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Cowboys news: Zeke’s big day lifts Dallas over Atlanta to keep playoff hopes alive

The Monday morning links.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott was no spectator this time, helping lead Cowboys to key win - Todd Archer, ESPN

Zeke had a huge role in the Cowboys getting their second-consecutive road NFC victory, as Elliott totaled over 200 all-purpose yards.

Prescott’s late heroics complemented the all-round superior game of Ezekiel Elliott. He admitted he had a difficult time watching last year’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He was at his home, serving the first of a six-game suspension, forced to view it on the television.

He finished with 23 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown Sunday, giving him back-to-back 100-yard games for the second time this season. He also caught seven passes for 79 yards and made a huge block on Gallup’s catch.

It was his fourth career game with at least 200 scrimmage yards, which is already tied with Emmitt Smith and DeMarco Murray for the most in Cowboys history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Five things we learned from the Cowboys clutch 22-19 win over the Falcons - Tom Ryle, BTB

Yeah, Zeke had himself a game.

Having Amari is good, but having Zeke is even better

Amari Cooper was a presence the Falcons clearly were aware of, but he only had three receptions for 36 yards. The real weapon on offense was a very familiar name, Ezekiel Elliott. For the second time this season he led the team in rushing and receiving, with 122 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 79 through the air, and had the longest reception of the game on a screen pass during the first Dallas possession. He basically was the offense, as the rest of the team only managed 122 net yards without him touching the ball.

It can be argued that you don’t want to depend too much on your running back. But the Falcons were known to have a porous run defense, and it certainly looked like the game plan took that into account. That’s the idea, isn’t it?

In any case, Elliott is one of those rare non-quarterbacks that can take a team on his back and carry them to the win - if the rest of the offense is not so inept that the other team can just put all their energy into stopping him. That certainly seemed to be the case in this game.

5 thoughts from Cowboys’ win at Falcons: Dallas remains in playoff hunt, Leighton Vander Esch keeps ascending - Jon Machota, SportsDay

Zeke wasn’t the only one to have a big game on Sunday.

1. Leighton Vander Esch has officially put himself into the Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion. He probably won’t win the honor, but his stock is rapidly rising. Dallas’ first-round pick had arguably the biggest play of the game, intercepting Matt Ryan early in the fourth quarter, a huge swing for Dallas’ momentum. That’s now two interceptions in his last two games, both must-win situations. LVE has established himself as a quality tackler all season, but the turnovers have made him one of the team’s most valuable players. No one is questioning the decision to draft him over Calvin Ridley right now.

Vander Esch said after the game that he never thinks about what would’ve happened if he was drafted higher and ended up with a different team.

”I wanted to be here from Day 1,” he said. “I ended up where I wanted to be. It didn’t matter what pick I was, I wanted to be here.”

Eatman: 153 Reasons Why The Cowboys Won - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

How did the Cowboys win, you ask? Eatman lays it out.

So despite again having injuries to deal with, including four on the defensive line alone, the Cowboys were able to overcome the obstacles this time around, thanks to their 153 reasons. Because that’s what great players do. They elevate their game to overcome weaknesses.

Yes, it wasn’t just Zeke, Tyron and Vander Esch. They got other contributions in this game. That goes with every team with every game. It takes every player in uniform to win these close games. We all know that.

But just like those three players made a difference in losing last year. They were just as important to getting this win on Sunday.

Dak Prescott rewards Jerry Jones’ faith by propelling Cowboys to last-second win - Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram

Jerry Jones has praised Dak a ton lately, and the third-year QB backed it up when the game was on the line.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may have been exaggerating when he said before the game that he wouldn’t trade quarterback Dak Prescott for two first-round picks.

Nevertheless, Prescott rewarded Jones’ faith by leading the Cowboys to a 22-19 victory against the Atlanta Falcons while continuing to give life on what had been a lost season.

It was the second-straight victory for the Cowboys (5-5), who are back at .500 heading into Thursday’s first-place NFC East showdown against the Washington Redskins (6-4), who lost 23-21 to the Houston Texans.

That a Cowboys team that was left for dead at 3-5 after a loss to the Tennessee Titans two weeks got a win in Atlanta, the place their season went off the rails a year ago, is playing for first place on Thanksgiving Day was not lost on a pleased Jerry Jones.

‘This is huge for us’: Dak Prescott is fired up after leading the Cowboys to a win against the Falcons (VIDEO) - Fox Sports

Naturally, Dak was pumped after the last-second victory.

Changes after bye week are paying off for Cowboys - Jon Machota, SportsDay

Although we did not see much of it in the loss to Tennessee, the adjustments that were made during the bye week are beginning to pay off for the Cowboys.

Three significant moves happened after the Cowboys’ first seven games. A first-round pick was sent to Oakland in exchange for Cooper, offensive line coach Paul Alexander was fired and replaced by assistant offensive line coach Marc Colombo, and former longtime O-line coach Hudson Houck was added as a consultant.

In the three games since those changes, Dallas is 2-1 and Elliott looks like the player who won the rushing title in 2016.

Over the last three games, Elliott is averaging 111.3 rushing yards per game. He averaged 88.4 during the first seven. His average per carry has gone from 4.6 yards to 5.6.

LT Tyron Smith says he’ll be good to go for Cowboys-Redskins after suffering stinger vs. Falcons - Brandon George

Thanksgiving Day sets up a huge clash between the Cowboys and Washington for the NFC East lead. Fortunately, Tyron Smith says he is “good”.

Smith suffered a stinger late in the win over Atlanta. He was injured on the final drive on a Dak Prescott 19-yard pass to Cole Beasley to put the Cowboys in position for the game-winning field goal.

Cameron Fleming played left tackle on the Cowboys’ final three running plays before the game-winning field goal with Smith getting checked out on the sideline.

”I’ll be fine,” Smith said. “I’m good.”

And there you go. Smith said he’ll be OK to play Thursday in the Thanksgiving game against Washington.

Cowboys to face legendary Longhorns quarterback when Redskins visit on Thanksgiving - Peter Dawson, The Star-Telegram

And because of a gruesome injury to Alex Smith (our thoughts and prayers go out to Smith for a healthy recovery), Colt McCoy appears to be the starter for the Thanksgiving Day clash.

This Thanksgiving is going to be quite the homecoming for Colt McCoy.

Redskins quarterback Alex Smith broke his tibia and fibula Sunday during the team’s narrow 23-21 loss to the Houston Texans. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden confirmed that news and also said Smith will miss the remainder of this season.

As a result, Colt McCoy will become the starting quarterback for Washington.

And the former Texas Longhorns star will make his first start of this season when his team visits the Dallas Cowboys this coming Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

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