ARLINGTON, Texas — Earlier in the week Ezekiel Elliott said that he knew the team had to use the final few games of the season to get the running game back to the level it was at early in the season if the offense was to achieve the balance it needed heading into the playoffs.
He reiterated that point Sunday night after the team's dominant win over the Washington Football Team. "We were playing with tempo," Elliott said. "When we do that, it tires [the defense] down so much and it takes a lot of the thinking out of the game for us."
Since training camp, Mike McCarthy has stressed the importance of not overworking Elliott so that he would be well rested for that final stretch Elliott spoke of. Having dealt with a lingering knee issue for much of the season, Elliott may not necessarily feel rested, but with a brace supporting his knee on Sunday against Washington, Elliott looked ready to be the impact player Cowboy fans expect every year.
"I'm real close to being back and feeling 100 percent," Elliott said after the game. "You know I think because they've done a good job of limiting my reps and letting me get healthy."
Elliott set the tone early offensively for the Cowboys and managed to help the team prove that, behind the pace-setting of his rushing attack, they can still generate first downs at a rate as impressive as any team in the league. The starting running back's snaps were mostly restricted to the first half against Washington, but in that time he managed 37 yards, a rushing touchdown, and a receiving touchdown.
It was Elliott's ninth career game with a touchdown in the air and on the ground, which ties him for most in the NFL along with Christian McCaffery and Alvin Kamara since Elliott came into the league in 2016.
He wasn't the only non-wide receiver or tight end to catch a touchdown on Sunday night, however. In the second quarter, Terence Steele, who has filled in at both left and right tackle positions this season, lined up as an eligible receiver and scored a red zone touchdown.
In the process of his celebration, Steele spiked the bar so hard that it went into the crowd. Elliott chose to approach the fans after the play and retrieve the football so that the man who had been blocking for most of the season could have it as a memento of his first career touchdown.
"I want to say thank you to whoever caught that ball and gave it back to me," Elliott stated after the game. "I think that's a big tradition when you go to the NFL you gotta keep that first touchdown ball so thank you for giving the ball back."
And Steele, who has never scored a touchdown in his football career before Sunday, was more than appreciative.
"Shout out to Zeke, because I want that ball," Steele said. "That's something I'm going to cherish forever."