his career. But he’s been on a tear since last season. He leads the NFL in both rushing attempts (75) and yards (385). And according to ESPN Stats and Information, Murray is the first running back since Curtis Martin in 2004 to run for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in each of the first three games of the season.

Here’s what the Saints had to say about Murray this week:

Coach Sean Payton: “I don’t know that [Murray’s rise has been] quiet. I think that when he’s been healthy, I think people in our league that know the player know that he’s someone who’s got strength, he’s got power. I think what’s also impressive is he’s playing on all the downs. He’s playing in base. When they get to third down, you see him in there as a protector. So he’s getting a lot of snaps and has been a big weapon for ‘em.”

ILB Curtis Lofton: “Oh, he’s very special, in how he can run the ball and plus how he catches the ball. Coming to Oklahoma, I took him on his recruiting trip, so we’ve been pretty close for years. And when Adrian [Peterson] was there, he was on the scout team, so he had the duty of getting us ready to play. And we used to hate it because he gave us fits all week. Now, he’s really matured into one of the top backs in this league. He’s one of those guys that can bounce it in and out, cuts back, has great speed, can go the distance. So it’s gonna take a group effort to get him down and get to him.”

OLB Junior Galette: “(He’s running as good right now) as I’ve ever seen anybody. He’s up there, top tier. He’s real patient, at the same time he’s explosive and can make guys miss. ... He ran well here last year (in the Saints’ 49-17 rout at New Orleans). But our offense was so explosive that they had no choice but to start passing.”

S Kenny Vaccaro: “He’s dynamic. He can do things in the passing game. He’s running hard, too. They’ve definitely stuck to that running game, and they do it well.”

OLB Parys Haralson: “You look at him on film, he’s breaking tackles, he’s running to the edge, he’s got speed, he’s got power. I think he’s kind of the total package. The offensive line’s blocking really well for him. A physical offensive line, they like to come off and sustain their blocks, even with the tight ends. So I think it’s gonna be a challenge.”