FRISCO, Texas - If the Cowboys want to get anywhere, they'll need to have a couple of things go their way.
The one that might be on the top of the list as they get ready for the Buccaneers on Monday in the Wild Card Round – is run the football effectively.
"I think there's a sense of urgency," Ezekiel Elliott said when asked about the state of the team. "There's a little more sense of urgency… They know the playoffs are here. It's kind of like a fresh season. I thought the guys looked ready; I liked the look in the guys' eyes. I think this team is ready."
The problem, however, in the run game resides in the fact that despite Tony Pollard's phenomenal regular season, including the first 1,000-yard season of his career, and Elliott's resurgent season with 12 touchdowns, the Cowboys have gotten next to nothing out of the run game to close out the regular season.
"Just getting back to the fundamentals," Elliott said of how to get back on track. "Getting back to the basics, locking in on our fundamentals and our execution. And just making sure we're doing everything we need to do between now and Monday night to put our best foot forward."
To be fair, it should be noted that Pollard sat out one of the final two games against the Titans with a thigh issue while Tyler Biadasz missed the Commanders with an ankle injury. Add on the fact that both Tennessee and Washington boasted two of the more potent run defenses this season, a recipe for poor results was in the works with just 151 yards combined with no scores.
With Tampa awaiting the Cowboys arrival on Monday night, all indications (including Biadasz himself) point to Biadasz being healthy enough to play and giving some sense of stability back to the offensive line. And while Connor McGovern filled in at center in Week 18 at a position he knows, the communication factor with Biadasz back in the fold and everyone shifting back into spots they've played all season can only benefit the run game.
"It's a little easier when you've got someone that's started there for however many games Tyler's started for us" Elliott said. "But we have enough guys to communicate and get the points down and figure all that stuff out."
The interesting question becomes just how well the Cowboys can get the running game jump started again against a Bucs' defense that held them to just 71 yards and no touchdowns. That was Week 1, and a lot has changed since then for both teams.
By the end of 18 weeks, the Bucs were right in the middle of the pack in terms of rushing yards allowed per game with almost 121 surrendered each time out. In their final three games of the season, Tampa allowed an average of 123 yards on the ground, that includes two 100-yard performances from the Cardinals and Falcons.
For the Cowboys, even with the lackluster final two games, averaged just above 135 yards a game for the year. So, do Elliott and Pollard, along with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and running backs' coach Skip Peete, look at the Week 1 tape or how the Buccaneers finished the season?
"I think you have to look at all of it," Elliott said. "You have to prepare for as many looks as you can, effectively. You can't spread yourself too thin. But you have to put some priorities on certain looks. I think you look at when we played them two years ago, and then this year, then you definitely have to look at what they've been doing the last five or six games."
And while looking at past history can help give an idea of what the future might hold, it doesn't always consider the variables and change that has taken place in the time sense. The Cowboys are a much different offense than what they presented in September - but their identity has never changed - run the football effectively.
"We know our identity as a team," Elliott said. "We know what we need to do as an offense to get going."