ARLINGTON, TX — Allow me to set the scene for you. It was the blazing hot Los Angeles Rams facing off with the lowly Dallas Cowboys, the latter sitting at 6-7 after losing three straight games and still not facing a must-win scenario in Week 15. That wasn’t the case for the Rams, despite being 8-5 after winning three of their last five and five of their last seven.
Surely this meant the Cowboys would lay down and instead focus on the coming all-or-nothing Week 16 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, giving the Rams a clear path to destroying them in Arlington, right? I mean, Dallas started the week as favorites but then became underdogs on their own field via the betting line, so again I ask, this was obviously going to become a rout at AT&T Stadium on Sunday afternoon, right?
Well, you’re right if you predicted a beatdown, but you’re wrong if you thought it would be Los Angeles holding the crowbar.
With their highest point output of the season, the Cowboys took the Rams to the woodshed with a 44-21 final score that wasn’t even remotely that close over the course of the game. It was an offensive onslaught tethered to a relentless defense that put quarterback Jared Goff and Todd Gurley on bricks, while Aaron Donald and Co. got victimized on the other side of the ball by running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Elliott delivered 160 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns — becoming only the third halfback in team history to surpass 100 yards rushing in more than 25 games — and Pollard broke out a whooping stick of his own with 131 rushing yards and a rushing TD on only 12 carries. It’s the second time this season the Cowboys have fielded two 100-yard rushers in a game and, following the signature win, neither halfback wanted to take the spotlight off of the other.
“Tony [Pollard] had a hell of a day,” Elliott said. “He just ran it really hard. A couple of his runs — I thought he was stopped in the backfield and he broke a bunch of tackles and ran for extra yards. So, I mean, he had a hell of a day. I’m happy for him.
“He’s a hell of a player. He’s going to keep growing as a player.”
For his part, Pollard would rather everyone applaud Elliott, not simply for the All-Pro’s stellar play, but also for showing him the ropes.
“[Elliott] has been like a big brother to me since I got here,” the rookie said. “Just taking me under his wing and showing me, teaching me things that I didn’t know at first. He’s done a great job of that.”
Both running backs know exactly how big the victory was for the Cowboys, who now face a win-and-clinch scenario against the Eagles in Week 16.
“It’s really important to win the rest of these games,” Elliott said. “[We] definitely got some momentum back in our favor and just to end that losing streak, it’s definitely going to help the morale of this team, and I think it’s a good start for us.”
But simply getting to the playoffs is not the goal, the two-time NFL rushing champ continues to make clear.
“I mean, it’s great to know that a single win gets us [to the playoffs], but that’s not our goal,” he said. “Our goal isn’t just to make the playoffs. Like I said, we want to keep this thing rolling. We want to ride this momentum.”
Pollard agrees wholeheartedly.
“I think this was a very important game for us, and especially in this part of the season,” he said. “You know late in the season and going into the playoffs. It’s just good for the offense to and the whole team to get to clicking around this time. Everything’s timing up pretty good right now.”
Spoken like a true veteran, even if he isn’t one yet.
With the victory over the Rams, the Cowboys remain atop the NFC East and can clinch the division with a win over the Eagles in seven days. If their defense can do to Carson Wentz what they did to Goff, and the offense can dominate against a struggling Philadelphia defense, it’ll be a rather easy ticket-punch to the tournament.
The problem is the Cowboys don’t do anything the easy way, but no one can deny they have the weapons to.