In front of a primetime national audience on Sunday night, rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott showed America exactly what has Dallas fans so excited about the Cowboys’ future. From the opening kick, Zeke and Dak each dominated the game in their own way, and the Bears were essentially helpless to stop the attack, with Dallas winning, 31-17.
Behind the best offensive line in football (sans an injured Tyron Smith), Zeke had a field day, toting the rock 30 times for 140 yards, and averaging 4.7 yards per carry. With each game, Elliott continues game continues to pick up steam, as he seemingly gets better and better with each and every carry.
Ah, but about that offensive line ...
Ronald Leary told our Mike Fisher he felt “blessed’’ to be back in the Cowboys lineup by the second quarter at AT&T Stadium, though “it wasn’t the way I wanted it to happen.’'
“It happened'' because left-guard starter La’el Collins — the prized youngster who was given Leary’s old job last year — left the game with what apparently is a torn ligament in his toe that could sideline him for eight weeks (moving him to IR) and requires surgery. (UPDATE: Collins is seeking second opinions, owner Jerry Jones telling 105.3 The Fan that he might try to "work through it.'' But that eight-week likelihood remains.)
The Cowboys are hoping for better news from the MRI on Dez Bryant’s knee. But for the moment, they can be both troubled by the coming Collins absence and be feeling “blessed’’ themselves that they resisted the summer temptation to trade away Leary, who was disgruntled as a backup.
"I was prepared,’’ said Leary, who has served as a big-brother mentor to Collins. "It felt good to be playing football. I love the game so much … What I’ve been going through has been really frustrating. I’ve been keeping my faith. And … things happen.’’
But now it’s Collins’ turn to be frustrated … and Cowboys Nation’s turn to be frustrated as it waits for Dez news. ... while at the same time being able to celebrate a future bright thanks to Dak and Zeke.
“It feels good. It feels good to see all the hard work come and see the results from it,” said Elliott, reflecting on his success behind Dallas' vaunted O-line -- battered as it was. “Just going to work every week and not necessarily getting the results you want in the first couple of weeks. Just having the teammates that I do, who’ve co continued to have confidence in me no matter what we went through. The first game being a little shaky. I’m glad they have the ultimate confidence in me. Just all the guys, all the vets, telling me before this game that this is going to be the one. It’s awesome to have these guys around me.”
It’s a scary thought, but this is just his third game as an NFL running back. To imagine what this guy could potentially turn into is just frightening.
Even after Collins left the game, Elliott showed no signs of slowing down. He is showing patience, power, explosiveness and great vision in his running right now, which he did not due in the season opening loss to the Giants back on September 11th. The best example of which, may be on this run here, where he showcases all four aspects of his game in one run, hurdling a Chicago defender:
With his college coach Dan Mullen in attendance, Prescott looked nothing like a rookie quarterback who made just the third start of his career. Dak was decisive and surgical throughout the game, hitting on 19 of 24 attempts for 248 yards and two total touchdowns, including his first career touchdown pass, in which he hit Dez Bryant on a 17-yard post route with just over nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
“It felt great,” said Prescott of the touchdown pass. “I had a couple other close moments there earlier in the game. Then we got Dez in there. It took a lot of attempts but it happened.”
Dak also continued to show a strong rapport with Cole Beasley, who caught seven balls for 73 yards. Beasley is seemingly the receiver that Prescott trusts the most at this point in his young career, and he continues to go to the diminutive wide out whenever he needs to move the chains. (Matthew Postins' terrific Cowboys Premium column on "The Rise Of The Bease'' is here.)
“I like throwing to him and all those guys,” Prescott said of Beasley. “Every receiver we’ve got has some thing different to offer. Beasley specifically is very shifty and quick off the line. He is a hard to cover in man-to-man. He is hard for defense to match up against.”
Beasley showed just how hard he is to check here, when he beat DB Jacoby Glenn on a route early in the second quarter. The catch was the first in Beasley’s career that caught more than 20 yards downfield.
Through his first three starts, Dak has now thrown 99 passes without throwing a single interception. That stat is pretty remarkable when you think about it, especially considering that Prescott is just one of four quarterbacks, along with Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Carson Wentz, without an interception through their first three starts of the season.
“The number of different fronts and coverages you see, the different pressures and he’s just done a really good job understanding what we want to do against the defenses he sees and he throws the ball to the right guy,” coach Jason Garrett said of his rookie quarterback. “He does a good job not forcing the ball. If it’s not there, he goes through his progression. He doesn’t predetermine things and then ultimately he can get away from trouble because he’s a really good athlete and he can use his legs. He did that a couple of times again tonight. Again, it goes back to the poise and composure and the maturity he’s playing with. He’s done an outstanding job for us.”
A couple of injuries. A couple of rookies. The Cowboys are having to take the good with the bad ... but are 2-1 to show for it all.