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Dak and Zeke Report: Dak Prescott Is The Hero, And Keeps Ezekiel Elliott From Being The Goat

Leading the Cowboys on his first game-winning fourth quarter drive, Dak Prescott made huge strides from his first to his second game. Zeke Elliott ran better, but two late fumbles could have been disastrous.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a week makes! Last week, in the Dak and Zeke report, our prized rookies didn’t get the best grades. Dak led some impressive drives, but couldn’t turn them into TDs, and as the game progressed, his throws often missed their mark. Meanwhile Zeke turned 20 carries into only 51 yards, though he did score a TD. How did they do this week?

Dak Prescott

Dak’s raw stats for his first two weeks:

Week QB Team Cmp Att Cmp% Yds ANY/A TD Int Rate
1 Prescott DAL 25 45 55.6% 227 5.0 0 0 69.4
2 Prescott DAL 22 30 73.3% 292 8.2 0 0 103.7

(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.)

Starting with the ANY/A, Prescott went from a pedestrian 5.04 yards to 8.17 yards per throw, which is better than the number Tony Romo posted in 2014, his best season. Of course, it’s one thing to do that in a single game, and quite another to post that over a season, but it’s still impressive. The reason? Unlike his first game, when Dak couldn’t connect on his deep throws, and didn’t get yards after catch from his receivers, on Sunday, he had nine pass completions that gained 15 or more yards.

Dak’s completion percentage also shot way up to 73%, and his QB rating topped 100 points for the first time, giving Dallas a positive passer rating differential, something OCC has pointed to as a key variable in who wins football games. He didn’t complete a TD pass, but he did run for a TD. And he set a new NFL record:

But the key to Dak’s performance wasn’t his stats, it was how he rallied the team to victory at the end of the game. Starting at 10:35 in the fourth quarter, 1st and 10 at the Dallas 20 yard line, Dak drove the team 80 yards for the winning TD. Dak was 5-6 for 56 yards on the drive to put Dallas ahead, including a critical 3rd down and 11 in the red zone, leaving Washington 4:45 to attempt to rally. The defense did the rest. With that kind of improvement from week-to-week, there is no telling what Dak can do.

Ezekiel Elliott

How did Zeke do in game 2?

  • Rushing: 21 carries, 83 yards, 4.0 ypc, 1 TD, long 21 yards, 2 fumbles, 1 lost
  • Receiving: 2 receptions, 4 yards.

This was an improvement in rushing, but again less than was expected. At one point in the game he had 16 carries for more than 80 yards, or more than five yards per carry, but the sledding got tougher at the end. He also seemed to leave some meat on the bone, with at least a couple of runs where he could have bounced outside for more daylight.

Zeke did score another TD, and was again excellent at converting first downs. He also was quite effective as a decoy on Prescott’s effective bootleg plays. But his most critical lapse was fumbling the ball twice, which caused his benching at the end of the game. Alfred Morris thus got the game winning TD, not Zeke, though just about anyone could have waltzed through the hole the line opened up on that key play.

Zeke had the third lowest fumble rate of any running back entering this year’s draft. so one would expect he will be able to clean this up quickly. Still, his lost fumble led to Washington taking the lead 23-20, and had Dallas lost his second fumble, on the game-winning drive, the day could have ended disastrously. Zeke knew he screwed up.

Instead, Dak’s heroism kept Elliott from being the goat.

My grades this week?

  • Dak A-. Positives: Tremendous poise, got the ball down the field, high completion percentage, great deception on bootleg plays, led fourth-quarter game-winning TD drive, ran the ball in for a TD. Negatives: still no TD passes, stalled twice in red zone, took four sacks.
  • Zeke C-. Positives: Continued to run hard inside, converted first downs, scored a TD, improved his YPC average. Negatives: Two fumbles could have cost the Cowboys the game and negated the fact that Zeke ran much better in this game, hasn’t stressed the defenses yet.

What did you think of their performances?

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