The Arizona Cardinals will take on the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday for the third time in the past four seasons. While the Cardinals have struggled to string together a set of victories this season, the Cowboys have managed to put together seven wins so far. Of course, five of those wins have come since rookie running back DeMarco Murray stepped into the fold.
Murray has become a focal point of the Cowboys offense. His ability to carry the ball for big gains as well as receive it out of the backfield have made him yet another weapon in an already stacked offensive arsenal. If the Cardinals want to have any chance at defeating their old foes, the buck will have to stop with Murray.
Since DeMarco Murray revealed himself as a rookie running sensation in week eight, teams around the NFL have had a difficult time stopping the young spark plug. He has already registered a 250 yard game (a franchise record) and two separate 100+ yard rushing games this season. Including his game against the Rams in week seven (which he didn't start), Murray has averaged almost 6.6 yards per carry.
Not only has Murray been a prolific player toting the rock, he has also displayed himself as one of Tony Romo's favorite receivers. In his last four games, he has caught an average of five passes per game for an average of 8.4 yards per attempt.
Also of note: the Cowboys are 5-1 since Murray began taking the majority of carries at halfback.
The Cardinals currently hold the 20th ranked run defense, allowing four yards per carry. They have already played teams that have had impressive running backs on their roster, such as the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson in week five. The only difference is that this time, the gameplan may have to be a bit different.
Peterson and Murray are both the breadwinners for their offenses, but the Vikings don't have the other threats around their runner that the Cowboys do. The Cardinals will have to be cognizant of big time players like Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson. Stacking eight defenders in the box may not always be an option for the Cards if they look to keep their cornerbacks off an island against the Cowboys' big receivers.
The Cardinals also face the dilemma of not having nose tackle Dan Williams available to them for the rest of the season. After breaking his arm in the game against the 49ers, Arizona lost depth and a good run plugger along their defensive front.
Honestly, I think the success of both teams truly hinges on what Murray is able to do in this game. If he is able to have his way with the Cardinals front seven, the play action will become readily available and the Cowboys will likely be able to win the game. If his damage can be reduced, the Cardinals will force Tony Romo to make the plays for the Cowboys' offense... and we have seen how that can go (see: Lions, Detroit, week four).
How DeMarco Murray ever fell to the 71st overall pick is beyond me, but the Cardinals have to make it look like he deserved to be drafted there if they want to come away with a win this weekend.