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Dak and Zeke report: Good but not great in win over Giants

We have high standards for Dak and Zeke. Though the Cowboys won in convincing fashion, the beatdown was administered more by the defense than the offense.

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are not rookies any more. So we should expect even greater things from them in year two. And once again, we’re going to provide a weekly snapshot and evaluation of their games.

Tonight, it wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective enough, in large part because of the Cowboy defense’s total domination of the Giants, to win the game handily in Dallas 19-3. The Cowboys fell eight yards short of 400 yards - 263 yards passing and 129 rushing, which is third in the NFL with two games left to play tonight. New York mustered 233 yards, with 198 yards passing and 53 rushing, but at halftime only had 49 yards. Much of their yardage was gained in garbage time.

That’s the context. How did Dak and Zeke do?

Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott did not have a game that matched his normal standards. Recall that last year he completed 67.6% of his passes, with a 7.9 ANY/A (adjusted net yards per attempt), with a quarterback rating of 104.77. See the end of year totals here.

He was under each of those year-end averages Sunday night.

His line for the night is below. We’re tracking some extra stats this year. For one, we’ve added the opponent and the final score. We’ve also added Dak’s rushing and sack totals. The former gives him credit for what he does in addition to passing. The latter figures into calculating ANY/A.

1 NYG W19-3 24 39 61.54% 268 7.08 1 0 90.55 3 24 0 1 5

This is not a terrible night by any means. Dak didn’t get intercepted or fumble, only got sacked once, and he rushed three times for 24 yards. But he often sailed his passes, including three missed throws to the end zone on first and goal from the three-yard line on the Cowboys’ second drive.

(Why the team failed to hand the ball to Ezekiel Elliott with first and goal from the three at this point is beyond our comprehension. It reminded us of previous years when the Cowboys sometimes got too cute. When you have the hammer, use the hammer!)

Moreover, on 47 first half plays, the Cowboys could only muster 16 points, having to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on three drives. Plus, the Dak-to-Dez show did not improve dramatically from last year against this team, as Dak was only two for nine throwing to Dez. He was 22 for 30 throwing to everyone else.

Overall, Dak’s game was much better than his two games against the Giants last year. This should strike fear in the hearts of the rest of the NFL.

1 NYG L20-19 25 45 55.60% 227 5 0 0 69.4 2 12 0 0 0
13 At NYG L10-7 17 37 45.94% 165 2.05 1 2 45.4 1 1 0 3 13

One main difference from last year’s losses to New York was Dak’s ability to hit big plays.

Prescott completed only two passes of 21 or more yards in being swept by the Giants as a rookie. He was frequently confused by the looks New York threw his way and settled time and time again to dump the ball underneath to his second or third option.

On this night Prescott had a 35-yard completion to Dez Bryant and a pair of 30-yard completions to Brice Butler and Elliott. He had a 23-yard completion to Terrance Williams for good measure and picked up a 21-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Janoris Jenkins with another deep ball to Bryant.

"That was our mentality," Prescott said. "We wanted to be aggressive."

Dak certainly finished the night better than Eli Manning, who was 29 for 38 for 220 yards, three sacks for 22 yards, no TDs and one INT, and a 78.8 quarterback rating. So Dak helped Dallas win the quarterback rating differential, which often indicates which team won the game.

Ezekiel Elliott

Zeke seemed underused at times, but he still got more than 100 yards rushing.

We already highlighted the odd decision not to use him on the Cowboys’ second drive when they were set up first and goal from the three-yard line. It shouldn’t have mattered if the Giants were bracing for a run. Three plays to get three yards? That should be Zeke time!

Here are Zeke’s stats.

1 NYG W19-3 24 105 4.3 5 36 7.2 0 0

Here’s how they compare to his two games against the Giants last year.

1 NYG L20-19 20 51 2.55 1 1 1 1 0
13 NYG L10-7 24 107 4.5 0 0 0 0 0

As you can see, Zeke’s rushing totals last night were almost identical to his rushing totals from the Game in New York. The difference is his five receptions for 36 yards this time versus nothing last time. Expect Zeke to be used a lot more this season as a receiver.

Zeke did help set up the Cowboys only touchdown. That drive started on the Dallas 35. It was Zeke around left end for 10 yards, Zeke also ran for nine yards, six yards, and caught a three yard pass before Dak hit Jason Witten for 12 yards and the TD off a read-option play fake to Zeke.

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Zeke’s game is there didn’t seem to be any yards he left out on the field. The Giants defense is stout, yet Zeke was gaining something even when nothing seemed to be there. Compare his production to Alfred Morris, who received four carries for one yard. Many people think anyone can run behind this line, and against a weak defense, that may be true. But when the slogging is tough, you need an exceptional runner who has speed and power like Ezekiel Elliott.

My grades this week?

  • Dak B. Positives: Led the team to victory, hit high completion percentages to everyone but Dez Bryant (2 for 9) and Brice Butler (1 for 3), didn’t turn the ball over, and dramatically upped his previous two games against the Giants. Negatives: Below his norms from last year, sailed a lot of passes that he normally nails, and didn’t cash in a touchdown when faced with first and goal from the Giant’s three.
  • Zeke A. Positives: Solid game against one of the toughest run defenses the Cowboys face. His most explosive play was a simple throw to him with room to run on the left side, when he romped for 30 yards. Negatives: Nothing that I saw.

What did you think of their performances?

Dak and Zeke Report -- Final numbers from 2016

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