The Dallas Cowboys' late-season playoff run has been sparked by players with Oklahoma ties.
Dez Bryant has been one of the NFL's top receivers the past two months. DeMarco Murray has helped Dallas re-establish its ground game. Kicker Dan Bailey is booting game-winning field goals. Even rookie tight end James Hanna is contributing.
Bryant, in his second year out of Oklahoma State, is playing with a fractured index finger that Dallas owner Jerry Jones said probably will require bone taken off his hip and placed in the finger after the season.
“He was inspirational to everybody involved in the organization,” Jones said. “Make no mistake about it, he has an injury. But because we're still playing for the marbles, he wanted to give it everything he could.”
The Cowboys (8-6) have won five of their last six games to move into a three-way tie for the NFC East lead with the Giants and Redskins.
Bryant has played a key role, hauling in 40 catches for 544 yards and eight TDs in the past six games.
“(Quarterback) Tony (Romo) trusts me more and more,” Bryant said. “That's all it is.”
It's been a dramatic turnaround for Bryant. He was criticized for off-the-field issues and early season struggles, highlighted by running the wrong route when Romo threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in an Oct. 1 loss to Chicago.
“I know that you go by catches and yards and touchdowns but I go by how many times he does the right thing, makes the right choice, runs the right route, the depth he's at, his ability to read the coverage,” Romo said. “It's a lot of stuff he didn't do as well in the beginning of the year. But he's come on lately.”
Murray, OU's all-time touchdown leader, missed six games with a sprained left foot. He's rushed for 217 yards and scored a touchdown in every game since he returned to help the Cowboys go 3-0 in December.
“Slowly but surely I'm starting to feel better. But it's a long process,” Murray said. “It gives us a lot of confidence when we have all our weapons. We have a lot of playmakers. When all our core guys are in there, guys can't be double (teamed) and they can't stack the box (to stop the run).”