Along with star-crossed running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys should give a game ball from Sunday’s 40-10 blowout victory against the winless San Francisco 49ers to Judge Paul Crotty.
It was Crotty, the senior federal judge of the Southern District of New York, who gave Elliott a 14-day temporary restraining order on Tuesday. The ruling allowed Elliott to suit up against the 49ers after the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals had thrown out an earlier preliminary injunction, reinstating his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
A final resolution regarding Elliott’s playing status for the rest of the season could come Oct. 30 when Judge Katherine Failla is expected to rule on his request for a preliminary injunction.
The NFL is hoping to have that hearing expedited before next Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.
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All the Cowboys can do is control what they can control.
“We know it is out of our control, out of his control,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. “We’re just staying together.”
And with Elliott on the field against the 49ers, they controlled the ball and the game like the 2016 team that went 13-3 and won 11 consecutive games, not the disappointing bunch that entered Sunday’s game with a 2-3 mark coming off consecutive losses. The Cowboys move back to .500 on the season at 3-3.
Owner Jerry Jones said it was the most complete Cowboys dominance in more than 37 years.
“Well, yes, I haven’t in over 600 and something ballgames, you don’t have many like that, that let you go in the fourth quarter feeling as good about our team,” Jones said. “I thought we executed well. I thought our team did just what our fans want of them on and off the field and they won. I’m really proud of them, all the way.”
Considering the back-to-back losses and then the Jones-driven controversy surrounding the national anthem resulting in two team meetings during the bye, the Cowboys could have come apart. The players didn’t challenge Jones on his threat to bench them if they disrespected the anthem.
They stood like they always have, which was offset by seven members of the 49ers who kneeled for social justice.
It was a still prickly issue for a team that needed to get back on the right track on and off the field.
But that’s why getting Elliott back on the field following the bye was so important.
The 49ers (0-7) are still winless. But they had been competitive all season with five of the previous six losses by three points or fewer.
This one, however, was never in doubt as the Cowboys led 20-3 at halftime and then ran away with the win.
It was the team’s most dominant win since a 42-7 victory against the Indianapolis Colts in 2014.
Elliott looked like the NFL leading rusher he was a year ago. A now stable offensive line also looks like its ready to regain its title as one of the league’s best units.
“Obviously, he played well. We’re at our best when we’re able to run the football,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a big part of that running game. It starts up front with the guys controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Elliott rushed 26 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns. It was the third-best rushing performance of his career. But it was his 72-yard scamper up the right sideline to the end zone on the screen pass that let everyone know he was back in his groove.
“Well, he was driven,” Jones said. “He had an air about him before the ballgame. He really appeared to have a certain mindset, a peace of mind, and I thought that reflected right before the ballgame. It really was not surprising, now that I look back on it with the benefit of seeing him have that kind of ballgame, I think he was probably in as good of a frame of mind as he’s been in all year.”
So what was different?
“I just noticed. Zeke is very inspirational in our locker room and was all of last year,” Jones said. “It’s basically done with that real enthusiasm, such a genuine way, he handles and expresses himself, his body language. I really thought I saw that before the game.”
Elliott’s dominance made life easy for Prescott, who was already having a brilliant season despite the Cowboys’ early struggles.
Prescott completed 16 of 25 passes for 234 yards with three touchdowns. He also had a rushing touchdown.
It marked the third consecutive game for Prescott with three touchdown passes.
Dez Bryant had seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown tied him with Bob Hayes for the most receiving scores in franchise history at 71.
Tight end Jason Witten had four catches for 54 yards, including a spectacular one-handed catch on a perfect 19-yard throw from Prescott.
How historically dominant were the Cowboys?
The 501 yards total marked the first time Dallas’ offense surpassed 500 total net yards since 2015 against Washington.
Dallas’ rushing attack compiled 265 yards on the ground. It’s the most by an NFL team this year and the most by the Cowboys since they recorded 294 yards against the St. Louis Rams in 2011.
The Cowboys had it all going on offense and it started with Elliott being cleared by Crotty.
It was also a reminder of how much the Cowboys need Elliott to get another win in court from Failla for them to keep this going.
“Well, I don’t believe we’ve ever been negligent or anything in saying what Zeke means to our team and it will hurt us when we don’t have Zeke. I don’t like to think about playing ballgames without Zeke,” Jones said. “He’s an integral part of our team and would be an asset to anybody playing football.”
Defensively, the Cowboys had five sacks, including one by DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence has had at least one sack in each game this season. The team also had three takeaways, all on fumble recoveries, ending a streak of 239 plays without a takeaway going back to the third quarter of the 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos Sept. 17.
“We did a good job of pressuring the quarterback and creating some sack-fumble situations and cashing in on those,” Garrett said.
Once the Cowboys took the field again, it was back to their previous dominance that they hope to continue against the Redskins next Sunday.
“You want to grow. You want to get better each week as a football team in all different areas,” Garrett said. “You want to get better in the running game. Hudson Houck, who used to be the offensive line coach for a long time, used to say you practice your running game in the game. We certainly did that today.”
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Dal—Elliott 1 run (Bailey kick), 12:42.
Dal—Elliott 25 run (Bailey kick), 7:56.
SF—FG Gould 42, 4:28.
Dal—Witten 18 pass from Prescott (pass failed), 10:26.
Dal—Elliott 72 pass from Prescott (Heath kick), 10:58.
Dal—Prescott 2 run (kick failed), :43.
Dal—Bryant 2 pass from Prescott (Heath kick), 10:49.
SF—Beathard 4 run (Gould kick), 6:14.
Total Net Yards
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Dallas, Elliott 26-147, R.Smith 8-61, Prescott 4-26, Morris 2-15, Rush 2-13, Switzer 1-3. San Francisco, Hyde 14-68, Beathard 5-30, Breida 3-5.
PASSING—Dallas, Prescott 16-25-0-234, Rush 1-2-0-2. San Francisco, Beathard 22-38-0-235.
RECEIVING—Dallas, Bryant 7-63, Witten 4-54, Elliott 1-72, Beasley 1-24, Morris 1-9, Swaim 1-7, R.Smith 1-5, Switzer 1-2. San Francisco, Garcon 5-49, Taylor 5-39, Goodwin 4-80, Hyde 4-20, Kittle 1-16, A.Robinson 1-15, Celek 1-11, Hikutini 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.