FRISCO, Texas - During the Cowboys' first round bye week, nine-year veteran Brandon Carr said that he knew their next game would be played at a higher level than any other they had played this season.
"It's just another notch up," Carr says. "It's just the intensity is different. We try to get these young guys attuned to what is really going to happen this week and next week, especially when it's our time to go out there. Playoff games, [there's] a lot of emotions. It's going to be intense, and it's going to be very physical."
There's already a blueprint for the Cowboys beating the Packers this season. The formula was pretty simple in their 30-16 victory on October 17th: Let Ezekiel Elliott run the ball. Elliott converted 28 carries into 158 yards on the ground, 79 more yards than Green Bay's offense rushed for in total.
"That's when I was starting to get really rolling," Elliott said. "I just [have] to watch the film and see what made me successful in that game."
If Elliott's dominance is the key to a Cowboys' victory, it will be important that he's able to adjust to that extra notch of playoff intensity that Carr referred to. As a guy who stole the show in college football's first ever playoff two years ago, he has a history of raising his game the more people are watching.
"I just love competition," Elliott said this week. "That's me. I'm a competitor. I love going out there when it's high stakes. That's fun to me."
Cowboy fans had a brief moment of panic when news broke that Elliott was involved in a minor car accident Wednesday morning, but Elliott assured everyone that the fender bender is a non-issue.
"I'm fine. I'm healthy. I'm good. It's like nothing happened. My car's messed up. That's about it."
[embeddedad0]Fifth-year center Travis Frederick agreed with Carr that the team's young players will have to adjust to playoff intensity, suggesting that the difference can be as dramatic as it is from a preseason game to a regular season game.
"I can try to explain it as much as I want to the young guys, but you're not going to feel that until you're in it," Frederick warned. "I have no doubt in my mind that they'll be able to handle it based on who they are."
Frederick still remembers his first trip to the playoffs in 2014 and says that he noticed the difference in the days leading up to the game.
"I think it started in practice that week," Frederick said. "The veterans talked about it."
It should come at no surprise what Elliott had to say about Wednesday's practice.
"I think this was the best practice we've had all week," Elliott said. "You just felt the energy, felt the competitiveness. You felt how ready and anxious everyone was to get on that field. That competitiveness was definitely there today."
Watching Elliott consistently wear down defenses as a rookie, it's hard to imagine him failing to bring the same mentality to the playoffs. Against a team like Green Bay who is so devoid of running backs that they typically play converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery in the backfield, Elliott will have an opportunity to set the tone in Sunday's game. When asked what the most important quality of a running back is, Elliot's response sounded like it came from someone who wouldn't have much trouble raising his intensity.
"I'd have to say toughness. There's nothing like going out there and playing four quarters of football. There's nothing better than seeing you take your opponent's will."
Frederick also made note that, at this point, he isn't worried about his team's rookies.
"Whenever you have more and more snaps of anybody you are going to see who they are," Frederick said. "At this point, they're not rookies anymore. They've played a 16-game season."