Mike McCarthy needed 10 games, but he’s finally figured out how to use Ezekiel Elliott. Just give him the damn ball.
There’s a reason Elliott enacts the “feed me” gesture after every long run. Feed Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys win. They won in Week 11, beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 on the road, thanks to Elliott rushing for 103 yards.
Offensive football isn’t the elaborate maze of X’s and O’s many like to pretend. McCarthy has been guilty of over-complicating things throughout his career.
Maybe it was all those years in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. All those packaged plays, check-with-me’s, and pre-snap adjustments.
Good offense essentially boils down to putting the ball into the hands of your best playmaker. For the Cowboys that’s Elliott, even before Dak Prescott‘s freak injury.
Andy Dalton handed the ball to Elliott 21 times in Minnesota. The reward was the first 100-yard game of the season for 21.
The #Cowboys are 23-4 when Ezekiel Elliott has 100 yards rushing. Including 1-0 this season.
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) November 23, 2020
He’s arguably the most naturally gifted runner in the NFL. The Elliott jump cut is a thing of beauty, but he’s not the only talented running back on the roster.
His understudy, Tony Pollard, has a quick first step, good moves, and deceptive play speed. Pollard bolted for a 42-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter through a Vikings defense softened up by Elliott.
FEED.. TONY POLLARD🍽
— PFF (@PFF) November 22, 2020
Both Elliott and Pollard found joy running behind right tackle Zack Martin. Usually a guard, Martin shifted over to tackle to cover injuries on a depleted Dallas O-line.
No matter where he plays, Martin has been one of the premier blockers of his era. Elliott knew to look for No. 70 when deciding where to run:
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: "Zack (Martin) is a hell of a player. …He can play any position on our O-line and be dominant. That's rare. A lot of those runs today were behind Zack. …He kept moving them out of the way."
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 23, 2020
Give the ball to one of the best running backs in the league and let him run behind your best blocker. Maybe this play-calling lark is elementary after all, hey Mike?
Elliott and Pollard are a one-two backfield combo teams will fear. The 3-7 Cowboys can still win the mediocre NFC East if they let this duo run to daylight.
McCarthy should keep feeding Elliott the next few weeks, starting on Thanksgiving, when the Cowboys face the Washington Football Team. Washington is yielding 4.3 yards per rushing attempt.
A road game against the Baltimore Ravens looks tough, but John Harbaugh’s defense has been shredded on the ground in recent weeks. Damien Harris and Derrick Henry left the Ravens battered and bruised during defeats to the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans, respectively.
Elliott should enjoy a career day against the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. Only the Houston Texans are surrendering more than the five yards per rush the Bengals are giving up.
Elliott will run the Cowboys into the playoffs if McCarthy sticks to the script.