NOTES: Cowboys ground game flourishing

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ron Jenkins/AP/Shutterstock (13488843th) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates the team’s win with running backs Ezekiel Elliott (21) and Tony Pollard (20) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, in Arlington, Texas Lions Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 23 Oct 2022

NOTES: Cowboys ground game flourishing

The two-back system continues to pay dividends for the Cowboys this season.

“I feel like we are running the ball better than we have in a couple of years,” Prescott said.

With Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard sharing the load, the Cowboys have moved up the NFL’s rushing charts since their Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, where the duo accounted for just 63 yards on the ground.

After Sunday’s win over the Lions, where the pair rushed for a combined 140 yards, the Cowboys’ ground attack is averaging 121.7 yards per game which is now good enough for 14th in the league.

“We knew they were going to play hard, we just had to tire them out a little bit, and that’s what those (early) rushing attempts do,” Elliott said. “You lean on ‘em, you lean on ‘em, and that’s when it starts to get a little bit easier, and you start to get those explosive (plays). We just had to stick with it. We did, and those big ones started popping.”

Elliott continues to gather the tough yards for Dallas, gaining 443 on 109 carries with four touchdowns through seven games this season.

“Zeke is having a heck of a year,” McCarthy said. “You just have so much faith and trust in him down there in those tight spots. Obviously, he had some big runs for us.”

Pollard, who has the homerun speed and shiftiness for a big play each time he touches the ball, has carried it 67 times for 375 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Prescott rusty in return to lineup

Dak Prescott returned to the lineup on Sunday with another lackluster performance. But the Cowboys franchise quarterback was able to knock some of the rust off during a very forgettable first half against Detroit before ramping up her performance in the final 30 minutes of the game.

“I felt great,” Prescott said after the win. “I felt comfortable with everything. The thumb definitely didn’t bother me; it wasn’t a thought in my head. I felt like after a few throws; I was back into it.”

Prescott was a pedestrian nine of 14 for 104 yards in a first half that produced just three points, the same number of points he led the team to in 55-plus minutes of action in the Week 1 loss against Tampa Bay.

“This time that I had off has been a blessing,” Prescott said. “Coop(er Rush) did an amazing job, obviously keeping us in this position. Just the defense and the team playing complementary football, it was important for me to see that and recognize that and know coming back to not try to do too much. We have a helluva run game. We have a defense that can make turnovers and get touchdowns their selves and a great special teams that’s aggressive and kick return game – I don’t know people keep kicking it. It is great to be a part of. I am just trying to play my role and make sure I put this team in the best chance to win each and every game.”

His second-half performance should give fans hope that the best Prescott has to offer has yet to be seen this season.

“As to be expected, I thought Dak performed better as the game went on,” McCarthy said. “Like anything, it is the first time he has been out there in quite some time. But starting with the command in the huddle and the whole operation, he was really on point there. … But coming back from an injury to your throwing hand, he needs reps. He needs to continue to get the reps. … But obviously, I thought he had a winning performance today.”

Prescott connected on 10 of 11 throws for 103 yards and the lone touchdown, a 2-yard strike to a wide-open Peyton Hendershot late in the fourth quarter. It is the tight end’s first career touchdown catch.

“I felt fine, but this is about the team,” Prescott said. “This is a great team win.”

Parsons play turns tide

Micah Parsons made a tackle on Sunday that kept Dallas in the lead and turned the tide in favor of the Cowboys.

“Just in the moment, sitting down with (defensive coordinator Dan Quinn) this past week, and he was talking to me about plays that I could make if I just use my speed and chase down, knowing that’s my superpower,” Parsons said. “We kind of had that father-son talk this week, and he challenged me, and I told him that I would never let (him) down. Just stuff like that I credit to Q because he’s a person that means a lot to me, and I just hate to let him down. When I’m out there, I just try to give everything I got for him.”

