It’s crazy how much can change in just seven days. A week ago today, all the focus was on Cowboys running back Tony Pollard. With Ezekiel Elliott sidelined with an injury, the backup running back started for just the second time in his short career. Pollard turned this opportunity into production, turning in a huge day against the 49ers.
Pollard racked up 132 total yards and two touchdowns, one of which sealed a Dallas victory.
In his first career start with extended action, #Cowboys Tony Pollard played better than Zeke did at any game this year— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 23, 2020
Pollard had 132 total yards, which is more than in any game by Zeke this year. He had a 40-yard run. Zeke's longest all year was 26.pic.twitter.com/VNwpE26nOf
Pollard was at the center of conversation after the win, and some even wondered if the second-year pro’s performance could earn him the starting job in the near future. In a down year, Ezekiel Elliott’s value to the Cowboys seemed to be diminishing by the week. But just when everyone was ready to give up on number 21, he delivered a vintage performance.
Elliott was a different back on Sunday, plain and simple. The star running back had been dealing with a calf issue for the past four games, and it sure looked like the week of rest helped him heal up nicely. The former All-Pro had his best overall game of the season, recording 139 total yards, 105 of them coming on the ground.
It wasn’t just the stats that made this Elliott’s best day of the year, it was the way in which they came. Entering the fourth quarter, Dallas lead Philadelphia 30-17. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs with 14:09 left in the game, and Dallas took over on their own 25-yard line.
The Cowboys needed a couple of long drives to wind the clock down and hold on to their lead. In reality, they needed their closer, and that’s exactly what they got.
In the final 14 minutes of the game, Elliott rushed the ball eight times for 67 yards. That’s an average of 8.3 yards per carry. Those eight rushes included a 31-yard run, his longest since Week 17 of last season.
@dallascowboys @EzekielElliott played his best game of the season; but more importantly, he looked like Zeke....you know..one of the #NFL elite backs. The timing couldn’t be better. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/OCH55YBsZr— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 28, 2020
Yes, Elliott was playing against an Eagles defense that was without their best run defender, Fletcher Cox, for most of the game, but that’s not the big takeaway. The most important takeaway from this game is that Zeke finally looked like Zeke again. He looked healthy. He ran with power and explosiveness, something we haven’t seen a lot of this season. When it mattered most, Elliott looked like the guy Dallas envisioned when they gave him a huge contract a little over a year ago.
Elliott clearly has never given up on himself or his team. With their backs against the wall, he showed up big when his team needed him most. Every week this season Elliott has insisted this team was not out of it. On Sunday, he put his money where his mouth was.