SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Clearly, Ezekiel Elliott stayed ready to play football.
Six days ago, Elliott was back on the NFL's Reserve/Suspended list, his six-game suspension reinstated through an appellate court ruling.
Six days later, with a subsequent court ruling blocking his suspension yet again, the All-Pro running back delivered arguably his best game as a Cowboy: a career-best 219 yards from scrimmage (147 rushing, 72 receiving) and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in a 40-10 road win over the San Francisco 49ers.
"He's done an excellent job really all offseason, training camp and through the regular season just coming to work every day and staying locked in on what he needs to do," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "And I'm quite sure it's not easy for him. There are some things going on in his life outside of what we're doing over at The Star every day, but he comes to work and football's important to him. This team is important to him."
Elliott acknowledged during the week that the ongoing legal matters have been "a little tiring" as he fights to clear his name.
On Aug. 11, the NFL suspended Elliott six games following a year-long investigation into July 2016 domestic violence allegations against him by a former girlfriend. In September 2016, the Columbus (Ohio) City Attorney's Office announced that Elliott would not face charges – yet, a player can still face punishment from the league under its personal conduct policy even if he is cleared of legal charges.
Elliott has adamantly denied those accusations, and the NFL Players Association has sought to block his suspension through the court system. Last Tuesday, a New York district judge granted Elliott a temporary restraining order that cleared him to play Sunday. Another hearing is reportedly set for Oct. 30 to determine whether he will get another preliminary injunction to remain on the field for a longer period of time.
Sunday, Elliott got to focus solely on football.
He scored two touchdowns in the first quarter for the first time this season. He broke big runs and grinded out tough gains in short yardage.
And, he showed his versatility once again in the passing game.
Elliott's 72-yard catch and run for a touchdown – an electric play down the right sideline past a waved of 49ers defenders – gave the Cowboys a commanding 27-3 lead in the third quarter. It was the same screen-pass play that quarterback Dak Prescott threw to Elliott for an 83-yard touchdown in a signature road win at Pittsburgh last November.
"As a young player, I've admired how he's taken that approach -- leaving that stuff at the door when he comes to work," tight end Jason Witten said. "He's got a good support system in place, and playing like that, I think helps for all of us."
The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in their previous two games. But Sunday was their most complete offensive performance since 2016.
"We saw in the Packers' game before the bye the offense start clicking in the fourth quarter and the running game starting to open up," Elliott said. "We definitely carried it over to this game. We came out from play one and the offensive line executed and did a great job making creases for me to go out and run the ball."
Blog: Sean Lee Returns; Defense Shines; Dak Joins Exclusive QB List; More
Sean Lee Returns As Defense Delivers Complete Performance
(Oct. 22; 10:05 p.m.) – With one of their captains back, the Cowboys' defense got major contributions from several players in a dominant 40-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Linebacker Sean Lee had five tackles in his return Sunday following a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury.
"I feel great. It's nice to be back," he said. "It's frustrating not being out with the guys, especially because I've dealt with a lot of missed time. So it's fun to be back. Great win for us."
Lee's return helped, but the Cowboys got a complete performance on defense: two defensive takeaways and five sacks on 49ers rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence became only the 10th player in NFL history to record a sack in the first six games of a season.
And with linebacker Anthony Hitchens leading the team with eight tackles (three for loss) in his second game back from a knee injury, the defense is getting healthy.
"I think getting a lot of guys back and kind of building continuity week to week and kind of building some momentum," Lee said.
Dak Prescott Joins Exclusive QB List In Win Over 49ers
(Oct. 22; 10:05 p.m.) – Ezekiel Elliott's dominant performance Sunday set the tone for the Cowboys on offense.
Yet, somewhat quietly, Dak Prescott became only the third quarterback in Cowboys history to throw at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games.
Tony Romo accomplished the feat three times and Don Meredith did twice.
"I think he's just done a really good job making plays down in the red zone to cash in on some of these long drives that we've had," head coach Jason Garrett said of Prescott. "And he's playing, obviously, at a very high level."