Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott didn’t get a chance to surpass Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing rushing record in the regular-season finale. He sat out Sunday’s 27-13 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With 1,631 yards, Elliott finished 177 yards short of Dickerson as the Cowboys valued resting him for the playoffs rather than putting him in harm’s way in a meaningless final game.
“He’s young, he probably doesn’t need a lot of rest, but what we didn’t want to have happen was him get a nick or something that would limit him over the next month and do it in this game,” owner Jerry Jones said.
“That ruled the day, avoiding some type of, not a major injury even, but one that might limit him in that first playoff game.”
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Elliott, however, did enough during the first 15 games to claim the NFL rushing title on his day off.
Elliott’s finished 318 yards ahead of Chicago Bears rookie Jordan Howard, who notched 1,313 yards.
Elliott is the fifth rookie since 1970 merger to lead NFL in rushing, joining Earl Campbell, George Rogers, Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James.
Considering that Elliott also led the league in carries, limiting his wear and tear just made sense for the Cowboys in their pursuit of much bigger goals in the postseason.
Jones said Elliott, who is the team’s most valuable player, was too important to risk.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones agreed.
“The thought process was if we were going to do what we were going to do today, which was not really play everybody full bore, then why even take a chance?,” Stephen Jones said. “Obviously when you’re playing running back, you’re the target. People are coming to hit you and we said, ‘What good would it be to have him out there for a series when something could happen in that series?’ ”