No one in their right mind truly believed that the Cowboys were going to throw it 50-plus times every game this season. But as good as quarterback Dak Prescott looked in his return to action on opening night, it certainly seemed as if the team might let their passer with the hot hand be the centerpiece a while longer.
Instead, the Cowboys offense practically went out of their way to show off their balance in Week 2 against the Chargers. Prescott threw 27 passes and handed the ball off 31 times on Sunday. The final box score shows 221 passing yards to 198 rushing yards.
Even the team’s one-two punch at running back divvied up the carries more evenly than expected; Ezekiel Elliott had 16 rushing attempts for 71 yards, while Tony Pollard went 13-for-109. And each found the end zone one time.
“We wanted to get the run game going,” head coach Mike McCarthy said after the 20-17 win, a game in which long, methodical drives were the order of the day. Dallas had just eight possessions on the afternoon; six of them took longer than three minutes, and four of them resulted in points.
“We feel that we can go the long way or the quick way,” McCarthy added.
The players agreed that offensive coordinator Kellen Moore found a different gear this week as compared to Week 1’s aerial assault in Tampa.
“He did a great job calling the plays this week,” Pollard noted outside the locker room, “especially after the game we had last week, with an explosive offense. We were able to show we could move the ball up and down the field. He did a good job switching it up but keeping the same energy.”
“I think we showed that today,” Elliott told reporters, “that we will have different gameplans, and we’re going to take what the defense gives us. If you’re going to load the box up on us, we’re going to throw it on you. If you play coverage, we’re going to run it. You’ve got to pick your poison.”
Cowboys RBs vs Chargers:
140 total yards
97 total yards
1 TD pic.twitter.com/yUiWkJgPd4
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 19, 2021
On Sunday, the Chargers got a slightly-heavier dose of Pollard, the third-year back out of Memphis. His 109 yards on the ground made for his second-best game as a pro; his 13 carries were one attempt short of his career-high.
“We just wanted to go with who was hot,” Pollard said in talking about the split between him and Elliott. “We both feed off each other. So if he was hot, we would have went that way. It just turned out that way for this game.”
“He ran his tail off today,” Elliott beamed. “He’s a great back, all-around: he can catch it, can run it. He’s smaller, but he runs hard, he breaks a lot of tackles. He had a hell of a day, so I’m proud of him. I’m glad he went out there and did his thing.”
Tony Pollard is that dude. pic.twitter.com/70GdBhyQdF
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 20, 2021
Sharing a backfield with a two-time rushing champ with a magnetic personality sometimes leaves Pollard as an under-the-radar weapon in the high-powered Dallas offense. But his teammates and coaches know exactly what they have in the former fourth-round draft choice.
“Those guys are both special,” Prescott raved.
“Tony’s a heck of a player,” McCarthy added. “He’s a really good inside and outside player. I know where he came from, and his past at Memphis is as a slot player and so forth, but that, to me, is almost like an added dimension. He’s a natural runner, doesn’t waste any steps, can really put his foot in the ground and get vertical. I just think you’re seeing what I’ve seen for two years. Just to have a combination of both him and Zeke, we’re very fortunate to have two talented backs like that.”
And being the two in the Cowboys’ one-two punch is fine by Pollard.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Pollard said. “Been the underdog, been overlooked. So I’m used to it. I’m used to grinding, work for everything I have. It comes natural to me.”
Some wonder if Pollard should be the lead back, but the 24-year-old has no problems with his role in the Cowboys’ multifaceted offense. Sunday showed that he’ll get his chances, and that he’ll usually make the most of them. So don’t look to Dallas for a running back controversy.
Especially not the week after a win.
“We’re good,” Pollard said of his relationship with Elliott. “As long as we’re getting Ws, winning, everything’s fine.”