FRISCO, Texas (AP) Ezekiel Elliott called himself average after the New York Giants held him to less than 3 yards per carry in a loss in his NFL debut with Dallas.
The rookie running back hasn't had to describe himself that way since the 20-19 loss in Week 1. The Cowboys haven't lost either.
''It was definitely frustrating because it was not how I imagined it,'' said Elliott, who gets another shot at the Giants as Dallas (11-1) chases a franchise-record 12th straight win and the NFC East title Sunday night. ''But I think it definitely helped shape me into the player I am today and put a chip on my shoulder early this season to go out there and get things right.''
Fellow rookie Dak Prescott also debuted as the replacement for the injured Tony Romo. He left an impression with the Giants (8-4) despite the loss , which ended when the clock ran out with Dallas scrambling to get into position for a field goal after receiver Terrance Williams didn't get out of bounds on a completion.
Three months later, New York doesn't exactly seem surprised that Prescott has led the Cowboys to a comfortable division lead with a strong chance to secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
After admittedly focusing on Elliott and forcing a new quarterback to beat them, the Giants realize it might not be quite as easy to keep Elliott somewhere around the season low of 51 yards he had in the first meeting, while preventing big plays downfield from Prescott.
''You saw all of those tools in the beginning, but I feel like he has hit his stride, he understands what defenses are doing,'' linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. ''Maybe he didn't show that in Week 1. Now you are seeing him step into the mold and take full control of this offense.''
The Giants will be without pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who could miss the rest of the season following surgery for a sports hernia . But the Cowboys don't expect the approach to change. New York will try to force throws underneath while putting pressure on Prescott.
''They've had good rushers there for 60 years,'' Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. ''And they place a premium on that. They always have, and they got a lot of guys. They have guys that can rush outside with those big guys pushing the pocket. So it's the starters, it's the backup guys. They've always kind of come at you in waves.''
Of course, the Giants will still have their eyes on Elliott, the NFL's leading rusher with 1,285 yards.
''You really don't change much week to week, no matter the opponent,'' defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. ''It is still the same thing for the defensive line: stop the run, set the edge, build the wall. But when you play a back like Ezekiel, then you have to do some minor tweaks in your assignments.''
Prescott started his NFL-record streak of 176 pass attempts without an interception to begin a career against the Giants, throwing 45 times in the opener, but with just one completion of more than 17 yards.
And after finding Dez Bryant easily in his surprisingly strong preseason, Prescott targeted the star receiver five times compared to 26 combined for tight end Jason Witten and slot receiver Cole Beasley. Witten and Beasley were the leading receivers, both averaging less than 10 yards per catch.
The Cowboys considered those numbers a product of the game plan, and one of Prescott's strengths has been letting the defense dictate where his throws go. The 23-year-old believes he's grown plenty since that opener.
''Every aspect of my game, knowledge, footwork, seeing the defense, just everything,'' said Prescott, who has 19 touchdowns with just two interceptions. ''Eleven games later or whatever it is, just to be on the better side and knowing how close we were to winning that game. I think the loss was good for us at the time, so just to be able to come back and I guess revenge that loss, it will be fun.''
Ditto for Elliott.
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