Dak & Zeke Answer All Challenges, Lead Cowboys Past Steelers In Comeback Fashion 35-30
Roger Staubach was 35 years old when the Dallas Cowboys last won eight consecutive games. During a season in which he and rookie sensation Tony Dorsett were paired alongside the mighty Doomsday defense, Staubach’s Cowboys steamrolled their competition through the postseason with a rare show of power on the way to beating Denver 27-10 in Super Bowl XII for the franchise’s second world championship.
That was then. What passes as the here and now nearly 40 years later is, if not more intriguing, certainly more of an unexpected story that has taken the team and its fanbase by storm.
The 2016 version of America’s Team are 8-1, and riding the coattails of one of the NFL’s most unlikely QB-RB duos. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were both stars in college, but they shared noticeably different draft-day projections. Elliott could have been a Top 2 selection. Prescott was a shoo-in to be picked on Day 2.
Who could have guessed that they both would land in Dallas and that together they would turn the league upside-down soon after. What started out as a few innocent wins over suspect opponents early in the season has turned into something much bigger in Dallas. With Dak and Zeke leading the charge, the Cowboys have knocked off two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers & Ben Roethlisberger) on the road in the past four weeks, while claiming the NFL’s best record.
On Sunday in Pittsburgh, the legend of Dak & Zeke reached a new high while authoring a 35-30 come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at sold-out Heinz Field. Dak went throw-for-throw with Roethlisberger all afternoon in a game that witnessed seven different lead changes, passing for 319 yards and two touchdowns on 22 completions. It was the first time in 9 games as a starter that Prescott had surpassed the 300-yard passing mark.
Elliott overshadowed a two-touchdown outing by his Steeler counterpart Le’veon Bell with three scores of his own, including a pair in the final two minutes of the frantic fourth quarter. He finished with 209 total yards from scrimmage, while joining Dorsett as the only Cowboy rookies to surpass 1,000 rushing yards.
It was the passing game that allowed Dallas to overcome early deficits of 12, 5, and 2 points. Late in the first quarter, Elliott took an innocent screen pass from Prescott on a second-and-18 play near the left sideline and turned it into a spectacular 83-yard touchdown play. Later in the third frame, Prescott turned a third-and-11 play into a fifty-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, after the rookie quarterback bought extra time by moving to his left in the pocket.
But in the fourth quarter, it was Elliott and the ground attack that ultimately buried the Steelers.
With 2:00 remaining and Dallas trailing 24-23, Elliott took a handoff, broke through a hole on the right side and went in untouched from 14 yards out. The subsequent two-point play failed, leaving Dallas with a 29-24 advantage.
But 1:55 was more than enough for Roethlisberger, who marched the Steelers down the field and used a Dan Marino-esque fake-spike pass to Antonio Brown from 15 yards away to give Pittsburgh the lead with 42 seconds remaining. For the fourth time in the game, Dallas’ defense held on a two-point attempt, leaving the deficit at a single point.
Rather than allow the frustration to rule the moment, Elliott made a point of seeking out Prescott before Dallas’ final drive. Elliott had seen his quarterback captain several late-game drives already this season. In Washington. In San Francisco. And, most recently, at home versus Philadelphia on two separate occasions.
“Look, man, this is why we’re here,” Elliott said. “This is why we’re in Dallas.
“This is where great players become great. This is where great players perform and do what they need to do.”
On top of being a superlative runner, Elliott should also be given his dues as an excellent motivational speaker. Elliott’s little talk with his quarterback had the desired effect, allowing the next 33 seconds to be turned into football history.
Back came the Cowboys one final time, with Prescott using short and intermediate passes to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley to move the offense across the midfield stripe. And when a Pittsburgh defender was penalized 15 yards for grabbing and twisting Witten’s facemask, Prescott and Co. were sitting pretty at the 32-yard line of Pittsburgh. With only 15 seconds remaining, and one timeout at his team’s disposal, all Jason Garrett wanted was an inside run from Elliott to move a few yards closer for place-kicker Dan Bailey, who was warming up over on the Dallas sideline.
But there would be no need for a last-second kick. A first-down blitz from Pittsburgh was stonewalled by the Dallas offensive line, leaving a gaping hole for Elliott to run through. Thirty-two yards later Elliott had completed the comeback.
“They lost a gap,” a matter-of-fact Elliott said of his second touchdown run. “The offensive line picked it up perfectly and it parted like the Red Sea. All I had to do was run.”
Prescott was equally pragmatic about the final drive. “Forty seconds is a lot of time, especially with three timeouts,” he said.
Their talent is unquestioned. But it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out that the big moment and the big stage doesn’t faze these two rookies. Much like Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett before them, they expect to win, no matter the score, no matter the situation.
It’s a mindset that has taken the Cowboys this far. Who’s to say it won’t take them all the way to Houston in February?