8:25 PM ET, December 4, 2014
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Before the Dallas Cowboys can eye a rematch with the rival that knocked them out of first place in the NFC East, they need to bounce back against a Chicago Bears team that's also coming off a rough Thanksgiving Day showing.
Looking to remain undefeated away from home, the Cowboys' only focus must be on avoiding a fourth straight defeat to the Bears on Thursday night.
A 33-10 loss to Philadelphia on Thanksgiving not only dropped Dallas (8-4) out of first in the division, but also from playoff position in the conference. The Cowboys trail the Eagles by a game, and though they're tied with Seattle and Detroit for two wild-card spot, they don't hold the tiebreaker over either.
The Cowboys visit Philadelphia on Dec. 14, but there's a hurdle to clear before that.
"We got to get focused on beating Chicago," coach Jason Garrett said. "We have to learn from (the Eagles) game, build on the good stuff, correct the bad."
The bad outweighed the good and the result was a third straight home defeat for Garrett's team. Dallas was held to 267 yards -- its second-lowest total of the season -- and 93 on the ground. Although NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray's 1,427 yards are 381 more than his closest pursuer, he managed a season-low 73 and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Tony Romo threw for 199 yards with no TDs, two interceptions and absorbed four sacks.
Defensively, the Cowboys yielded a season-high 464 yards, including 256 on the ground, and allowed the Eagles to record first-quarter scoring drives of 80 and 88 yards.
"No excuses," defensive tackle Jeremy Mincey told the team's official website. "We just gotta get better. Sometimes it's good to get a good old fashioned butt-kicking to get you going again."
Now it may play to the Cowboys' favor to leave town. Dallas, which went 1/3 during December in two of the last three years, is trying to go 6-0 away from home for the first time since 2007. Romo has 12 touchdowns and only one of his eight interceptions while posting a league-best 122.0 passer rating away from home this season.
Including a 31-17 win over Jacksonville in London that was recognized as a home game for the Jaguars, the Cowboys are averaging 30.4 points on the road compared to 21.4 at home, where they're 3-4 and haven't scored more than 17 in each of the last three.
"I think, for me, I think that turns me on a little bit -- to come into someone's house and hear the boos and all that," Murray said. "I think it's a great thing.
"We've just got to focus, and have more patience, especially on the road, and not make many mistakes. I think we'll be fine."
Romo threw three TDs without a pick and Murray ran for 146 yards on 18 carries during last season's 45-28 loss at Chicago, where the Cowboys trailed 24-14 at halftime and allowed 490 yards to a Bears team led by then-backup quarterback Josh McCown.
That Bears defense ranked last in the league in allowing 161.4 rushing yards per game, but this season's unit is 10th with an average of 105.5 allowed.
Chicago's Matt Forte ran for 102 yards and caught seven passes for 73 and a TD in that contest. After LeSean McCoy burned the Cowboys for 159 rushing yards last week, they must certainly be aware of Forte, whose 1,478 yards from scrimmage rank behind only Murray (1,770) and Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell (1,689).
"He's almost half of their offense if you put it all together," Garrett said. "Very versatile, very productive, and they use him really well -- similar to what Philly does in using their backs a lot of different ways.
"So you know I think teams who do this challenge you and you have to make sure to be on the screws in defending it."
Forte, however, equaled a career low with five rushing attempts that produced six yards in last Thursday's 34-17 loss at Detroit. Only three times this season has Forte carried 20 or more times compared to last year when he did it on six occasions.
Chicago's 23.1 rushing attempts per game rank 28th, and its average of 93.2 yards on the ground is 26th. The Bears managed 13 rushing yards against the stingy Lions as they opted to use more short passes and screen plays to attack the league's top run defense.
Forte, however, knows the Bears (5-7) must keep it on the ground to succeed in the final month of a disappointing season.
"It's of the utmost importance, especially if we're playing outside, with the weather and stuff," he said. "You can't just sit back there and throw 50 passes a game and expect to win."
Even though it's won two straight at home, Chicago has underachieved in its second season under offensive-oriented coach Marc Trestman, averaging 6.7 fewer points than the 27.8 that was second-most in the NFL in 2013.
The Bears are allowing 28.1 points per contest, 1.8 fewer than 2013, but likely not enough of an improvement to avoid missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
"I think with the guys we have and character and integrity of the guys, I don't think anybody's going to quit," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "I think the coaches won't let us, they're not going to quit on us."
More from ESPN.com
Shanahan: RG III, Cutler can be franchise QBs
Former Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he still believes two of his former players, Robert Griffin III and Jay Cutler, can be franchise quarterbacks. Both, however, need to make some changes.
Cowboys RB Murray still undecided on status
Cowboys star running back DeMarco Murray will probably wait until Sunday morning to make a final decision on his playing status for Dallas' home game against the Colts.
