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How the Arizona Cardinals shut down DeMarco Murray

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At one point this season, DeMarco Murray had rushed for more yards on first down than any other running back had totaled on all downs combined.

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That hot streak came to a halt against Arizona's stingy defense last week.

As NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock points out, the Cardinals limited Murray to 28 yards on 12 first-down carries with a combination of scheme, talent and team defense.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has received due credit for maniacal blitzes and a creative deployment of more than a half-dozen defensive backs this season. His game plan at Dallas offered more than just a subtle scheme adjustment.

To combat the NFL's leading rusher in an offense missing its franchise quarterback, Bowles went beyond "multiple." After lining up in a 3-4 front for the past four years, the Cardinals switched to a primary 4-3 look last week and dominated the Cowboys' consensus league-best offensive line.

"(Bowles) had told me during the week that he was going throw in a little different wrinkle," general manager Steve Keim explained, "from a schematical standpoint that they haven't seen yet."

Nose tackle Dan Williams, also excelling as a three-technique defensive end in big nickel packages, teamed with Calais Campbell to control the line of scrimmage.

Despite losing Pro Bowl talents in Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington, John Abraham and Darnell Dockett, Arizona's front seven has been a brick wall against the run this season. With versatile playmaker Tyrann Mathieu returning to form, the back end is beginning to show shutdown potential as well.

"Todd Bowles has done a great job masking limitations and catering to players' strengths," Keim told NFL Media columnist Michael Silver on Sunday, "and putting them in position to succeed."

Unfortunately for Keim, Bowles has been so impressive in compensating for the Cardinals' personnel shortcomings that other organizations are beginning to take notice. Bowles will be one of the NFL's hottest head-coaching candidates in January -- and the players know it.

"Todd Bowles is great," Dockett emphasized to Silver. "I hope he stays, because we're going to be so good next year."

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