The questions surrounding the Dallas Cowboys following Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams start with whether the league has started to figure out the Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott enigma.
Further, is that it for Elliott until Thanksgiving?
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will answer the latter perhaps as early as Monday, while former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips, now defensive coordinator of the Rams, showed another way to answer the previous.
Elliot finished with 21 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, while also catching four passes for 54 yards and another score.
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But Dallas’ first four second-half possessions were thuds, resulting in three punts and a fumble that was later ruled an interception, as Los Angeles rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat the Cowboys 35-30 at AT&T Stadium.
“I think we just executed early in game, got off to a good start and definitely moved the ball down the field,” Elliott said. “But they made some good adjustments and then outplayed us.”
After holding the ball 18 minutes in the first half and racking up 287 total yards, Dallas’ offense sputtered in the second half.
After scoring a touchdown on their fifth series of the second half, the game was over after Elliott caught a short pass on fourth-and-10 and only made it 9 yards.
“We always say when we come out in the second half, it’s 0-0 and it’s a new game,” Elliott said. “We need to get out to a fast start, and we just didn’t come out and execute and they did a good job of stopping us on defense.”
Part of that credit can go to a Cowboys Ghost of Christmas Past.
Phillips returned as defensive coordinator for the Rams in his first meeting against the Cowboys since being dumped for Jason Garrett in the middle of the 2010 season.
“I want to give Wade Phillips his due,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “They came in and made adjustments.”
Elliott had a 16-yard run in the third quarter for one first down, but after that he ran the ball six times for 13 yards.
That spelled doom for the Cowboys.
Perhaps the bigger hurdle will play out Monday in New Orleans as the appellate court hears the NFL’s argument for a stay of a federal judge’s injunction of Elliott’s six-game suspension.
Reinstatement of the league’s suspension could put Elliott out of action until the Thanksgiving game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 23.
At 2-2, that’s a concern for the Cowboys, who face Green Bay, Philadelphia, Washington and Atlanta as part of a brutal mid-season stretch.
“I’m not totally familiar with all the details on Zeke’s case, but I think our team, anytime something like that comes up and it seems like it’s been going on for some time now, as a team we have confidence in our running backs,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We certainly would miss a guy like Zeke and the way he plays the game, but our team seems to handle those things really well.”
It’s clear the Cowboys would miss Elliott’s production, but perhaps more alarming is how the Cowboys fared in crunch time against a marginal Rams defense.
“What I did today isn’t really important, and it’s just about if we got that team win,” Elliott said. “There’s really nothing important about the stats, and it’s a tough loss for sure.”