FRISCO, Texas – Ezekiel Elliott woke up Wednesday morning and felt … just fine.
When your job is to smash into gigantic people two dozen times per week, that comes as a bit of a surprise. Factor in the time of year, at the midpoint of the NFL schedule, and Elliott was downright shocked that he felt so good after a long Monday night in New York.
“You’d think 23 carries, 140 yards, you’re going to come out super sore,” he said. “But I feel really fresh, I didn’t take many hits. It looked like a grinder when you look at the stats, but they honestly did a good job blocking. I didn’t have to take many hits.”
That’s been Elliott’s recurring talking point from the Cowboys’ latest win. It probably shouldn’t be surprising, since they ran for 172 yards as a team and didn’t allow a sack, but Elliott hasn’t been able to say enough good stuff about his offensive line.
He said it after Monday’s game against the Giants and repeated it on Wednesday: the Cowboys quite simply road graded their opponent.
“When they’re going out there, just physically imposing their will on a team, you can hear the other team getting disappointed in themselves because literally they can’t do anything to stop you – that takes a toll on them physically and mentally,” Elliott said. “When they’re going out there and beating up on people like that, it’s tough for a defense to play fourth quarters.”
That comment highlights this week’s matchup against Minnesota on a few different fronts. For starters, the Vikings present another tough test for the Cowboys’ ground game, as they rank ninth in the league in run defense and feature Pro Bowlers all over the front seven.
“This is the toughest test we’ve had as an offense, going against this defense,” said Jason Witten on Thursday.
On the flip side Elliott is also “competing,” so to speak, with one of the most dynamic rushing offenses in the NFL. The Vikings currently rank No.3 in the league on the ground, highlighted by the efforts of Dalvin Cook – who is currently the league’s leading rusher.
“Just his speed, his ability to stretch and cut and make guys miss. He’s definitely a special guy,” Elliott said.
It’d make sense if Elliott was gunning for that top spot. After all, in the two complete seasons he has played in his career, he has managed to capture the rushing title. But as much fun as that might be to win, he was sure to say that the Cowboys have loftier achievements in mind.
“We love it – but it’s like, if it happens, it happens,” he said. “What’s important to us is the Super Bowl, you know what I mean? Everything else will handle itself along the way.”
Fortunately, those things go hand-in-hand. If Elliott keeps ripping off 100-plus yard performances, it’s going to help the Cowboys’ odds of getting wins. And if he’s chasing Cook or anyone else in the standings, it can only help his motivation.
“No, I don’t think it bothers me,” he said. “It just kind of adds a little fuel to the fire. I’ve got some more work to do, that’s all.”