“Because I am a competitor,” Ezekiel Elliott prefaced, the Dallas Cowboys‘ star running back lobbed an extremely pointed message at the detractors who not long ago left the team for dead — the same team that now is staring down a division crown.
“If you gave up five, six weeks ago, we don’t even want you on our side,” Elliott said following Sunday’s 37-17 win over Philadelphia, via InsideTheStar.com. “I mean, we are competitors. This whole team is. We are a team of competitors. I mean, we weren’t out of it. All we have to do is, we’ve got to win next weekend and we need a little help from the guys we just played. But, you know, I like how this team is playing football right now. Coach McCarthy said his plan was for us to trend up through the season. And right now, I think we’re catching fire at the right time.”
Vindication never felt so good for Elliott, who turned back the clock in his return to the starting lineup. The three-time Pro Bowler, after missing Week 15 with a calf injury, exploded for a game-high 105 rushing yards on 19 carries amid Dallas’ third straight victory. Elliott looked like a man reborn, averaging 5.5 yards-per-tote and busting a 31-yard fourth-quarter scamper he punctuated with his signature “feed me” celebration.
“With the way the year has been going, and honestly it’s been tough this year to celebrate when you don’t have that many fans,” he said. “But that one run just definitely felt good. I think just the biggest thing for me is just that I felt, I feel healthy. I’ve been feeling a little dinged up past weeks and this week I feel healthy, and I felt like myself.”
The stomping of the Eagles moved the Cowboys to 6-9 and sets up a possible win-and-in scenario for Week 17. The team needs to beat the New York Giants and have Philadelphia take down Washington on Sunday Night Football to capture the NFC East championship and secure a home playoff contest.
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Zeke Thinks It Can Be Done
If the Cowboys’ offense plays to potential — a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard wide receivers, and a 100-yard rusher — it can compete with any defense in the NFL. Including a Giants unit it already handled back in Week 5.
What happens in the Washington tilt is immaterial to the development that Kellen Moore’s unit has undertaken. Just three weeks ago, on Dec. 8, the Cowboys found themselves at 3-9, bound for a top-five draft pick. That outfit is almost unrecognizable from the one that blew past Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
Maintaining his confidence, Elliott indicated the pulse in the locker room never matched that of the outside world. And now the Cowboys are getting hot at exactly the right time.
“We never thought we were out of it,” he said. “Our division’s been struggling this year. We’re right where we need to be with what’s been going on with the division.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL