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Eatman: This Game Was About Pollard, No Other RB


ARLINGTON, Texas – Don't do it. Don't go there. Let's not change the storyline from this game and take it in a different direction. For this day, let's live in the moment and enjoy this for what it was.

This was a good win for the Cowboys, one that saw them play a complete game in every phase. No, the 49ers aren't perfect. They've got more Pro Bowlers on IR than on the field. But that's what made it somewhat of an even matchup, so give the Cowboys credit for getting this victory.

But let's not taint it by being negative toward one player – a player that wasn't even out there. Let's applaud Tony Pollard for the way he played. We don't need to dig at Ezekiel Elliott in the same breath.

And no, more than anything this isn't a sign of what the Cowboys need to do moving forward at the running back position.

Let's not be cynical about this – let's be greedy.

We don't have to draw a line in this sand of running backs and say it should be Pollard over Zeke. We don't need to say things like, "Well, look at what they did without Zeke. Do they even need him?" Or we certainly don't need to revive Jerry Jones' tongue-in-cheek "Zeke who?" line from two years ago.

Sunday's game was not about Ezekiel Elliott. This was about the type of player Tony Pollard is and how he can fit into this offense – with Zeke.

And without a doubt, Pollard was fun to watch on Sunday against the 49ers. This really was a storm that had been brewing for a while in the last few weeks.

We've seen Pollard with two kickoff returns for over 60 yards in the last two games and three for this season. We know what he can do in the open field, and it's exciting to see the player that he has become.

But let's stop right there and dissect that part.

What type of player is Pollard exactly? I guess he's still a work in progress because he's in his second year and has spent most of that time behind Zeke.

From the eye test, he doesn't seem to be the bell-cow type of back who will consistently net over 20 carries a game. Pollard just doesn't have the body type for it. Sure, he can do it occasionally, but it's not the type of player he is and it's not what they drafted him to be.

Here's the ironic part to me: What they drafted in Tony Pollard is exactly what he showed in this game. Only, he did it without Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup.

And this is what was perplexing about the game on Sunday and how offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called the plays. For the most part, I liked what Moore did, especially in one particular touchdown drive in the first quarter.

Pollard caught screens – both traditional and the bubble – plus he ran a few sweeps and did an option reverse as well. We saw Blake Bell, a former college quarterback who earned the "Belldozer" nickname for his running ability in short-yardage situations, take a snap and pick up a first down.

A lot of really cool plays ... not sure why it took 15 weeks to see them. And I'm really not sure why we couldn't have seen all of that with Zeke out there.

If you think about it, Pollard didn't really replace Zeke in the lineup on Sunday. Yes, technically he was the starting tailback, but they didn't have the same game plan – nor should they.

Aside from the 1-yard touchdown run that showed some crafty feet and vision by Pollard, he was doing his dirty work on the outside edges – in space.

I've never been one who says, "take away his 80-yard touchdown and he only had this," or "if it wasn't for the two interceptions he threw, he would've had a good day." You can't take away things that happen and they happen for a reason.

So give Pollard credit for his 40-yard touchdown run to basically seal the win, although each team scored again.

But I can't say I wasn't surprised to find out that Pollard had 11 carries for 29 yards before that score. As a receiver, he did much more damage, catching six passes for 63 yards.

And that's really my point to all of this. Pollard can be this type of player if Zeke is starting the game or if he's in street clothes. There's no reason why he can't be on the field and doing this type of work.

Let's not forget that the Cowboys drafted him and immediately tried to make comparisons to Alvin Kamara in New Orleans. Kamara was able to make the Pro Bowl in his first year (2017), along with his running back teammate Mark Ingram, who made the Pro Bowl, too.

Not saying that should be the goal for Pollard and Zeke. But, there is room for both of them to do what they do best out there.

Again, great game by Pollard. He was one of the main reasons they won.

But the Cowboys need to be figuring out how they can make him effective alongside not Zeke, not instead of.

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