We’ve never seen two rookies do what they’re doing, this fast, in Dallas
Before we can have Seattle-New England in February, Dak Prescott’s Dallas Cowboys, and Ezekiel Elliott’s Dallas Cowboys, will have something to say about that.
As we sit here this morning, imagine Seattle at Dallas for the NFC Championship Game, on Jan. 22. The two NFC powers don’t meet this year. Elliott versus Kam Chancellor? Prescott/Dez Bryant against Richard Sherman? Not bad.
Dallas-Pittsburgh was a fitting prelim to Seattle-New England. It was every bit as good, with more you-gotta-be-kidding-me plays, in a setting great players aspire to play.
“Old school football,” Dallas tight end Jason Witten said afterward. “What NFL football is all about. Beautiful November day, great for football, kind of breezy, great football city, great stadium, great environment, crowd so into it. Smashmouth football. Sunday evening in the Steel City. One of the games I’ll remember a long time.”
The ending, insane. Elliott (21 carries, 114 yards; two catches, 95 yards; three touchdowns), on his 20th carry of the day at the two-minute warning, burst through the line behind right tackle Doug Free for a 14-yard touchdown. Dallas led 29-24. Pittsburgh sprinted downfield (that’s how it seemed anyway) and, in one of the coolest plays in football, Ben Roethlisberger fake-spiked the ball at the line, lifted up and threw a strike to Antonio Brown midway through the end zone. Pittsburgh, 30-29, after a missed two-point conversion.
Crowd in full throat now. “Back and forth,” Witten said. “All the lead changes, you felt it. What a game.”
In the huddle, before the last drive, Prescott talked to the other 10 players like he’d been there 10 years, not 10 starts. “We’ve been here before,” Prescott said. “One first down at a time.”
The 1,063rd catch of Witten’s NFL life, moving him past Andre Johnson for ninth all-time, was a 13-yarder from Prescott to the Dallas 48, and Witten was hogtied down. The 1,064th was the key to this game; it was just a five-yard gain, with another Pittsburgh hog-tying in the open field, only this time rookie safety Sean Davis grabbed Witten’s facemask. Now Dallas was at the Steelers 32, in field-goal range for the strong-legged Dan Bailey with 23 seconds left.
One more play. Maybe two. Dallas had one timeout left. Whoooooosh! Center Travis Frederick and right guard Ronald Leary opened a hole for Elliott on his 21st and final carry of the day, and he was gone, 32 yards for the win.
We’ve never seen two rookies do what they’re doing, this fast, in Dallas. Elliott, the fourth pick in last spring’s draft, and Prescott, the 135th, are 1-2 in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race right now. I’d have Elliott as the 10-week MVP right now. That last run put him over 1,000 yards for the year (198 carries, 1,005 yards). Prescott’s the fourth-rated quarterback in football (106.2). Nothing fazes him. Dallas has its longest winning streak, eight games, since 1977, and only the president of the Tony Romo Fan Club would suggest that one of the most beloved players in recent Cowboys history should get his job back.
“It’s re-energized me,” Witten, 34, said. “They’re good football players, obviously, but what makes them different is how much they love football. They are special. My goodness, we have all these big wins, and they come back to work Monday to work, and they just work on football, because they know how hard it is to stay on top in this game. They embrace situations like today, on the road, against a tough team.”
With a manageable schedule ahead, the 8-1 Cowboys are cruising. What great theater.