All statistics and individual superlative achievements from the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the San Francisco 49ers must come with the following disclaimer: They were achieved and compiled against the San Francisco 49ers.
One of the best rivalries in the NFL continues to age like stale cat food because, ever since Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan, the 49ers are horrendous.
With that reality embedded in the NFL schedule, it’s hard to say if the Dallas Cowboys are fixed, or their success on Sunday near The Bay merely is the result of a weak opponent that started a rookie quarterback who was making his NFL debut as a starter.
Because it’s Optimist Sunday, let’s go with the Cowboys are fixed. For this week.
Dwight Clark Day at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara played out like Ezekiel Elliott Day as the Cowboys defeated the 49ers 40-10. The Cowboys are 3-3.
Between the running of Ezekiel Elliott, the receiving of Ezekiel Elliott, the passing of Dak Prescott, the blocking of the offensive line, the kicking of safety Jeff Heath, and the pressure applied by the Cowboys defensive line, the Cowboys wore their “Sunday Best” for the first time in 2017.
As a bonus, the team also created the perception of honoring the flag, too, in the eye of the kneeling, disrespecting the troops movement.
1. He is not guaranteed for the next game, but since he’s here Ezekiel Elliott was once again the best running back in the NFL on Sunday. Earlier this week, Zeke was granted a temporary restraining order by a New York judge against the NFL to keep his six-game suspension on hold, and the 49ers suffered.
Zeke ran 26 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and caught one pass and turned it into a 72-yard touchdown, too. It was the third time this season he went over 100 yards this season, but easily this was his best day of the year.
This was the Zeke of 2016.
2. The Cowboys defense could have won with me starting at middle linebacker, but it’s not a coincidence how much better this unit is with Sean Lee starting in the middle. Lee missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury, both losses where the offense scored more than 30 points.
The 49ers offense is horrible, and with rookie C.J. Beathard making his debut as a starting NFL quarterback, they were even worse. The Cowboys did what a decent defense is suppose to do against the 49ers, and a rookie quarterback: It sacked him five times, actually forced a turnover, and prevented the 49ers from doing anything when they needed to.
FYI: Since 2015, the Cowboys are 20-13 when Sean Lee plays. They are 0-5 when he does not.
3. Because the NFL is the NFL, seldom do we see players asked to do something outside of their usual set of assignments, so it was fun to watch safety Jeff Heath kick.
Now, why Jeff Heath kicked is no laughing matter. In the second quarter, Pro Bowl kicker Dan Bailey was ruled out of the game after he sustained a right groin injury. He had already kicked two point after attempts, and kicked off. Something obviously went wrong.
After the Cowboys third touchdown of the game, head coach Jason Garrett went for the two-point attempt because he had no kicker.
But Garrett had to kick off, which left Heath. Heath was actually a good soccer player in high school, and was recruited to play Division I soccer. He opted for football at Division II Saginaw Valley State.
Heath booted it straight away and the ball reached, was bobbled by 49ers returner Raheem Mostert, and then returned to the 14.
Two plays later, “the kicker” Heath, made a tackle for a 2-yard loss.
He hit a point after attempt, too. Literally. In the third quarter, Heath’s point after attempt drilled the right upright, but when through for the point. Late in the third quarter, his second PAT went wide right. Waaaaay wide right.
Heath’s third PAT try, in the fourth quarter, was artwork and right down the middle.
According to NFL stats, Heath is the first non kicker/punter to make multiple extra points in a game since Houston Oilers linebacker Ted Thompson went four of four in 1980. Thompson is now the Green Bay Packers general manager.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof