FRISCO, Texas – It's a testament to Ezekiel Elliott's success this past month that Sunday's win against Philadelphia felt like a drop off.
That's an absurd statement, given that the rookie running back tallied 148 all-purpose yards on 26 total touches. But after gashing opponents for totals of 140, 138, 134 and 157 in the last month, his 96 rushing yards against the Eagles weren't easy to come by.
"They were great up front, there were no clean runs – not at all," Elliott said. "Every yard we got was hard and earned."
The stats aren't as gaudy as they have been, but the tape of Elliott grinding down Philadelphia's defense demonstrates just how valuable he was over the course of the night. From the Cowboys' first third down of the night, when he bounced off two tacklers to convert a 3rd-and-9, Elliott set a physical tone the Cowboys emulated throughout the game.
"I think I did really well after contact," he said. "Like I said – a lot of those runs were dirty, and I had to break a lot of tackles and get a lot of yards after contact. I do think I took a step forward."
It's become increasingly clear throughout the season that Elliott relishes the physicality he brings to the position. That hasn't been lost on Cowboys coach Jason Garrett during this impressive stretch of games.
"He's got a great demeanor during the game," Garrett said. "He is a real natural competitor. He wants the ball in hands."
Asked whether he looks for that contact during the run of play, Elliott put it better than anyone else could.
"I just think that during the game there has to be a moment where you have to set the tone. You have to let them know that you're a physical player," he said. "When you let those defensive backs know that you're a physical player, they don't really want to tackle you. That's why you see me get a hurdle every game – those guys don't want to tackle me when I get to the second level."