There’s no way to sugar-coat it, the Cowboys run game was awful on Sunday night.
The New Orleans Saints dominated the interior of the Cowboys offensive line, and questionable decisions from both offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t help the running game much either.
Still, the bulk of the national blame falls upon the $90 million man Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke rushed for just 36 yards on 18 carries during Sunday’s loss, and though he rushed for a goal line touchdown in the third quarter, he really didn’t accomplish much whatsoever.
And while the outside world focuses on what went wrong with the Cowboys play calling and passing game, the coaches in the building could very well be looking at this week’s opponent and believing it is time for Zeke to “eat.”
Many believe the Green Bay Packers have boasted one of the best defenses in all of football through the first four weeks, and to a certain extent that belief is true. Green Bay is 5th in passing defense DVOA and 6th in adjusted sack rate through four games. They have been stifling opposing passing offenses week in and week out, helping their struggling offense along as they get acclimated to their new head coach and play caller.
There has been one glaring weakness to this Packers defense, however, and that is their ability to stop the run. Green Bay is 27th in run defense DVOA, and 31st in adjusted line yards. That puts them behind teams like the Cardinals, Bengals, Redskins, and Giants. Last week, when the Packers suffered their first loss of the season, Philadelphia rushed for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns on 33 attempts as a team.
Both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders had a ton of success on the ground against the Packers, and the Cowboys have to be thinking that Elliott and Tony Pollard can see somewhat similar results this Sunday.
As bad as the Packers run defense has been, though, its important to note that their team defense is still 7th in DVOA. What this, and so many other numbers, suggest is that pass defense is simply more important that rush defense in the NFL. The Packers are more than comfortable allowing their opponents to run the football, as long as they are forcing third downs and limiting downfield passing success.
Getting Ezekiel Elliott going Sunday would be a nice lift for the Cowboys offense, but ultimately what will be most important is how they fare in the passing game.
Dak Prescott and this passing offense have to be better than they were in New Orleans if the Cowboys want to earn a victory and improve to 4-1 on the season.