PHILADELPHIA - As the Cowboys took the field in Philadelphia Saturday night, Tony Pollard watched from Texas. The dynamic running back didn't travel with the team as he took the final week of the season to heal a foot injury before the playoffs.
Dallas would turn out to be just fine with the running backs they did bring to Lincoln Financial Field. Three running backs scored touchdowns against the Eagles, and that doesn't include Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 87 yards.
Many expected that Elliott, who has played through a seemingly improving knee injury all season, would also take the final game of the season to rest to ensure full health for the playoffs, but the veteran surprised them by not only starting the game but rushing the ball 18 times.
"Zeke's a warrior and I think he doesn't get enough credit for all of the little things he does," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He does the dirty work particularly in protection. He's been grinding it out and playing with the knee [injury] since the Carolina game. Any time you see a player hit an annual milestone it's obviously a positive. But in the big picture of things, he need that, we needed that, and it was good to get our sixth win in the division coming in here tonight."
In the process Elliott's 87 yards put him over 1,000 yards for the season, an impressive feat considering he was playing at less than 100 percent for months. He also reached over 1,250 total scrimmage yards on the year, which made him the second player in NFL history, along with LaDanian Tomlinson, to record 1,250 scrimmage yards and eight total touchdowns in each of his first six seasons.
But as the Cowboys gained complete control of the game in the third quarter, most of the offensive starters were pulled and the running backs behind Elliott and Pollard on the depth chart got in on the fun. Corey Clement, who has earned increased opportunity over the past few weeks, rushed for 58 yards against his former team and caught a touchdown as well.
"I won a Super Bowl here my first year," Clement said after the game. "At this point, it's about just still enjoying the game. Enjoying it with the guys I just met three months ago and it's already family-like."
The Cowboys were sure to diversify their running back touchdowns against the division rival before the game's end. JaQuan Hardy rushed the ball three times for 26 yards, including a 22-yard burst into the end zone. Prior to that, Ito Smith, who had only been elevated from the practice squad Saturday morning, took his only carry of the day into the end zone for a four-yard score.
"I love being a part of this team," Smith said after the game. "I've been here for a short time, but since I've been here they've embraced me with open arms. It's family-oriented."