IRVING, Texas (AP) — NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray has a broken left hand in what could be a damaging blow to the playoff hopes of the Dallas Cowboys.
Murray was set for surgery Monday and might be sidelined Sunday at home against Indianapolis, already a playoff qualifier. Even though the Cowboys just beat Philadelphia to take the NFC East lead, they might have to win both of their remaining games to end a four-year postseason drought.
If the Eagles beat division also-rans Washington and the New York Giants in their final two games, Dallas (10-4) could be knocked out by a loss to the Colts even with a win against the Redskins in the regular-season finale.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday that it was "probably a tough expectation" that Murray would play against Indianapolis (10-4), though he wouldn't rule it out. Neither would coach Jason Garrett.
"The biggest question we have to ask ourselves is, is he functional to do his job," Garrett said. "Can he hold the football, can he carry it under duress, can he block, can he do the things necessary to play the position. He's as strong-willed and determined an individual as I've ever been around. If anybody has a chance to come back, he does."
Murray has 1,687 yards rushing and needs 87 yards to break all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith's franchise record of 1,773 yards. The fourth-year back is 409 yards ahead of Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell in the race for the rushing title.
Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle split carries as Murray's backup in Sunday's 38-27 win over Philadelphia. Murray was injured near the end of the game. Television footage showed him leaving the field while wincing in pain.
The Cowboys have had Ryan Williams on their practice squad all season. He was taken 33 picks ahead of Murray by Arizona in the 2011 draft. The Cardinals released him after three mostly injury-plagued seasons. Randle, a fifth-round pick last year, has 34 carries for 237 yards and two touchdowns, including a 17-yarder on his only carry against Chicago two weeks ago.
Dunbar has 26 carries for 91 yards but has done most of his damage as a receiver with 16 catches for 207 yards. He doesn't have any touchdowns. An undrafted free agent in his third season, Dunbar had a breakout game on Thanksgiving last year with a team-high 82 yards before sustaining a knee injury in that game against Oakland, knocking him out for the rest of the season.
"Lance has done a number of different things for us on third down as a receiver, split out," Garrett said. "Joseph has been a guy that we've brought into games just to give him the ball and he's done a real nice job with that. I have a lot of confidence in both of those guys."
Murray has a league-high 351 carries, so the question of a No. 2 back has never really been an issue for the Cowboys. Murray has yet to make it through a full season without missing at least two games because of injuries that included a broken ankle, a sprained foot and a sprained knee.
Emmitt Smith sustained a similar injury for Dallas in 1999, had surgery and missed one game. He had 127 yards rushing in his first game back.
"We'll take the surgery first," Garrett said. "We'll see how he feels coming out of the surgery and make our next best decisions."
NOTES: RT Doug Free had an MRI for what Garrett said was a left foot and ankle injury. He came out of the Eagles game in the third quarter and didn't return. Free missed three games earlier this season after breaking his right foot against Seattle. ... RG Zack Martin played through a sprained right ankle against the Eagles. Garrett said neither Free nor Martin had high ankle sprains.
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