Cowboys list Murray (hand) as questionable
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray went through his second straight practice in which he was limited and is listed as questionable on the injury report.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||2.2||3.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DAL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DAL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 3-3|
|Dec 9, 2013||DAL 28, @CHI 45|
|Oct 1, 2012||DAL 18, CHI 34|
|Sep 19, 2010||DAL 20, CHI 27|
|Sep 23, 2007||DAL 34, @CHI 10|
|Nov 25, 2004||DAL 21, CHI 7|
The Cowboys need 1 more win or tie to clinch their first winning season since 2009.
Tony Romo is 13-18 in the regular season in December and January, 58-30 in all other months.
Of the 31 NFL teams he has faced in his career, Jay Cutler's 10.4 yards per attempt against the Cowboys is his highest against any team. The Cowboys are also 1 of 2 teams that Cutler has faced and NOT thrown an interception against (Titans).[+]
Jay Cutler Career vs Cowboys
The Bears are 3-1 all-time vs the Cowboys in primetime games.
Since Tony Romo began starting games for the Cowboys in 2006, the Cowboys have been one of the worst December teams in the league, but one of the best in November.[+]
Cowboys Win Pct Rank by Month - Since 2006
Jay Cutler is 2nd in the NFL in completion pct when throwing 5 yards or fewer down field, 30th in the NFL in completion pct when throwing more than 5 yards downfield.
DeMarco Murray topped 100 yards on the ground for the 11th time this season, tying Emmitt Smith's single-season franchise record.[+]
Most Games with 100 Rush Yards - Single Season in Cowboys History
Tony Romo was 16-of-18 for 104 yards and a TD on throws travelling less than 10 yards downfield in the first half.
Martellus Bennett had 0 TD in his last 3 seasons with the Cowboys (2009-11). He has 16 TD since including 1 tonight.
DeMarco Murray (DAL): season-high 7 receptions in 1st half (career-high: 8 rec, 2013 Week 1 vs Giants)
DeMarco Murray has 168 yards rushing between the tackles tonight. That is the third most such rush yards by a player in 2014. It is the most rushing yards between the tackles by a Cowboys running back since Murray had 183 such rushing yards against the Rams in Week 7 of 2011.
Tony Romo (3 TD, 0 Int Thursday) has thrown 37 touchdowns to 8 interceptions in December since the start of the 2009 season, the 2nd-best TD-Int ratio in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers over that span. The Cowboys defense has allowed the 4th-most PPG (26.2) in December since 2009.[+]
Tony Romo Career in December
From Elias: Bears have been held to 35 rushing yards or fewer in each of the last two games. The last time the Bears were held to 35 rushing yards or fewer in consecutive games was in 1964 against the Lions and Redskins.
DeMarco Murray (DAL): 2nd rush TD on 4th down this season and career (previous was Week 1 vs 49ers)
The Cowboys have 121 yards rushing and 2 TD's between the tackles today, 104 of those yards from DeMarco Murray. The Bears were allowing 70 rush yards per game between the tackles entering tonight, and had only allowed 4 such rush touchdowns.
The Bears gave up 14 points in the 2nd quarter tonight, the 5th time they've allowed that many this year. They're giving up the most points in the 2nd quarter this season.[+]
Most Points Allowed in 2nd Quarter - This Season
--Tony Romo was 9-of-10 for 114 yards and a touchdown against the blitz Thursday. Entering the game Romo was completing 65.7% of his passes against the blitz, 6th best in the NFL.
--Tony Romo was 8-of-9 for 77 yards, 2 touchdowns and 7 first downs when passing on 3rd down.
--Cole Beasley caught all three of his targets for 42 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown came on a pass thrown 19 yards downfield, just his 6th target on a pass thrown at least 15 yards this season and the first such touchdown of his career.
*Tony Romo kept his passes short on Thursday, with 21 of his 26 throws traveling 10 yards or fewer downfield. Romo completed 18-of-21 such passes for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. Romo's 6.2 air yards per attempt are his fewest in a game this season.
--Romo was 9-of-9 for 49 yards and 4 first downs when targeting DeMarco Murray, all on throws traveling 10 yards or fewer downfield. The 9 catches and four receiving first downs are both career highs for Murray.
DeMarco Murray had more touches in the 1st half (24) than the Bears ran plays (20). Murray's career high for touches in a game is 37 (Week 5 vs Texans).
DeMarco Murray's 2nd quarter rushing touchdown was his 8th rushing touchdown this season between the tackles, most in the NFL.
DeMarco Murray rushed for 179 of the Cowboys' 194 yards Thursday, including 166 yards and a touchdown between the tackles. The 166 rushing yards between the tackles are the third most in a game by a player this season and the most by a Cowboys player since Murray had 183 such rush yards in Week 7 of 2011 against St. Louis.[+]
Altogether Dallas ran for 183 yards between the tackles, its most in a game since Week 6 of 2012 against Baltimore. Entering the game, the Bears were allowing 70 rushing yards between the tackles per game. The Cowboys averaged more than 5 yards before contact per rush between the tackles, more than double the season average allowed by the Bears defense through 12 games.
Bears Rush Defense Between the Tackles, This Season
ESPN Stats & Information