By Andrew Kahn
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears last night 41-28. Chicago scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make it look respectable, but a 21-0 third quarter for Dallas essentially sealed this one. The Cowboys improved to 9-4, a critical win for their playoff hopes, while the Bears fell to 5-8.
Jerry Jones spent $1.3 billion on the Cowboys home stadium, but his team has struggled there, winning six games the year it opened (2009) but just two, five, four, and five since. This year, Dallas is 3-3 at home, but 6-0 on the road. The road schedule has been a bit easier so far, but that alone doesn’t explain how Dallas lost to the Redskins at home but won in Seattle.
DeMarco Murray had another great game last night, carrying the ball 32 times for 179 yards and catching nine passes for 49 yards. He extended his big lead in the rushing yards category as he closes in on 2,000 for the season. Murray’s superior ability to read his blocks was on display often last night, as he used his lateral quickness to change direction behind the line of scrimmage, then burst through for big gains. The Cowboys led 35-7 going into the fourth yet continued to feed their star back. His 41 touches were the most in the NFL since 2009. Murray will be a free agent after this season.
Not their Forte
Marc Trestman has been preaching his desire to run the ball more often—what NFL coach doesn’t?—but once again it didn’t really materialize. Matt Forte got four carries on Chicago’s opening drive but just 13 for the game. The Bears gained only 35 yards on the ground. Trestman said after the game that it was clear Dallas keyed on the run, and just 20 offensive snaps in the first half didn’t help Chicago’s cause. Neither did Forte’s fumble to start the second half, with the Bears trailing 14-7. Forte turned a short pass into a big gain on third down, but was stripped from behind. Dallas needed just three plays to score a touchdown, the beginning of the end for the Bears.
Terrance Williams, mentioned in this game preview, did not factor into last night’s game, at least as a receiver. None of Tony Romo’s 26 pass attempts went his way. (To Williams’ credit, he did appear to deliver some key blocks.) Someone needed to get involved in the passing game besides Dez Bryant, and last night it was Cole Beasley. The third-year player out of SMU entered the game with just three career touchdown catches, but scored twice last night. His first came in the closing seconds of the half, when he caught a pass at the four-yard line and powered through a Bears tackle to break the plane. After Forte’s fumble, he made a leaping grab and once again showed a nose for the end zone, twisting and diving for the pylon. He also recovered an onside kick that had squirted pass the first line of potential Dallas receivers.
Big games in Big D?
With last night’s win, the Cowboys clinched their first winning season since 2009 and guaranteed they wouldn’t go 8-8 for a fourth straight year. They finish with games at Philadelphia, at home against Indianapolis, and at Washington. Nothing is guaranteed, but with the Eagles showdown looming and Detroit and San Francisco at their heels, this was a critical victory.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.