The last time we saw the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears was on Thanksgiving, when both teams suffered critical losses at the hands of division rivals. A week later, the Cowboys bounced back, earning a pivotal victory to stay alive in the NFC playoff race.
Dallas withstood a 21-point fourth quarter by the Bears to hold on for a 41-28 victory on the road, moving to 9-4 on the year and a half-game back of the NFC East-leading Eagles, who have to host to defending champions on Sunday. In addition, the Cowboys currently occupy the fifth seed in the conference and the top Wild Card spot … pending the outcome of this weekend’s action.
Here are five takeaways from the Cowboys win (and Bears loss) Thursday night:
Murray remains an MVP candidate
DeMarco Murray has been the straw that stirs the Dallas offense all season long, and on Thursday night Jason Garrett called his workhorse’s number time and time again until he led the team to victory.
Murray finished with 32 carries for 179 yards and a touchdown, his 11th game with at least 100 yards. That matched a single-season record previously set by none other than Emmitt Smith back in 1995. He had 41 touches for the Cowboys, the most in a game since 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Murray leads the NFL in rushing with more than 1,600 yards, almost 600 more than second-place Le’Veon Bell. He has three games with 35 or more touches in 2014, while all other NFL backs have a combined four, per ESPN Stats & Info. Murray is 394 yards shy of reaching the 2,000-yard mark on the season, and there’s no question he’s right behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in the MVP race.
Cowboys, Romo are road warriors
Last week the Cowboys got crushed in Jerry’s World on Thanksgiving. Wait, that was November and that was a home game.
Fast forward a week with Dallas on the road in December, and everything was straightened out. Dallas moved to 6-0 on the road with a win at Soldier Field Thursday, and in his career Tony Romo moved to 10-7 on the road in the final month of the regular season.
Romo entered Week 14 with a league-best 88.2 Total QBR away from home, which is on pace to be the second-highest mark by a quarterback in the past five seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Fortunately for Romo and Dallas, two of the Cowboys’ final three games are on the road and against NFC East teams. In Week 15 they play the Eagles and in Week 17 they face Washington. Romo owns a 73.5 Total QBR in divisional road games since 2009.
What does the future hold for Chicago?
A glance at Jay Cutler‘s final stat line and you probably wouldn’t think twice about proclaiming the Bears’ quarterback a lock to be in Chicago in 2015 and beyond. But at 5-8 and ultimately out of playoff contention, this was another dagger in a disappointing year for the team in the Windy City.
Cutler’s stats look fine. A 341-yard, two-touchdown night is terrific. But he led the Bears offense to seven points through three quarters before a late push in the fourth quarter when it was too little too late.
Whether it’s the quarterback or coach Marc Trestman who’s gone after the season remains unknown. There is almost certainly going to be some turnover in the coaching staff, and there’s no doubt the defense needs some personnel upgrades. We can only wait to hear more about what’s to come and who’s to go in Chicago in the coming months.
Dallas avoiding a December swoon?
Entering Thursday night’s action, Dallas had a reputation for strong Novembers and horrible Decembers. Just as the Cowboys have done so well all season long, however, they bucked the trend.
Romo was 11-15 in his career in the month of December, which has coincided with his team finishing 8-8 the past three seasons. Overall, the Cowboys have finished 5-9 following their Thanksgiving feasts under Romo.
However, with the win Thursday night the Cowboys moved to 9-4 and — at worst — will finish a game over .500. If the Eagles fall to the Seahawks Sunday, Dallas has a chance to re-gain a share of first place in the NFC East before facing off against Philadelphia again in Week 15.
See you later, history.
Marshall likely out for the year
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was forced from the Week 14 contest in the second quarter with a rib injury. Marshall took a knee to the ribs from a Cowboys defender, and afterwards NFL Network showed the wideout being taken from Soldier Field to a hospital via an ambulance.
Per reports, Marshall fractured his ribs and is likely to miss the remainder of the season, another pitfall in the Bears’ disappointing year. Marshall has battled through a multitude of injuries this year, and the fractured ribs is just the latest setback.