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How DeMarco Murray's Stellar Season Compares to All-Time Greats Through 8 Games

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 27:  DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 27, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys workhorse DeMarco Murray has put together the kind of season through eight games in 2014 that most of the league's running backs do not achieve in a full season.

Through Week 8, Murray leads the league with 1,054 rushing yards and is tied with Arian Foster for the most touchdowns, with seven. Because of him, Dallas leads the league in rushing yards per game. 

Murray's 2014 campaign will remain inked in NFL record books, and the record-shattering has already begun. In Week 5 against the Houston Texans, Murray broke Emmitt Smith's previous franchise record of four straight games with 100 or more rushing yards when he gained 136 against Houston.

He then moved onto league-wide records in Week 7 when he broke Jim Brown's record and became the first running back in NFL history to start the season with seven consecutive games of 100-plus yards. 

Now, he eyes Barry Sanders' 1997 record of 14 straight games with at least 100 yards. Murray only had 49 yards in the final game of his 2013 season, so in order to surpass Sanders' mark, he'll have to rush for 100 or more yards in Dallas' next seven games.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

NFL record for consecutive games w/ 100 yards rushing is 14, Barry Sanders in 1997 DeMarco Murray at 8 straight (longest to start season)

That means the Week 15 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles could be Murray's opportunity to make NFL history. 

How does Murray's excellent season stand up against those of the greatest running backs through eight games? Well, as the table below shows, he's blowing them away so far:

DeMarco Murray vs NFL Top Rushers - Through 8 Games
PlayerSeasonRush YdsRec YdsTDs
Eric Dickerson1984925915
Adrian Peterson20127751394
Jamal Lewis20031,0451066
Barry Sanders19978931956
DeMarco Murray20141,0542397
Pro-Football-Reference.com

There are a few interesting takeaways to note as we compare Murray's performance through eight games so far in 2014 to the top four NFL single-season rushing leaders' seasons.

The first is that he is, of course, the only back of the five to rush for at least 100 or more yards in each game of the season. Peterson didn't have his first 100-yard game of the 2012 season until the Minnesota Vikings' fourth game; he amassed the majority of his 2,097 yards on that season in the latter half. 

Sanders, meanwhile, was the biggest scoring dual threat of the five. He is the only one to have had at least one receiving touchdown in the first eight games of his record-breaking season; in fact, he had three. Murray, though, has had the most success both on the ground and catching passes.

Lewis and Sanders can both claim that they had rushed for 200-plus yards in the first eight games of their most notable seasons. Monday night's game against Washington, however, is the first one this season in which Murray amassed over 200 total yards: 141 on the ground and 80 receiving.

Oct 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs after a catch against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

He became the first rusher in 2014 to surpass 1,000 yards on the season, due in large part to the Cowboys' excellent offensive line. Prior to Week 8, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded the Cowboys sixth overall in the league in run-blocking.

The holes made by blocking from left tackle Tyron Smith, left guard Ronald Leary, center Travis Frederick, right guard (and rookie) Zack Martin and right tackle Doug Free have created multiple opportunities for Murray.

He's also second in the league in yards after contact per attempt, with 2.9, per Pro Football Focus.

Murray was the Cowboys' leading receiver Monday night. Dez Bryant had less than half as many yards as the halfback, totaling just 30 in all.

If Murray can keep producing at this level, he will be on pace to break Dickerson's single-season rushing record. 

DeMarco Murray 2014 Season Projection vs. All-Time Leaders
PlayerSeasonTotal Rush YdsTotal Rec YdsTDs
Eric Dickerson19842,10513914
Adrian Peterson20122,09721713
Jamal Lewis20032,06619814
Barry Sanders19972,05330514
DeMarco Murray (Proj.)20142,10831814
Pro-Football-Reference.com

One spot on Murray's otherwise sparkling season thus far is his ability to take care of the football. He has five fumbles on the season, the most among all players at any position this season. 

Still, if Murray breaks Dickerson's record this season, his achievement will hardly have an asterisk next to it due to his fumbles. After all, Dickerson himself had 14 fumbles in his record-setting season. Those are more likely to affect Murray's more immediate future in Dallas.

If the Cowboys continue to utilize Murray as heavily as they have so far this season, he'll finish with 374 carries, just five short of Dickerson's 379 carries in 1984. After eight weeks, Murray's 206 carries are far and away the most by any running back so far this season. 

In the second half of the season, those attempts per game could increase depending on the severity of the injury Tony Romo sustained Monday night, though Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Romo feels he could be ready to go by Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

There's also the possibility that even if he does play, if Romo's effectiveness in the passing game decreases after the injury, Murray could see opponents stack the box more against him. But as long as he's rushing behind this stout offensive line, his overall production shouldn't be greatly impacted. 

Should his health and durability hold up, it's incredibly likely Murray will earn his place in the history books this season. 

All stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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