Sunday is the reason why Rod Smith has never wavered on his football journey, regardless of how many twists and turns it’s taken in the past few years.
Smith played a starring role in the Dallas Cowboys’ 30-10 victory over the New York Giants.
Smith finished with 160 yards from scrimmage, accounting for four of the Cowboys’ 10 biggest plays. The highlight came in the fourth quarter when he took a slant pass 81 yards for a touchdown.
On the next drive, he had a 15-yard touchdown run.
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“Rod epitomizes everything you want in this offense,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We take pride in all hands on deck. When opportunity presents itself, taking advantage of it.
“He’s taken advantage of his opportunities.”
Smith has worked his way up the Cowboys’ food chain since joining the team midway through the 2015 season. He went undrafted out of Ohio State and began his career with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Cowboys claimed him off waivers in October 2015, and he’s earned more and more playing time. He is a standout special teams player and has proven to be a capable running back.
He spent time last season on the practice squad and had a failed attempt at switching to fullback, but the Cowboys have always seen upside in him.
Smith has flashed potential throughout his career, and it came to fruition in a big way against the Giants.
“It’s been a journey on the field and off the field,” Smith said. “It’s one of those you have to go out, know you, know yourself, just go out there and know what you’re capable of and don’t get sidetracked by too much and stay the course. When your time comes, just take advantage.”
Smith has been able to do that ever since Ezekiel Elliott began serving his six-game suspension last month. The Cowboys have gotten him more involved and his production suggests he could get even more looks.
Smith averaged 7.8 yards a carry against the Giants, finishing with 47 rushing yards on six carries. He also had 113 receiving yards on five catches.
Smith entered the game with 55 career receiving yards.
Smith even seemed surprised when told he had a 160-yard day.
“I didn’t know that. It felt good,” Smith said. “I’m really just out there, just being me. Not trying to do nothing too special, just out there playing my game. You give me an opportunity, I’m definitely going to take full advantage of it.”
There’s no disputing that and his teammates certainly recognize the path he’s taken to put himself in position to do what he did Sunday.
“He was awesome, had a hell of a game today,” right tackle La’el Collins said. “He’s a hungry player. He really, really wants it.”
Added right guard Zack Martin, “Rod’s a great example of doing everything you can and eventually it’ll pay off. He’s been a great special teams player for us the last couple of year sand when his number’s been called, he’s done a great job in the run game.”\
Ripping the refs
DeMarcus Lawrence is fed up and he’s not going to take it anymore. At least not quietly.
The NFL’s sack leader ripped Walt Anderson’s crew after the game and is tired of opposing linemen not getting called for holds. Opposing linemen and tight ends have been called for just two holds in the past 10 games, including one Sunday, compared to 18 being called on the Cowboys in that span.
“The refs are out there for nothing, so we just came out and did our job,” said Lawrence, who has 13 1/2 sacks. “I didn’t see a holding call in the last five games and it’s ridiculous that the refs are out here just looking at me getting tackled by offensive linemen. It’s like, ‘C’mon, if you’re going to be out here, do your job.
“When’s the last time you heard: ‘Holding, offense?’ [Expletive] the refs, and that’s all I’m going to say.”
Rough day for Bailey
Dan Bailey is no longer the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Going 1-for-3, coupled with Baltimore’s Justin Tucker going 3-for-3, made Bailey lose that title.
Bailey, though, made no excuses for missing two field goals and a point-after attempt.
“It was just a frustrating day,” Bailey said.
Bailey refused to discuss his health. He missed four games earlier this season with a groin injury he sustained in Week 7 at San Francisco.
“I’m not even going to answer questions about my health. I’m playing,” Bailey said. “If I’m out on the field, I expect to make every kick.”
Bailey’s day left him with a career percentage of 89.1. Tucker, meanwhile, now has a career percentage of 90.
Bailey’s two misses were from 50-plus yards, just the third time in his career he’s missed multiple field goals in a game. He clanked a 53-yarder off the right upright early in the second quarter, and then was wide right on a 50-yard attempt late in the third quarter.
The bigger surprise, though, was a missed PAT in the fourth quarter. Bailey hadn’t missed in his career, going a perfect 273-for-273 until Sunday.
Bailey described the kick in just three words.
“I missed it,” he said.
Staff writer Stefan Stevenson contributed to this report.