Finally, the Cowboys unleashed the offense we all expected to begin the season in a 40-10 rout at San Francisco. After an opening three-and-out was rescued by Kavon Frazier’s forced fumble on San Francisco’s punt return, Dallas punched the ball in for a touchdown, and the rout was on. Dallas would force two more fumbles on strip sacks by DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, and scored off the second of them. (The first came too close to the end of the first half, but it kept SF from scoring.) They gained 501 yards overall, gave up no sacks, and had no turnovers.
The biggest stud of the game was Ezekiel Elliott, who was playing after being given a two week reprieve from his looming six-game suspension when a federal judge in New York issued a temporary restraining order. That will last until a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for October 30, the day after Dallas plays Washington. Pro Football Focus gave Zeke it’s game ball.
Dak Prescott was also highly effective, with a new high in ANY/A for this season off three touchdown passes, no picks, and no sacks. He continually looked deep, but largely took what San Francisco offered underneath, with his yards stretched by a 72-yard screen pass to Zeke Elliott, in which Noah Brown and Zack Martin provided excellent downfield blocking.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Here’s Dak’s line for the season.
The impressive number for Dak in this game is his adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) of 11.76, his high for the year, and the second-best of his career. He also became the third quarterback in team history with three games in a row of three TD passes or more. Tony Romo and Don Meredith were the other two. He added another touchdown by running in from the two-yard line.
He had an efficient game with:
- Jason Witten (four for four for 54 yards and a perfectly thrown TD), and
- Dez Bryant (seven for 10 for 63 yards and a perfectly thrown TD).
Dak also hit Cole Beasley on a pass that Cole turned into 24 yards, his longest gain of the year, and Ezekiel Elliott on a screen pass that went for 72 yards and a TD (like last year’s screen pass against Pittsburgh). Alfred Morris, Geoff Swaim, and Rod Smith also caught passes.
The odd part of the game was no targets for Brice Butler, and zero for three to Terrance Williams. It looked like Dak was trying to run play-action and hit the deep ball several times, but each time he pulled the ball down and either dumped off for a shorter pass, or ran the ball himself. Without seeing an end zone shot, it’s hard to know if Dak missed any deep opportunities.
The other nice thing about his game was he left time for Cooper Rush to get his first NFL action in the fourth quarter.
Here are Zeke’s numbers.
Zeke had a tremendous game, with 147 yards rushing the third highest of his career. With the 72-yard screen pass touchdown, it was his most yards from scrimmage ever. I expect Zeke to make a run at the NFL rushing title if he’s able to hold off his suspension, even though he’s about 170 yards behind Kareem Hunt with one less game played. Zeke added three touchdowns, doubling his totals for the season.
Other than the screen pass and a 25-yard rushing touchdown, Zeke didn’t have long runs. He just didn’t have any short ones. He was highly productive throughout, picking up from his fourth quarter effort against Green Bay.
Certainly the offensive line is playing better, with Jonathan Cooper much more consistent than Chaz Green was, and with La’el Collins also coming around to form.
Here are my grades:
- Dak: A. My son wanted me to give Dak an A+, because he accounted for four touchdowns (three passing and one rushing), didn’t throw any picks or take any sacks, helping lead Dallas to 40 points and ending his afternoon early. His ANY/A number, as a result, was the second highest of his career. The only knock I have is his completion percentage was in the mid 60% range, and he didn’t find anyone deep. Minor quibbles.
- Zeke: A+. This was among Zeke’s best statistical games. It wasn’t a big time opponent, but he did what he needed to by crushing the 49ers. The 72-yard screen pass touchdown makes you want more of that, which seems to be a Scott Linehan issue as much as a Zeke issue. Zeke has been overshadowed a bit this year by some of the rookie rushers, a bounce-back year from Todd Gurley, and a nice start by Le’Veon Bell. With this game he served notice that he’s still right there with the game’s best.