It took only one year for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to become Dallas Cowboys superstars. Prescott led the team from Texas to a 13-3 record, thus becoming the Offensive Rookie of the Year, whereas Elliott led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards and he was named an All-Pro in his first season in the league.
On Sunday, the Cowboys faced the Broncos in Denver, and they suffered a 42-17 loss, which means that they will have to bounce back from a poor performance in Week 2. Last season, the two out of the Cowboys’ three losses were close ones, and Dallas had a drive in the fourth quarter for a potential win or tie in one of those. The third loss was completely irrelevant as it came against the Philadelphia Eagles in the last week of the season when everything was decided, but neither Elliott nor Prescott were on the field. This defeat on Sunday was a blowout, and the questions are being raised about both players.
Elliott was criticized because he struggled with rushing yards and he was completely stopped by the Broncos defense. Prescott, on the other hand, didn’t make things happen when the run game stalled. This season, the Cowboys are a young team with the average age being 26.02, which is younger than the league average. They have ten rookies or first-year players on the roster, and most of those rookies are out there on the field. Also, they have seven players who are over 30, and that is less than the league average.
Every team comes into a crisis from time to time, and there are some aspects of the game which need to be improved. However, after a loss to Denver, everything, literally everything gets questioned. Coach Jason Garrett said: “You want to have mentally tough guys on your team. You want to have guys who are the right kind of guys, who are going to compete through some challenging situations. So, you’re always evaluating that.”
He added: “That’s the nature of our game. Every time we break the huddle, the guys across from you, that’s adversity. They’re really good in this league, so your ability to respond to that again and again and again, that’s what separates the best players.”
Garrett was worried about Prescott’s execution on Sunday. He believed that Dak could have had one of the best games of the season because the opponent was tough. “If you get a chance, go back and watch the tape of No. 4. No. 4 is a special player,” Garrett said of Prescott. “It was not an easy game for him. Got knocked around a little bit, got banged up early. And talk about a guy who battles. Talk about a guy who fights. Talk about a guy who leads the team under adversity, under duress. It was special.”
“I reflect back on the best quarterbacks I’ve been around. Oftentimes the games I remember most are the ones that the situations are the most challenging. And you see how they respond. How they respond to a turnover, how they respond to guys hitting them in the face over and over and over again. You’ve heard me say this before: My old man says you can hit him in the face with a shovel and he keeps coming back. That’s what Dak Prescott again demonstrated,” continued the head coach.
Garrett recalled Prescott’s 11-yard run when Dallas had a third down with 14 yards to go in the fourth when the outcome of the game was already decided. However, Prescott didn’t give up, and he was looking to win extra yardage. “He’s a great competitor,” Garrett said. “He fights. He scratches. He claws. He’s a great leader for our team.”
On the other hand, Elliott’s response to adversity was different. After Chris Harris Jr. picked off Prescott’s pass in the third quarter, you could see Elliott with his hands on his hips. Garrett was dissatisfied with Elliott’s effort on Aqib Talib’s 103-yard interception return when Prescott was the last down trying to chase down Talib.
Elliot obviously struggled, and his longest run on Sunday was five yards. He was unstoppable in his first season, and he doesn’t know what to do when a defense finds a cure for his running game. Week 2 and the match against Denver is behind, and the Cowboys need to focus on the next duel versus the Arizona Cardinals.
“One of the things that is the foundation of our football team is fight,” Garrett said. “We’re going to compete and fight and scratch and claw. That’s what we’re going to be. That’s one of the reasons we love Zeke Elliott. That’s what he is. Watch him play. He competes. He battles.”
“Urban Meyer told us he’s the best player he’s ever had when the ball is not in his hands, and so he’s made great blocks throughout his career with us. That’s just what he’s all about. Again, those plays were uncharacteristic of him. We’ll certainly address it with him, but we have to address that with our entire team. That’s not the way we play,” concluded Dallas Cowboys coach.