Santa Clara - Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he noticed something different about running back Zeke Elliott's body language in pregame warmups.
"I think he was in as good a frame of mind as he's been in all year," said Jones.
And it showed from the start. Elliott was fully engaged. He carried the ball on all three plays of the Cowboys first touchdown drive.
It was as if it was exactly the opposite of Elliott's uncertain situation off the field. He ran with purpose and drive, saying he and the offensive line really starting clicking in the fourth quarter of the Packers loss two weeks ago. This was the next step.
"I'm not going to say I haven't felt ready earlier in this season," said Elliott, "I felt the same but I think altogether this team we had a different mentality coming it today."
You could discount Elliott’s performance, since it was against the winless 49ers, perhaps there's something to that. But there also something to the way Elliott ran on this day - with poise, power, elusiveness, and speed.
Simply put, it was Zeke, circa 2016. The result was his most productive day as a pro.
Elliott's 72-yard screen play touchdown was the same play that provided a same result against the Steelers last year. Another sign this was the 2016 version of Zeke revisited.
"I had a good feeling it was going to pop again," said Elliott. "I tell Dak every time I've got the longest receptions of his career. So, if he wants to throw a long touchdown just throw me the ball."
Elliott finishes the day with 219 all-purpose yards more than his previous best of 209 that day in Pittsburgh last season.
And now he owns the distinction of being the only player in Cowboys history with two games feature more than 200 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
"I really feel like the last couple of games he's gotten in sync," says tight end Jason Witten of his super sophomore runner. "His ability to set those blocks up and then hit it. That screen pass could have easily been an 8-yard gain. He turns it into a big-time touchdown."
Jones wouldn't comment on reports he's working on a settlement with the NFL to end Elliott's legal battle with the league over his 6-game domestic violence suspension.
So for now, Elliott looks ready to play as hard as he can for as long as he can.
"He's a young player dealing with a lot of stuff and we just continue to try to support him," said Witten. "And I give him a lot of credit as a young player to come in and focus on his job and not let that get in the way."
And after a day like this Cowboys nation hoping Elliott's legal issues won't get in the way of the rest of the season.
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