The Dallas Cowboys didn’t just draft a running back with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. With needs elsewhere (particularly on defense), the selection of Ezekiel Elliott received some national scrutiny, simply because of his position.
Zeke is more than a running back though, but rather an athletic freak, and a player that is capable of perfectly executing the runs and receptions for Scott Linehan’s offense that play to the strengths of the league’s best offensive line.
As if a line of Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free could look any better, the full dominance they put on in the trenches is now being brought to life like never before thanks to the rookie Elliott.
Elliott is the engine to the 8-1 Cowboys, and he drove for two long touchdowns in Dallas’ most recent win over the Steelers – the second of which won the game.
How did those plays happen? Let’s find out with some Reel Talk:
First Quarter: Ezekiel Elliott 83-yard Screen Pass to the House!
The longest touchdown of Elliott’s career came at a great time, late in the first quarter with the Cowboys trailing 12-3. Catching a screen pass from Prescott, #21 turned up field and was escorted by the Space Cowboys all the way into the end zone.
Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter: “Pre-snap on @EzekielElliott’s 83-yard screen pass TD. pic.twitter.com/tXhRox0w1v / Twitter”
Pre-snap on @EzekielElliott’s 83-yard screen pass TD. pic.twitter.com/tXhRox0w1v
With 18 yards to go for a first down, you see the Steelers showing some pressure off the right edge before the snap – which they would back out of into coverage.
Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter: “Steelers dropped everyone you saw on the line pre-snap. A lot of attention going to @ninjafast22. Meanwhile, @EzekielElliott and his convoy: pic.twitter.com/ntB9K9Zq8h / Twitter”
Steelers dropped everyone you saw on the line pre-snap. A lot of attention going to @ninjafast22. Meanwhile, @EzekielElliott and his convoy: pic.twitter.com/ntB9K9Zq8h
Luckily for the Cowboys, they had the perfect play called, as the often-used fake jet sweep to Lucky Whitehead drew plenty of attention from the Steelers’ defenders in short or intermediate zones. Before this ball is ever close to being in the hands of Elliott, you see the play developing with green grass in front of Zeke and this offensive line.
Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter: “Not a defense in this universe that’s stopping this TD from happening at this point. Not with this line, and not with Zeke Elliott. pic.twitter.com/74z88FkRPn / Twitter”
Not a defense in this universe that’s stopping this TD from happening at this point. Not with this line, and not with Zeke Elliott. pic.twitter.com/74z88FkRPn
All five linemen simply put a “hat on a hat”, including center Travis Frederick swinging out to take on defenders in the second and third level. At full speed, Elliott picked up his final key block from Terrance Williams, and the rest was history.
Fourth Quarter: Ezekiel Elliott’s 32-yard run to victory!
Elliott’s long touchdown would spark the Cowboys for the rest of this game, as they fought back multiple times – only to see the lead change three times in the final two minutes, with Pittsburgh going up 30-29 with just 42 seconds to play.
With three timeouts at their disposal, the Cowboys felt comfortable handing the ball to Elliott from 38 yards out with time running down. Thankfully, his offensive line assured that it would be the last play call Dallas needed to escape on the road with their eighth straight win.
Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter: “.@EzekielElliott doesn’t even have the football yet, but find me a Steelers defender in a good position to make a play. pic.twitter.com/QbqgKSTsVi / Twitter”
@EzekielElliott doesn’t even have the football yet, but find me a Steelers defender in a good position to make a play. pic.twitter.com/QbqgKSTsVi
The Steelers defensive front was absolutely absorbed on this play, as Travis Frederick came through with his signature reach block on the one technique defensive tackle. Next to him at left guard, Ronald Leary drove his man to the ground, leaving only a desperate Anthony Chickillo – who was faced with the impossible task of trying to slide into the gap and beat Tyron Smith – in the way of Ezekiel Elliott.
If you want to be able to sleep anytime soon, DO NOT press play: pic.twitter.com/haV4vsHhws
— ✭ Sean Martin ✭ (@ShoreSportsNJ) November 15, 2016
Zeke scored, the Cowboys won, and our amazing rookies found yet another way to amaze us on this journey that has been the 2016 season through 10 weeks.
Ezekiel Elliott is truly something special. The Cowboys offensive line is in their prime, now getting the golden opportunity to block for a youthful back that is simply just getting started – leading the league in rushing at 21 years old.
Elliott has been so good, that he’s essentially forced the Cowboys to keep arguably their greatest QB of all time in Tony Romo on the bench, because the connection he has going with Dak Prescott is just that good.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep for a long time tonight after taking a closer look at this film, but when I finally do, I’ll rest easy knowing that the 8-1 Cowboys will feature Ezekiel Elliott in their backfield for a long, long time.