ARLINGTON, Texas – The record broke somewhat quietly, mirroring much of the Cowboys' offensive results in the first half Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
With a two-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage, Ezekiel Elliott surpassed Tony Dorsett's 1977 franchise rookie mark for rushing yards (1,007). The Cowboys punted on that opening drive and the next two series, and by halftime the 21-year-old NFL rushing leader had only six carries for 26 yards against the league's top-ranked run defense.
"They were very cued into the run early on," Elliott said. "You saw that we struggled a little bit. But it's a four-quarter game."
The rookie was right.
By the final whistle, the Cowboys had won their ninth straight game, 27-17, and Elliott once again was the engine for their second-half surge. He finished with a game-best 97 yards on 25 carries, giving him 1,102 for the season, and helped the offense control the line of scrimmage on their only three series in the second half – all scoring drives totaling 17 points and a dominant 20:09 time of possession.
Therein lies a truth that sounds like a broken record over the first 10 games of the 2016 season: teams just haven't been able to stand their ground for a full four quarters against Elliott and the Cowboys' standout offensive line, comprising the league's top-ranked running game.
"You can go out there and play well for two quarters, but you've got to be out there for 60 minutes," Elliott said. "That second half is a grind."
It's been a grind for opposing defenses, for sure. Often Elliott has made it look it look easy.
Sunday arguably was his toughest challenge. His 3.9 yards per carry was his lowest average since his NFL debut Sept. 11 against the Giants (2.6). He entered Sunday with a 5.1 average.
[embeddedad0]The Ravens had allowed the fewest yards per game to opponents (71.3) through their first nine games. Elliott produced 71 in the second half, once again showing the Cowboys' toughness over four quarters.
"I just think it's kind of how we're made," All-Pro right guard Zack Martin said. "We know it's going to be tough sledding early, especially against a team like that. They were as advertised. They were really good up front, a really good defense. We know we could wear them down as the game went on and we were able to do that."
Elliott shared a handshake with Dorsett on the sideline at AT&T Stadium and said he appreciated the Hall of Famer supporting him in person. Sunday, he and the 2016 Cowboys just broke two records belonging to Dorsett and the 1977 Cowboys. The first was Dorsett's rookie record.
"It means a lot," Elliott said. "We've got a great front. They go out there and pave the way and run their tails off."
The second was the eight-game winning streak held by that '77 Super Bowl team. The Cowboys' current streak now stands at nine, the longest in franchise history, and Elliott's tough running has formed a major foundation of the team's identity.
"A lot of credit to him. He's a special back," Martin said. "He can do a whole lot. He's fun to block for. You see him running people over, making guys miss, jumping over people.
"He's an exciting back and we're very happy we have him on our team."