ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - The blood began running early. On one of his first carries, DeMarco Murray skinned his elbows and stained his uniform, sending red streaks across the white numbers of his blue jersey and white pants.
By the end - when Murray was grinding out yard after yard and burning off precious time - the look fit him and the Dallas Cowboys quite nicely.
Murray churned out 27 yards on five straight carries in the final 2:41, setting up fellow rookie Dan Bailey for a 28-yard field goal as time expired that gave the Cowboys a 20-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.
The win was Dallas' fourth straight and it guaranteed the Cowboys (7-4) would be atop the NFC East at the start of December. They're a half-game ahead of the New York Giants, who play at New Orleans on Monday night. If New York wins, the clubs would be tied. A Saints win would keep Dallas on top alone.
``There is no favorite,' Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman said. ``I'll tell you what happens at the end of the season. We just have to keep on plugging and get some wins.'
Murray's evolvement from backup to featured back has transformed the Dallas offense. He's mostly been a breakaway threat who has kept defenses from loading up to stop Romo. This late-game performance showed what a fully developed player he may be. He gained between 3 and 9 yards on five straight carries, taking the clock from 2:41 to :17 while forcing the Dolphins to burn their last two timeouts.
He showed his awareness best when he broke to the outside and fell rather than try gaining a few more yards and risking getting pushed out of bounds.
``I definitely knew what to do,' Murray said. ``It was an awesome way to finish the game.'
The Dolphins (3-8) had four drives that got within 10 yards of the end zone, yet settled for field goals every time. Their only touchdown came on a 35-yard pass from Matt Moore to Brandon Marshall.
However, Miami still nearly pulled it out. In the second half, the Dolphins scored on all but their final drive, and that was all it took to end a three-game winning streak.
``When you come into somebody else's place, those (deep drives) have got to be touchdowns,' Miami coach Tony Sparano said. ``They've been touchdowns the last few weeks and that's why you win.'
Eighteen years after these teams played another Thanksgiving game decided on a last-second field goal - one best remembered for Leon Lett's gaffe on snow and ice - conditions were so balmy that the glass end-zone doors at Cowboys Stadium were opened for the first time all season.
Maybe that's what caused both teams to play so sloppy for so long. TV viewers, especially anyone fresh off a huge holiday meal, might've dozed off watching the first half.
But things got plenty interesting after halftime. Moore led Miami on three straight scoring drives of at least 70 yards, the last putting the Dolphins up 19-17 with 7:14 left.
Dallas punted on its ensuing drive, then Moore was finally stopped, too. Miami punted and Dez Bryant made a rare appearance as a returner, taking it 20 yards.
Romo took over at the Cowboys' 36-yard line with 2:59 left. Jason Witten went into the huddle and told teammates, ```We need this W, whatever it takes. No penalties. We've got to get it there,'' left guard Montrae Holland said.
Witten himself caught consecutive passes to put Dallas at the outer edge of Bailey's range. Murray got it closer, then Bailey split the uprights.
``That's what they are paying me to do, I guess - to go out there and make kicks,' said Bailey, who has made 26 in a row, one shy of the club record.
Romo ended a streak of 128 straight passes without an interception, but he completed 22 of 34 for 226 yards. Many of those came while scrambling and some while also being hit or grabbed. He was patient waiting for a 5-yard touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson to develop, and the pair were in sync on an 18-yarder made with Romo moving to his left.
``He just kind of kept hanging in there,' Garrett said. ``I thought he moved in the pocket really well. In critical situations, he ... allowed us to make plays.'
Murray ran 22 times for 87 yards, and caught four passes for 41 yards. Robinson caught seven passes for 79 yards. Witten had four catches for 43 yards and Bryant caught three balls for 35 yards.
Moore was 19 of 32 for 288 yards and a touchdown. He took four sacks and had trouble handling several snaps; one went through his hands and was recovered by Dallas only 5 yards from the end zone. That set up the first Romo-to-Robinson touchdown, with 55 seconds left in the half, ending Miami's streak of 13 quarters without allowing a touchdown.
Reggie Bush ran 16 times for 61 yards and had 35 more on three receptions. Marshall had 103 yards on five catches, including the TD pass hauled in while Newman had him in a headlock for about 5 yards.
``We felt like we played a good game all day, but we didn't make enough plays and they did,' Miami safety Yeremiah Bell said. ``That's the price you pay, so if we would have made more plays, we would have won the game.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved