‘We found our formula:’ Cowboys ride Pollard-Elliott tandem in runaway win over Minnesota

After so much had been made about the Cowboys’ run game and how they should split rushing attempts between their two distinct but effective running backs, Week 11’s game plan versus the Vikings kept things perfectly even.

Tony Pollard: 15 carries.

Ezekiel Elliott: 15 carries.

What each did with their touches varied, with one making far splashier contributions than the other, but the end result was exactly what the Cowboys, their fans, and their coaches had been hoping for.

“The ability to stay in and out of concepts and not worry about who the back is, it’s a tremendous advantage for us.” head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters at U.S. Bank Stadium after the 40-3 rout. “We came in here with the ability to focus on the run and then play the pass off of that just because of having both Tony and Zeke.”

Pollard ended the day with 80 yards on the ground, turning in a 5.3-yard-per-carry average. But he added another 106 yards from scrimmage thanks to also hauling in six catches on six targets, two of which went to the end zone on electrifying plays that showed off his rare speed.

The Memphis alum topped 20 miles per hour on both of his scoring receptions, according to Next Gen Stats.

“I tell you what, no one catches him, I do know that,” McCarthy remarked.

Pollard left several Vikings defenders looking foolish in their pursuit of him on Sunday. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was at a loss to explain how the fourth-year veteran’s elite speed is still somehow a surprise to opponents.

“It’s not my problem. They should turn on the tape and check him out,” Prescott joked to media members “If it’s him breaking runs in the backfield or him catching the ball on swing routes or go balls, I’ve continued to say that guy is special. He can do a lot of different things to help this offense and this team, and he’s just continuing to show up day in and day out.”

Pollard maintains that he enjoys being a receiving threat who can hurt teams through the air, but he knows that the ground game will have to be a critical piece of any success the 2022 Cowboys go on to achieve.

“I feel like we found our formula,” Pollard explained. “Run the ball, pound the defense, dominate in all phases of the game, slow the game down, and let our defense go out there and do what they do.”

Pollard did plenty of that on Sunday, too. He broke runs of 20, 18, and 17 yards against Minnesota’s defense, those three carries accounting for 55 of his 80 rushing yards. Each of those runs started with the 6-footer plowing straight into the scrum of linemen and then- often inexplicably- squirting free.

“There’s not too many games he doesn’t have a long run,” McCarthy said, “and his ability to break tackles there on the second level and finish is excellent.”

Pollard’s career day of 189 scrimmage yards was his fourth straight outing over 100. But while he’s been red-hot on his own, his gashing of the Vikings defense took on a different flavor thanks to the return of Elliott from a hyperextended knee.

Elliott’s 2.8-yard average (and lone reception for five yards) on the day won’t win over any of the naysayers who are ready for the team to move on from the highly-paid two-time rushing champ. But inside the building, Elliott’s presence was unanimously welcomed back.

“He’s a physical runner,” Prescott said of Elliott, his 2016 draft classmate. “Obviously having him back, being able to set that tone early gives us the attitude that we want.”

“If you want to teach a runner the ability to get behind his pads, pick his knees up, he just runs with such power and force,” McCarthy added. “But also, he’s elusive, he’s very instinctive, he’s smart; Zeke’s a very intelligent, instinctive, aware player. It’s a hard running style not to like.”

And though observers seem desperate to want Dallas to make an either/or decision between the pair and clearly label one as the lead and the other the understudy, both Elliott and Pollard appear quite content to simply follow their assignments, cheer for each other, and try to make the most out of each and every touch.

Maybe because it seems to be working.

“We feel like as long as we can keep each other in and out, fresh on the field, keeping the defenses guessing and not knowing what to prepare for,” Pollard explained. “We feel like we have the advantage.”

Elliott echoed that sentiment.

“When this offense is rolling, when we’re rolling,” he told reporters, “it’s tough for those defenses to stop us. Two fresh backs at all times, that definitely puts a lot of stress on those defenses.”

The Cowboys hope to do some repeat stressing on Thursday when they see the Giants for the second time this season on Thanksgiving Day. In Week 3, Pollard racked up 105 rushing yards and Elliott added another 73 in another win that saw their touches split nearly 50/50.

“This one-two punch, this is the best I’ve been a part of as far as how we can game plan and just go roll,” McCarthy said. “They’re dynamic.”

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire