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Cowboys' News: Ezekiel Elliott Receives PFWA Rookie Of The Year Award, More To Come

A couple remaining look-backs at the loss to the Packers, news about Zeke and Dak, and a few articles on where Tony Romo might end up next year. The early speculative leader appears to be the Houston Texans.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys: Breaking down the three biggest critiques of the Cowboys' loss to the Packers - David Moore, DMN

Let's start with an article that looks back at three critiques of the Cowboy's loss and responds to them. 1. Not running Zeke enough - Cowboys' didn't in certain circumstances, but Moore tries to counter. 2. Shouldn't have spiked the ball - Moore agrees. 3. Should have blitzed Rodgers on the last play - or used a spy with speed instead of Durant (or called holding on the Packers' linemen). Moore disagrees. What else to we have to stew about until next season?

Green Bay had a third-and-20 from its 32-yard line with 12 seconds left. Blitz? Too risky, especially for a Cowboys team that rarely blitzes. That's why they rushed three and went with a cover two.

Sometimes, a defense is in the proper coverage and the quarterback and the receiver, in this case tight end Jared Cook, make an exceptional play.

"There are always things you can do better on every play, so this idea that we did everything perfectly, that's pretty rare with 11 guys having 11 different responsibilities on any given play,'' Garrett said. "Having said that, there are a lot of plays in that game where you felt like you guarded them well, we had defenders right there and he made a big-time throw and he made a big-time contested catch."

Cowboys went against their norm on third-and-short vs. Packers - Todd Archer, ESPN

Archer focuses on the issue that seemed obvious during the game - why not use Zeke on short yardage plays? A broken up pass on 3rd and two stopped the Cowboys' first drive, which ended with a field goal. The bubble screen on 2nd and one led to Dak's interception and took points off the board.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, nobody ran more in the NFL in 2016 when needing 2 or fewer yards than the Cowboys. They ran it 77 percent of the time. That’s what you do when you have Ezekiel Elliott.

Perhaps they wanted to break a tendency in the playoffs. Perhaps they got a little greedy.

But that wasn’t the only time the Cowboys looked to win through the air instead of with Elliott’s legs.

The Cowboys had seven plays of second- or third-and-2 or less, and they went with pass plays six times.

Cowboys could've destroyed Packers with an unstoppable force, but chose not to -- why? - Bob Sturm, DMN

Bob Sturm, in his Decoding Linehan piece also stresses this theme. But he makes the point more solid by showing the Packers never had an answer for stopping Zeke, so running him in these situations would have helped establish the Cowboys' dominance. Sometimes coaches can out think themselves.

So what is the most legitimate critique of Sunday's effort? For me, it is that the Cowboys had an unstoppable force against a defense that has no idea how to slow it down, and Dallas elected to not destroy its opponent with it.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is pictured during Cowboys NFL football playoff game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, January 15, 2017. (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

We talked about this in the Linehan preview last week:

Since 2013, the Cowboys have played the Packers four times. In each game, they ran all day and had no issues whatsoever. They ran and ran and ran. They have run the ball with this massive offensive line against the Packers and Dom Capers 99 times in four games and have rolled up an absurd 641 yards.

That comes out to 6.48 yards per carry. Oh, and the Cowboys are 1-3 in those four games.

Well, make it 123 times for 779 yards in five matchups -- 6.33 yards per carry! And a 1-4 record against Green Bay.

So let's go back to the question/critique of the entire offensive operation: Even with your 31 points and 429 yards, why isn't the answer to nearly every play-calling situation (within reason) to run Elliott behind this offensive line you have built?

Ezekiel Elliott earns PFWA rookie of the year honors over Dak Prescott - DMN

In what is certain to be the first of many honors, Ezekiel Elliott is given Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. The more official of these awards is given out by Associated Press. Still, a great job by Zeke, who somehow actually exceeded the often excessive expectations placed on him before the season.

Elliott is the fourth Cowboys player to be selected Offensive Rookie of the Year and the first since running back Emmitt Smith in 1990. Other Dallas winners of the award were running back Calvin Hill (1969; NFL) and running back Tony Dorsett (1977).

Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott will chase Eric Dickerson's record - Todd Archer, ESPN

Zeke is just getting started as a runner. Dickerson's rookie rushing record? He could have had it had the Cowboys needed him the last two games. But what about his NFL single-season rushing record? One of Archer's "Five Wonders."

I wonder if Ezekiel Elliott will rush for more than 1,631 yards in 2017. Defenses will have a full season to get a read on what he does and does not like, but it's not like they didn't know the Dallas Cowboys were going to give him the ball a ton as a rookie. Elliott had 322 carries in the regular season but had more than 25 carries in a game just twice. Injuries are the great unknown, either to him or the offensive line, but the Cowboys are not about to move away from a formula that has worked so well for them, whether Elliott was running the ball or DeMarco Murray was in 2014. We spent a lot of time asking Elliott if he could break Eric Dickerson's record for most yards in a season by a rookie. For the mini-wonder within a wonder, I wonder if we will ask him if he will break Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards. Actually, I don't wonder. We will.

How Dak, Zeke changed Cowboys' locker room in a way Tony Romo never did or could | SportsDay

Brad Sham shared an observation that was also in a USA Today story last week, about how Dak Prescott is unique in the way he could relate to all members of the Cowboys. Aside from his play on the field, it helped cement his status as a leader of the team.

Prescott's personality appears to be different. You can walk in the locker room, and this is just when we're allowed in there, and you could see him horsing around with Zeke or sitting on the other side with Orlando Scandrick. I don't know that that's something you ever saw from Tony. I'm not saying he wasn't interactive with all of his teammates but I think it's fair to say Prescott's got a different personality, won over everybody across every imaginable demographic line - age, race, position, whatever - early. And he's a different guy. There's such high hope for his continued development.

Cowboys anticipate Will McClay, Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli staying with team - Jon Machota, DMN

Put this story in the "good news" category. There is some benefit to being the most valuable franchise in sports.

"The real issue is that, as you know, in America if somebody wants to work someplace else, you can't keep them from working someplace else. The issue there is that, if you got agreements with them, that whoever they decide that they want to go work for owes the one they left a king's ransom. So that keeps it in place."

Why Tony Romo won’t let Jerry Jones keep him on the Cowboys, leaving this team as great option for trade - Tim Cowlishaw, DMN

Let the speculation begin on where Tony Romo will be playing next year.

And the one inevitable conclusion everyone should have reached this weekend -- Cowboys fans or otherwise -- is that Romo in a Houston Texans uniform next season just might be a hell of a thing for a team that doesn't play in the Cowboys' conference and won't play Dallas again until 2018.

Where Will Tony Romo End Up In 2017? - VAfan, BtB

My own take on the question, which ends with the question - what about trading Tony Romo for a player instead of a draft pick?

The biggest areas of need are secondary, defensive line, and wide receiver. What if Dallas traded Tony Romo to a team with a strong defense that could afford to send back a skilled cornerback or pass rusher? Someone like Aqib Talib from the Broncos, for example. Denver would take a small cap hit in trading him, and Dallas would instantly upgrade their secondary.

The value of this kind of move is that the Cowboys would get an established player at a position of need that they could plug in immediately on a contending team. This is just the kind of player addition that helped both the Patriots (when they added Darrell Revis) and the Broncos (Ware, Manning, and Talib) win a Super Bowl. The trading team would retain their draft picks, which they might value even higher than the player surrendered.

Jason Garrett provides insight into decision to bench Tony Romo - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN

Garrett talks a bit more about the quarterback decision the team made in the middle of the season.

"What happened when Tony got hurt, Dak stepped in and this team got going. It went on a run, and what we needed to do was somehow, someway stay on that run," Garrett said. "The team was just at a certain place and they were handling that situation so well that it was just in the best interest for us to continue down that road.

"The challenge for Tony was to kind of process that in an unemotional way and get himself ready. I thought over the course of the season he did a really good job of that, and I think he showed who he is."

Once Garrett committed to Prescott, Romo was no longer an option.

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