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Dallas ground game stuck in neutral without Murray

Associated Press Modified: November 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm •  Published: November 27, 2012

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Dallas running game is stuck in neutral without running back DeMarco Murray.

Of course, the Cowboys have also had a temporary center and backups starting at two other spots on the offensive line. And they fall behind almost every week.

Any of the above could explain why Dallas has the NFL's worst rushing offense, and one of the most overworked quarterbacks in Tony Romo.

"We've got to run the ball better. We've got to run the ball more," coach Jason Garrett said. "We have to be effective running the ball early in the ballgame so we don't get behind."

Probably easier said than done, particularly if Murray misses his seventh straight game Sunday night against Philadelphia. He last played against Baltimore on Oct. 14, when the Cowboys rushed for more yards than the defense-first Ravens have ever allowed in a game. That 227-yard day was marred by Murray spraining his right foot in the first half and the Dallas running game hasn't been the same since.

The only time the Cowboys have rushed for more than 100 yards in the past six games, they barely made it, getting 101 in a victory at Philadelphia. Felix Jones led Dallas with 71 yards, but his next-highest total filling in for Murray is 44 yards. For the season, Dallas is averaging 79 yards rushing per game.

The question of when Murray will return appears no more settled now than it was a month ago. He has been on the practice field in uniform consistently for warmups, and even said two weeks ago there was "a chance" he could play against Cleveland. But then he wasn't on the field at all for the last practice before the Thanksgiving Day loss to Washington.

"It shouldn't matter who's back there," said offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau. "We should be able to make it clean for them to make the read and hit the holes. We miss him, but at the same time ... there are no excuses. We have to get better."

Bernadeau signed as a free agent in the offseason to play guard for Dallas. The 38-31 loss to Washington was his second start at center while the Cowboys wait for Phil Costa and Ryan Cook to get healthy. Cook came over in a late preseason trade with Miami because the Cowboys were already having trouble with injuries in the offensive line.

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