ARLINGTON, Texas – Ezekiel Elliott had been waiting for this run.
On their first drive of the second half Sunday, the Cowboys' rookie running back burst through a huge hole off right guard, broke into the open field and split Bengals safeties Shawn Williams and George Iloka for a 60-yard touchdown – the franchise's longest run in two years.
"Running backs love runs where they don't get touched," Elliott said with a smile after the Cowboys' convincing 28-14 win over Cincinnati at AT&T Stadium. "All I had to do is turn the jets on."
A home-run gain was about the only thing missing from Elliott's rookie résumé a month into his NFL career. In his first 94 career carries, his longest run was 26 yards.
He has it now, along with the NFL's rushing lead at 546 yards – the most ever by a Cowboys rookie through five games.
"I didn't know he was that fast," guard Ronald Leary said. "I really didn't. When he took off and I looked up on the screen and he was gone, I was pretty impressed by that."
Also impressive is Elliott's three straight games with at least 100 rushing yards, an unprecedented feat in team history. On Sunday he racked up 134 yards and two touchdowns on a season-low 15 carries.
Elliott's yards-per-carry average has climbed steadily since Week 1: 2.6, 4.0, 4.7, 6.0, and a season-best 8.9 against the Bengals.
The fourth overall pick in April's draft is clearly getting comfortable with a Cowboys offensive system different than Ohio State's. He's clearly finding a rhythm after sitting out all but six training camp practices and all but one preseason game.
[embeddedad0]"You watch the film from Week 1 and you watch me know," Elliott said, "it looks like two different backs."
Elliott and the offensive line set an early tone Sunday. He accounted for 42 of the offense's 64 yards on the opening touchdown drive, including a 13-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. Quarterback Dak Prescott attempted only one pass on the three-minute, 51-second series.
"We definitely wanted to come out and establish the run early," Leary said. "We try to be sticky on our blocks and Zeke makes all the right reads. Everybody blocked – the receivers, the line – everybody's a part of it."
Elliott, running back Alfred Morris, wide receiver Lucky Whitehead and Prescott combined for 180 rushing yards, the second-largest total of the season, against a formidable Bengals defensive front headlined by Pro Bowlers Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
"They're very big, they're physical," Elliott said. "But I think we have a very big, very physical O-Line. We did a good job winning that line of scrimmage and starting early getting some big runs in the first quarter."
Said tight end Jason Witten: "They present challenges because their 'backers are old-school, tough linebackers. Their front four is long and athletic. Geno is a great three technique. We knew that was going to be a challenge but I think it's just a testament to that offensive line we have. The consistency that they play at is really, really high, and that allows us to be a really good offense because of the way they play.
"And give Zeke credit. It's not just as easy as anybody can run through those holes. He's powerful, he's quick, he's fast, he has great trust in where the ball should go."
And the speed to reach the end zone in a hurry.