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Dak And Zeke Report: And The Rookies Shall Lead Them

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In their fourth game, with Dez Bryant and other Cowboys stars missing, Dak and Zeke were asked to do more, and they came through to lead the Cowboys to an impressive come from behind win on the road.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

What more can you say about Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, except that we’re all glad they are Dallas Cowboys! Dak didn’t hit a new high in completion percentage, yardage, or passer rating, but he still turned in what was his most impressive game, staring down a 14-0 deficit, on the road, without Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith on offense. He calmly led the Cowboys back with two TD passes before halftime, executing the two-minute offense extremely well on the second drive to tie the score. The Cowboys fell behind again on San Francisco’s opening drive of the second half, but Dak led the team back with great help from Zeke, and the defense helped out for a 24-17 win. Cowboys moved to 3-1.

Dak Prescott

Dak’s stats from his first four weeks.

Week QB Cmp Att Cmp% Yds ANY/A TD Int Rate
1 Prescott 25 45 55.60% 227 5 69.4
2 Prescott 22 30 73.30% 292 8.2 103.7
3 Prescott 19 24 79% 248 11.1 1 123.6
4 Prescott 23 32 71.90% 245 8.05 2 114.7
Total 89 131 68% 1012 7.64 3 98.52

(Note: The key stats here are Adjusted Net Yards per attempt, which demonstrates how well a QB gets the ball down the field and into the end zone. Completion percentage tends to show accuracy. Attempts shows the run/pass balance, with fewer attempts for QBs often the goal. Turnovers, or the lack of them, are also critical.)

Dak had another game with a completion percentage above 70%, more than eight yards in ANY/A (Romo’s high season was 2014, when he posted 8.11 ANY/A for the year), and he added two more passing TDs, one to Terrance Williams and another to Brice Butler with 12 seconds left in the half. His passer rating is now up to 98.5. And he leapfrogged Carson Wentz (who was idle) to notch 131 passes to start his career without an interception.

Once again, Dak won the passer rating differential for the Cowboys 114.7 to 91.9, which is a key variable in who wins football games.

Without Dez Bryant, and with San Francisco trying to bracket Cole Beasley, Dak had to spread the ball around a bit more. Witten had seven catches, Butler five, Williams four, Beasley three, Dunbar two, Elliott and Keith Smith one each.

Dak did have the best game among his “rookie” competition. Carson Wentz was idle, Trevor Siemian (not technically a rookie) was hurt after seven passes and was replaced by Paxton Lynch, one of the quarterbacks Dallas coveted more than Dak. Cody Kessler fought gamely in another Cleveland loss, and Jacoby Brissett led New England in their first shut out at home since 1993.

Dak wasn’t perfect. He had some passes sail high on him. The third-down efficiency dropped to 43%, and until the Beasley bubble screen went for 47 yards prior to the end-of-game kneel downs, his longest pass was a 20-yard TD pass to Terrance Williams. But he stayed poised when faced with adversity, and rallied the team in a way that he was unable to against the Giants in the opener. The most impressive drive was just before halftime, when he took the ball from the Dallas 42 to the SF end zone starting with 1:50 on the clock and striking for the tying score with 12 second left.

As I wrote before the game, to win with a huge list of star players out would be another feather in Dak’s cap. Dak was truly unfazed.

Ezekiel Elliott

How did Zeke do in game four? He was a difference maker.

  • Rushing: 23 carries, 138 yards, 6 YPC, 1 TD, long 26 yards, no fumbles
  • Receiving: 1 receptions, 1 targets, 19 yards.

What do his totals look like after 4 games?

Week RB Carries Yards Y/A Catches Yards TD Fum
1 Elliott 20 51 2.55 1 1 1
2 Elliott 21 83 3.95 2 4 1 2
3 Elliott 30 140 4.67 2 20
4 Elliott 23 138 6 1 19 1
Total 94 412 4.4 6 44 3 2

Like last week, this is what we all expected out of Zeke. At halftime, he only had eight carries for 42 yards. But he broke off some huge runs in the second half, especially on the drive that finally put the Cowboys ahead, 21-17, with seven carries for 50 yards and a touchdown, and runs of 23 and 17 yards.

And, unlike his first three games, where his yards per carry trended down late in the game, this time they went up from 5.3 yards per carry at halftime to 6.0 at the end.

He is now the leading rusher in the NFL.

It seems as if Elliott is finally getting his conditioning where it needs to be after the hamstring issues of training camp, and he’s in sync with his blockers. Pretty amazing that these last two games have been without Tyron Smith at left tackle, and La’el Collins for most of them.

My grades this week?

  • Dak. A. Positives: Showed further poise and resiliency in coming back on the road from a 14-0 deficit. Stats were not as impressive as in game three, but they were still more than solid. Two TD passes were stellar. Two minute drive before halftime was a big key to the game. Negatives: Not quite as efficient on third down.
  • Zeke. A. Positives: broke off several big runs, showing great vision. Got stronger at the end of the game. Negatives? Wasn’t able to punch in the TD late in the fourth quarter that would have iced the game. But that’s as much on the blocking as on Zeke.

What did you think of their performances?

Dak and Zeke Report: Week 1 - NY Giants

Dak and Zeke Report: Week 2 - Washington

Dak and Zeke Report: Week 3 - Chicago