Ezekiel Elliott's workhorse effort will be overshadowed, but shouldn't be
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott entered the contest having started and played in 38 games in his career in Dallas. With the Cowboys riding a four-game winning streak, he had shouldered the brunt of the work for the team, showcasing the reason Dallas spent the No. 4 overall pick on a running back in the 2016 draft.
What Elliott means to the Dallas offense cannot be understated, but in a game when Amari Cooper catches 10 passes for 217 yards and three fourth quarter slash overtime touchdowns, it’s easy to forget who it was Dallas was leaning on throughout the game.
Elliott finished the contest with 192 total yards. Although he failed to make it into the end zone, the workhorse back touched the ball a jaw-dropping 40 times out of Dallas’ 93 executed plays.
He now has 379 combined yards in two wins over the Cowboys’ rival and biggest competitors in the NFC East race. When it matters most, Elliott is wrecking shop.
Over the last four weeks, Elliott has seen his catch totals rise, as the offense is finally featuring him like he should be used, capable of perplexing defenses on the ground and through the air. He’s not running wide receiver routes on a regular basis, but his increase in usage is apparent.
He had 24 catches over the win streak entering play Sunday. His previous high over a four-game stretch had been just 19.
On Sunday, he hauled in 12 receptions.
The arrival of Cooper means Cowboys’ opponents have a second threat they have to game plan for, and in turn it means they can no longer commit eight and nine-man boxes to stop Elliott.
The Cowboys have wisely capitalized, giving him 25, 30, 31 and 29 touches before this 40-touch outburst. Elliott has been dinged up this season, much more so than in his previous two campaigns, but his performance on Sunday was the stuff of legendary franchise running backs and needs to be acknowledged.