- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

IRVING, Texas (AP) - NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray had Dallas coach Jason Garrett believing he would play with a broken hand almost as soon as the injury happened.

Once the star running back made it through a playoff-clinching win over Indianapolis, it hardly mattered that he had a season-low 58 yards. The impact of his decision on the Cowboys couldn’t be measured that way.

“The mindset and mentality that he had - starting in the locker room last week, on the plane ride, after the surgery,” Garrett said. “He just didn’t waver. ‘I’m playing, coach. Coach, I’m playing. Coach, I’m playing.’ It was with a look that was so determined that its impact on our football team was so strong.”

Murray broke his left hand in a win at Philadelphia that gave the Cowboys (11-4) the NFC East lead. He had surgery the next day, was doing individual drills with protective padding two days after that, and had 22 carries in a 42-7 win over the Colts that clinched the division title and ended Dallas‘ four-year playoff drought.

“It affected me a little bit,” said Murray, who matched his season low in per-carry average at 2.6 yards from the previous week against the Eagles.

The way the game played out, the Cowboys really didn’t need him. His most significant contribution was a 1-yard plunge that capped four straight possessions with a touchdown to start the game, giving Dallas a 28-0 lead.

But the fact he was out there could reverberate in the playoffs and beyond, with the 26-year-old Murray’s contract up and the Cowboys having to decide whether and how much to pay him.

“This day with DeMarco Murray is going to be one that I’ll never forget,” Garrett said. “He’s about as tough a guy I know mentally. He’s about as tough a guy as I know physically. It’s not easy to do what he did.”

Owner Jerry Jones said Murray came out of the game with “flying colors.”

“That’s easy for us to sit here and talk about him coming through in flying colors,” Jones said. “How would you like to have your hand broken and go up through there and have everybody and 20-something players out there to step on it or hit it.”

The Cowboys are in an interesting position for their regular-season finale at Washington (4-11). Dallas still has a shot at a first-round bye, but doesn’t even have to win in the most likely scenario for getting it.

As for the question of sitting Tony Romo and other regulars, Murray needs just 29 yards to break all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith’s franchise record of 1,773 yards from 1995. Garrett said that won’t weigh into the decision of who plays or how long they play.

“And it’s not important to DeMarco either,” Garrett said Monday. “It’s good for our football team when DeMarco is running the ball well and we control the game by running the football. But the idea that we’re going to get a player some kind of statistic, it’s not really part of our thinking.”

Murray, who’s never made it through a full season without missing games because of injury, dodged a question two weeks ago about how important it was to him to play all 16 games. He clearly answered it Sunday against the Colts.

“I’m not going to lie,” said receiver Dez Bryant, who caught his NFL-leading 14th touchdown pass against Indianapolis. “There was a lot of doubt, he probably wasn’t going to play. I knew he was going to play. If he can walk, if he can catch, he can do. And that’s exactly what he did.”

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