At the start of the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys holding a slim 10-6 lead, the Lions were driving for the go-ahead touchdown. On second and five from the Cowboys’ 18, quarterback Jared Goff completed a short pass to Brock Wright, who sprinted through the Cowboys’ defense headed for a sure touchdown, but the Lions forgot to keep blocking Parsons on the play.

After Wright sprinted past the rushing Parsons at the Cowboys’ 16, the Cowboys linebacker reversed field, unleashed his superpower, and ran the Lions’ tight end down from behind, making the tackle just before the ball crossed the goal line for the touchdown.

“At first, I thought he scored. I thought he rolled in,” Parsons said. “I didn’t think I made it.”

But he did, and even though it was close, the Lions chose not to challenge the spot or outcome of the play.

On the very next play, a first down from just outside the Cowboys’ goal line, Jamaal Williams fumbled the ball, and Demarcus Lawrence recovered it at the Dallas 1 to turn back the Lions.

“I tell people, I am gonna be tired, but you are gonna be more tired than me because I am never going to stop,” Parsons said. “I practice that way. I work that way. Just being relentless and understand that anything can happen on the field.”

Detroit would never threaten again.

Rookie tight ends make Cowboys history

With franchise-tagged Dalton Schultz, who counts close to $11 million against the salary cap in 2022, coming into the season as the starting tight end and Sean McKeon as his backup, the Cowboys went young by filling out the rest of the position room with a couple of rookies.

Dallas drafted Jake Ferguson in the fourth round and signed undrafted rookie Peyton Hendershot and just seven weeks into their first season in the NFL; both have contributed because of injuries early on to both Schultz and McKeon.

After being blanked for the first two weeks of the season, both Ferguson and Hendershot made the first catches of their careers in the Week 3 win over the Giants.

Ferguson, who has eight catches for 67 yards this season, caught another one in Week 4 before adding four catches and his first NFL touchdown in the Week 6 loss at Philadelphia.

Hendershot, who has caught seven passes for 70 yards this season, was welcomed to the touchdown party in the Week 7 win over Detroit.

“It has a little something sweet to it, but I’m just thankful regardless,” Hendershot said about catching the first touchdown of his career.

It marks the first time in franchise history that two rookie tight ends each have a touchdown reception.

Elliott adds two

With a pair of touchdown runs on Sunday, Ezekiel Elliott climbed up the Cowboys’ record book.

It is the 13th time in his career that Elliott scored twice in a game and the first time since he did it in a Week 10 win over Atlanta in the 2021 season.

“It felt good to get in the end zone twice,” Elliott said. “The big fellas wanted to run it down in there, and (offensive coordinator) Kellen (Moore) called it.”

Elliott, now in his seventh season, now has a two-touchdown game in all but one season – 2018, when he rushed for just six touchdowns in the 16-game season.

Elliott now has 60 career rushing touchdowns in 95 career games played.

Corner Lewis lost for season

Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis was in the middle of his best game of the season on Sunday when he picked off an errant Jared Goff pass and was immediately tackled.

That interception, the eighth of his career, helped seal the Cowboys’ win over Detroit and ended the season for Lewis, who finished the game with three tackles and one pass defended while playing 32 of 58 defensive snaps.

On the tackle, with just over eight minutes to play in the game and the Cowboys leading 10-6, Lewis suffered a Lisfranc injury to his right foot. The injury, which required surgery to repair it on Sunday night, will keep Lewis out the rest of the season and possibly into next season.

The Cowboys turned the Lewis pick into an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run and a 17-6 lead with 2:46 to play in the game.

“(Lewis) really represents all the things I love about our defense,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “He’s tough. He’s smart. He’s a dog-ass competitor. He brings it. He’s a great teammate. So, he will be missed. Sometimes it is easy to say the coach’s cliché of ‘next man up,’ (but) there’s a dude behind that injury, too and we are gonna miss him. We love him. So, that is a hard one for us to deal with, but we certainly will.”

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