Philadelphia Eagles News

Defense Knows Stopping Murray Is Key

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A year removed from finishing 24th in the league in rushing yards, the Dallas Cowboys enter Thursday's Thanksgiving throwdown with the top rusher in the entire NFL in running back DeMarco Murray.

Through 11 games, Murray has picked up 1,354 yards, 233 more than he gathered in 14 games last season. He sits more than 400 yards ahead of the second-best rusher in the league, Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell, and is on pace to finish within 35 yards of the 2,000-yard mark.

To put it in no uncertain terms, Murray is having a monster year, and he's a big reason for the Cowboys' success this season.

With a consistent running game, quarterback Tony Romo has had less pressure to make the offense tick through the air and has been more selective with his passes. Through Week 12, he's thrown just six interceptions, and the Dallas offense has generally been humming.

Enter the Eagles defense, a unit that will look to be the immovable object to the Cowboys' unstoppable force.

"It's going to be huge for us to not let [Murray] get going," linebacker Connor Barwin said after Monday's training session. "When they can run the ball well, I think it really opens up the game, and that's when their offense becomes really, really dangerous."

There's certainly something to be said about the connection between Murray's success and the production levels of the Cowboys' offense. The 26-year-old back has been held under 100 yards just once this season; in Week 9, the Arizona Cardinals stifled Murray, limiting him to 79 yards, and the Dallas attack suffered. Dallas picked up just 266 yards of offense that week.

While the Cardinals had more flexibility in focusing on Murray because Romo missed that game with an injury, the Eagles can still try to replicate that kind of success against Murray and the Dallas offense this week.

"We've got to go into this game to stop that run game," Trent Cole explained, "and then apply the pressure on the quarterback."

And Cole knows it won't be easy. Murray's success is no fluke; he's a top-flight running back, and he'll certainly pose a challenge on Bird Day.

"[Murray]'s been a phenomenal runner," Cole said. "He's been running that ball really well. He's just a fast, downhill runner, and when he gets the ball he goes."

For linebacker Brandon Graham, stopping Murray is tantamount to the Eagles defense's success Thursday.

"We're just trying to hold him down so we can win," Graham explained. "That's the biggest thing. If he can't get going - he and [Dallas wide receiver] Dez [Bryant] are the two that makes the offense go, and we've got to stop both of them. We've got to stop Murray, because they're going to try and run the ball."

Graham said he and his teammates are just going to take Thursday one play at a time and focus on what they can control - doing their best to plug holes and get Murray down early.

If everybody brings their game, Graham said, he's feeling good about his team's chances.

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