ARLINGTON, Texas – It might have been a while since we last saw it, but Ezekiel Elliott caught air again on Sunday against the Lions in the Cowboys' 24-6 victory.
After a tough first half for the Cowboys' two-headed rushing attack of Elliott and Tony Pollard, both came out on the first drive of the second half with a vengeance, starting with the former's signature leap over a defender.
"We knew they were going to play hard," Elliott said of the Lions defense. "We just had to tire them out a little bit and that's what those rushing attempts do. You lean on them and lean on them, and it starts to get a little bit easier."
Before Elliott started his vintage performance in the second half, the Cowboys' bell cow running back had a scare in the second quarter after an awkward tackle looked to have caused a problem with his knee.
"It hurt," Elliott said postgame with a chuckle. "It's stiff. I got a contusion when I was out there on my knee, so [the muscle] is stiff."
Nevertheless, after missing just a few snaps Elliott was right back in there alongside quarterback Dak Prescott, who of course made his long-awaited return to the field after five weeks.
"He's relentless," Prescott said of his backfield-mate Elliott. "When I saw the play, I thought it was a little ugly. … He said he'd be good and it wasn't too long before he was jumping a guy. That's 'Zeke' for you. He's just going to go and give you everything he can each and every play."Shortly after Elliott started to hurdle defenders following that scare in the first half, he proceeded to rack up two hard-nosed touchdown runs from the 1-yard line in both the third and fourth quarters.
"It felt good to get in the end zone twice," Elliott said. "The big fellas wanted to run it down there, and [offensive coordinator] Kellen [Moore] called it."
It was a long time coming since Elliott had scored two rushing touchdowns in a game. In fact, the last time he achieved that feat was last season against the Eagles. With his performance on Sunday against the Lions, Elliott has 13 career games with two rushing scores for the third most in franchise history.
With a defense that provided five takeaways against the Lions, and all three of the Cowboys' touchdowns coming after those turnovers, Elliott and the rest of the offense just had to simply capitalize on those chances.
"We know if we take the ball away, we have to score on those opportunities when we get it," Elliott said. "I think we did a good job as an offense scoring and making those turnovers count."
But at first glance, the final stat line for Elliott probably isn't all that exciting. In 15 attempts, he had 57 yards for just under 4 yards a carry, with his longest run checking in at 18 yards.
In comparison to Pollard, who had 83 yards on 12 carries and averaged just under 7 yards a try, Elliott might have looked like he was the second running back for the Cowboys on Sunday.
But the difference was not only the two touchdowns Elliott had when the Cowboys needed them most after a brutal first half offensively. It was a clear demonstration of the impact he has situationally and from a leadership standpoint following what could have been a nasty injury.
"This team is selfless all the way around," Prescott said. "And I think you can look at Zeke and he's the epitome of that. He's going to do whatever it takes. Whether it's coming off the field and Tony getting in, or it's pass-blocking or lining up at fullback and blocking that way."
So while Elliott's box score might not have been the prettiest, and the Cowboys' path to victory might not have been the prettiest, Elliott characterized the team's season as such. But at the end of the day, results and wins are what matters.
"I think that's how the year has been going," Elliott said. "It's been grimy, tough games. It's the NFL so you're not going to have any 'gimmes.' But when the defense plays the way they do, and go and take the ball away like that, it's really hard for us to lose."