ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys' 51st Thanksgiving Day classic began with Ezekiel Elliott's $21 donation.
It ended, in essence, with Elliott boosting Dak Prescott into The Salvation Army Red Kettle himself – a second impromptu plug for a wonderful holiday cause, and a reminder of this offense's dynamic potential centered around both third-year starters.
Prescott's Kettle moment came early in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 31-23 victory at AT&T Stadium after he spun, dodged and weaved through a wave of Washington Redskins defenders for a 5-yard touchdown that gave Dallas (6-5) a commanding 18-point lead.
"Once he had me in the air," Prescott said of Elliott's Kettle boost, "I said I've got to own it now. I figured I'd jump in there before I got hurt."
Prescott would go on to throw for a season-high 289 yards with 40- and 90-yard touchdown passes to wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Elliott (26 carries, 121 yards) topped 100 rushing yards for the third straight game – not coincidentally, the Cowboys' third straight victory – and secured a third consecutive 1,000-yard season with 1,074 yards after 11 games.
After his 16-yard touchdown run on the first drive gave Dallas a 7-0 lead, Elliott dropped a $20 and $1 bill into the Kettle sitting just beyond the end zone.
"I was just thinking about what I could do today that would be a little bit different," he said. "Two years ago when I jumped in there, there were a bunch of $21 donations to The Salvation Army.
Hopefully, that first $21 that I put in there today triggers a lot of donations for them."
The Dak-Zeke era was never more dominant than that first Kettle Hop in 2016, when Elliott rushed for a season-high 159 yards in a December win over Tampa Bay that helped secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs that year.
Two years later, with Cooper stretching defenses on the outside, the Cowboys are back to their balanced ways on offense – and another division title is within their grasp with five games to play.
Elliott, for the moment, has passed the L.A. Rams' Todd Gurley (1,043 yards) for the league rushing lead. During this three-game win streak, he's averaging 131.3 rushing yards and 5.8 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns.
The offensive line has continued to set a physical tone under promoted position coach Marc Colombo, even with veteran left tackle Tyron Smith unable to start Thursday because of a neck stinger.
"I think the formula for success is just dominating up front, and I think the offensive line did that today," Elliott said. "They've been through a lot of adversity this year."
Prescott's numbers have jumped significantly since Dallas traded its 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for Cooper. His 90-yard touchdown was the third-longest completion in franchise history.
In the last four games, Prescott has completed 70 percent of his passes for 767 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception.
And, with the defense's season-best three turnovers that led to an extra seven points, Thursday was arguably the team's most complete performance of the season.
Just in time to face arguably its toughest opponent yet: The New Orleans Saints next Thursday at AT&T Stadium.
"Everyone jumped off the bandwagon, of course, at 3-5," Prescott said. "You expect that. But I can tell you who didn't doubt ourselves is everybody in that locker room and that's all that matters. We locked arms, we stayed tight. We knew we could do this and we could do more. That's the only thing that matters to us and we'll continue to try to do better."