Let’s get this over with quick. After a game with 209 total yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that was playing for its playoff viability, Ezekiel Elliott gets the game ball this week. He was the difference maker, scoring go-ahead touchdowns twice in the final two minutes of the game. You can’t do much better than that.
If you are on Twitter, just go search for “Elliott MVP”. The support is building, and it isn’t just from Dallas fans.
Ezekiel Elliott now with 1,005 rushing yards, along with a run at Offensive Rookie of Year and NFL MVP.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 14, 2016
Remember, when the Dallas Cowboys made Elliott the fourth-overall pick of the draft, there were many who questioned the move. You can get a good running back much later in the draft, they said. The Cowboys had Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris already on the roster, they said. Any good back could get the job done behind that superior offensive line, they said.
No one else would be literally running away with the Rookie of the Year award and making a serious case as the league MVP, however. You cannot build a serious argument for that. And while Dak Prescott still deserves a huge share of praise for what he has meant for this team, Elliott has done even more. It is the combination of the two rookies with the other talent on the roster that is the real magic, of course, but no one player has done more than Zeke. And no one had more to do with the thrilling, come from behind (four times) victory in Pittsburgh than Elliott. He definitely saved his best for last. Outside of his two scores in the final two minutes, the Steelers held him to only 68 yards on 19 carries, for a 3.6 yard per carry average. But he and that offensive line were wearing them down. There was a thought that the Steelers may have let him get to the end zone on the 14-yard carry to try and have time to get the lead back and leave the Cowboys without enough time for their own comeback, but that seems unlikely, and it was a dismal failure if it was intentional. And his final run was a thing of beauty when everyone in the stadium was expecting the Cowboys to just run it up the gut to set Dan Bailey up for an easy, game-winning field goal. However, the line opened up a hole and the Steelers defense was caught flat footed. And Zeke ate.
There were some other performances of note. Prescott continued to exhibit poise and leadership that are the envy of most veteran quarterbacks, let alone rookies. Dez Bryant had 119 yards and a touchdown on six catches, playing with the loss of his father this weekend weighing on his heart. And DeMarcus Lawrence had his best game of the season, getting the Cowboys’ lone sack and two tackles for a loss, including the attempted end around where he just crushed Antonio Brown ten yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Those were praiseworthy performances, but all must take a back seat to that of Zeke. He is dominating games and threatening records. He is the key ingredient in this incredible recipe for 8-1 and two more wins than anyone else in the NFC - and, thanks to the defeat of the New England Patriots by the Seattle Seahawks on SNF, the Cowboys also have the best record in the entire league. On a franchise that has had so many stellar running backs, he is already carving a place as one of the best. With only nine games played, he has a long way to go to keep that lofty regard, but this rookie season he has begun is already one of the best ever. He is the first back to go over 1,000 yards on the season, and he has already scored ten touchdowns.
His award case is going to get a lot more than this game ball, but he certainly deserves it.