There weren't many open lanes to run through, and the hits were hard. The Dallas Cowboys knew that it would be tough to run the ball against a Baltimore Ravens defense that is number one against the run in the NFL. Teams average only 73 yards per game against the Ravens stout front. The Cowboys were nonetheless committed to at least having a decent showing on the ground, and in the end Ezekiel Elliott gutted out 97 yards rushing the ball.
The first half was one the Cowboys offensive line would like to forget at the Ravens held Elliott in check with only 26 yards on the ground. Dallas finally got it going in the second half, although many of the runs were short ones and ended with Elliott taking big shots from one or more Ravens defenders. Elliott’s longest run on the day was 14 yards and it took 25 carries for him to get those 97 yards (3.9 yards per carry).
Elliott did add to his yardage on the day with four catches for 30 yards. But what was most impressive was the way Elliott just kept plugging away, hammering at the Ravens defense until they softened up some in the second half. On the Cowboys final drive of the game, when they were trying to protect a seven point lead, Elliott carried the ball 9 times for 30 yards. While not impressive in yards, it helped Dallas burn over six minutes off the clock and get Dan Bailey a chip shot field goal.
Elliott also set the Cowboys rookie rushing record during the game, beating the long-standing record of Tony Dorsett. In 1977 Dorsett had 1,007 yards helping the Cowboys to a Super Bowl win.
Elliott now has 1,102 yards on the season, and while he may not break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record, he’s been exemplary for Dallas. His pass protection and his abilities as a receiver complement his running abilities, making an all-around back. On a day when he really had to grind it out, he still managed 97 yards against the best rushing defense in the NFL. He took the hard hits and kept plugging away.
Congrats on an excellent rookie season so far, Zeke!