Rook­ies bol­ster Cow­boys of­fense

Avoid­ing er­rors, Prescott and El­liott have led Dal­las to an NFL-best 8-1 start

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

Bran­don Wil­liams’ loy­alty to the Ravens is undis­puted. But even he can ap­pre­ci­ate from afar how well rook­ies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel El­liott have played for the Dal­las Cow­boys thus far.

“They’ve just got some­thing mag­i­cal right now,” the burly nose tackle said. “They’ve got a good thing go­ing right now, and they’re rid­ing the wave as good as they can. They’re go­ing out there ev­ery week and play­ing good foot­ball, and do­ing what they’ve got to do to come out with a ‘W.’ Ku­dos to them for be­ing young, but also putting it on their backs to be good out there.”

Wil­liams and his de­fen­sive team­mates will be charged with try­ing to make Prescott and El­liott seem or­di­nary when the AFC North­lead­ing Ravens (5-4) tan­gle with the NFC East-lead­ing Cow­boys (8-1) on Sun­day at AT&T Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

It’s a task that only one op­po­nent has man­aged to ac­com­plish. Since a sea­sonopen­ing 20-19 loss to the New York Gi­ants, Dal­las has run off eight straight vic­to­ries and won those games by an av­er­age of 11.1 points.

The Cow­boys rank in the top five in the NFL in scor­ing (third, 28.7 points per game), to­tal yards (third, 412.7 yards) and rush­ing (first at 161.0 yards). A good por­tion of their of­fen­sive suc­cess has stemmed from the play of Prescott and El­liott.

Prescott, 23, has al­ready set fran­chise rookie quar­ter­back records for com­ple­tions (187), yards (2,339) and touch­downs (14), and his to­tal of seven games with a passer rat­ing of 100.0 or bet­ter is the fourth-high­est mark in league his­tory for a first-year player. Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Dal­las by 7

El­liott, 21, leads the league in rush­ing yards (1,005) and runs of 10 yards or more (29), is tied for sec­ond in touch­downs (nine), and ranks fourth in yards per carry (5.1).

Their suc­cess has sparked na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about whether they could split two ma­jor NFL awards at the end of the sea­son with Prescott be­ing named Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year and El­liott earn­ing Most Valu­able Player hon­ors.

Prescott, who has re­fused to be dis­tracted by the out­side chat­ter, said one of the ben­e­fits of nav­i­gat­ing the league wa­ters with El­liott is that they have leaned on each other in their in­au­gu­ral sea­sons.

“Me and Zeke are great friends, on the field and off the field,” Prescott said Wed­nes­day in a con­fer­ence call with Baltimore re­porters. “We work great to­gether. We just like to stay within the mo­ment. [We are] thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to play this game that we love. We­have been play­ing for a long time, and [we are thank­ful] to play for this or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Per­haps the most star­tling as­pect of the rook­ies’ de­vel­op­ment has been their abil­ity to avoid er­rors. Prescott has thrown just two in­ter­cep­tions, which is tied for sec­ond fewest in the league, and has been sacked just 13 times, which is tied for the sixthlow­est to­tal. El­liott has lost just one fum­ble de­spite rank­ing sec­ond in car­ries (198).

“They don’t re­ally make mis­takes at all, es­pe­cially at the quar­ter­back po­si­tion,” Ravens in­side line­backer Zachary Orr said. “He’s real poised in there. It is kind of sur­pris­ing be­cause you see a lot of rook­ies make rookie mis­takes, and we haven’t re­ally seen that at all from them. Ob­vi­ously, they are two of the lead­ers on their team and their of­fense. They’ve been do­ing a great job lead­ing the team to an 8-1 record.”

Ravens de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees half-joked that Prescott should no longer be con­sid­ered a rookie, call­ing him “a first-year player.”

“This guy has seen a bunch of stuff now,” Pees said Thurs­day. “They played three divi­sional teams that you know throw ev­ery­thing at them that they can throw at them, and no­body has rat­tled him. I don’t think of him — don’t even look at him — as a rookie. I look at him just as an­other quar­ter­back that’s an ex­cel­lent, ex­cel­lent tal­ent.”

Cow­boys coach Ja­son Gar­rett said team of­fi­cials knew what they were get­ting when they used the fourth over­all pick to take El­liott from Ohio State and a fourth-round choice on Prescott from Mis­sis­sippi State.

“They are good play­ers whounder­stand the game, who work very hard at the game and want to get bet­ter,” Gar­rett said. “If you look at them over the course of the sea­son, they have done a good job right from the start, but they have got­ten bet­ter and bet­ter and bet­ter, cer­tainly week by week and even day by day. It’s fun to coach them be­cause of the ap­proach that they have.”

The Ravens were not in the mar­ket for ei­ther player with the sixth over­all se­lec­tion or any of their other10 picks. But coach John Har­baugh ac­knowl­edged the pickle the or­ga­ni­za­tion would’ve been in if it had to choose be­tween El­liott and left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley, whom the team took at No. 6.

“It would have been a very tough call,” Har­baugh said. “I think I know which way we would have gone. I was in the room. I did see the [draft] board. … He’s a guy we thought a lot of. He’s a guy that would have got­ten very se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion if he had been there.”

If the Ravens har­bor any hope of ex­tend­ing their mod­est win­ning streak to three and end­ing the Cow­boys’ run, they must con­tain Prescott and El­liott, who ex­posed the Ravens’ archri­val Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in a 35-30 win Sun­day. Out­side line­backer Ter­rell Suggs ap­pre­ci­ated watch­ing Prescott and El­liott give the Ravens a one-game lead over the Steel­ers.

“You def­i­nitely love watch­ing them,” he said. “It also looks like they are out there hav­ing a lot of fun. Like I said, it is good for our league, it is good for foot­ball. We just do not want them to have too much fun come Sun­day.”

JUSTIN K. ALLER/GETTY IMAGES

Af­ter just nine games, Dak Prescott has set fran­chise rookie quar­ter­back records for com­ple­tions (187), yards (2,339) and touch­downs (14).

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