News: Ezekiel Elliott making up for 2020, stat wizardry, Cowboys defense room to improve

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Dallas Cowboys fans saw it, and Ezekiel Elliott agrees: his 2020 was a hot mess. He had a more colorful phrase for it, but he used his fumble-filled year as motivation in the offseason and has started 2021 on a tear. Meanwhile, his quarterback and offensive coordinator are getting accolades from the most decorated franchise star of them all, even if he thinks it may be short-lived.

Sounds From the Sidelines goes inside the big win over New York and includes a midfield reunion between several Cowboys players and Jason Garrett. More fallout from that chippy game, too, as a Giants playmaker claims he was punched in the face by a Cowboys defender during postgame handshakes; Jayron Kearse disputes that story. Mike McCarthy weighs in on the Jon Gruden scandal, and there are promising updates from the Cowboys’ Wednesday practice for several players. Randy Gregory looks to be well on his way to securing a giant bag of money this season, but the facts suggest the season’s plentiful takeaway totals may be camouflaging a defense that still needs work. Bill Belichick is using reverse psychology ahead of Sunday’s game, and we’re looking at advanced metrics to bask in the team’s smoking start. All that, plus early probabilities for the postseason, and Happy Birthday to the man who signs the checks; Jerry Jones turned 79 on Wednesday. Here’s the News and Notes.

NFC East Advanced Stat Roundup: Inside the Cowboys EPA, CPOE, success advantages :: Cowboys Wire

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Advanced metrics back up what Cowboys fans have seen over five weeks, but put the superior performances into even sharper focus. In terms of Expected Points Added- the measure of the team’s likelihood of scoring after any given play- both Dallas running backs are in the league’s top five, and Tony Pollard is No. 1. Completion Percentage above Expectation, or CPOE, measures a quarterback’s performance relative to the difficulty of their throws; Prescott is fourth.

Motivated by 2020′s ‘[expletive] show,’ Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is playing at an elite level :: Dallas Morning News

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If Elliott just looks different this season, it’s definitely by design. “I’d say this year, a lot of it was about my body,” Elliott said on Wednesday. “A lot of it was just making sure I was ready to come in and make up for my [expletive] show last year.” So far, so good. Elliott ranks third in the league in rushing yards and has the second-best Rushing Yards Over Expected (+94) among all ball carriers. And he hasn’t fumbled yet.

Aikman impressed by Kellen Moore as Cowboys OC, but warns Dak Prescott to enjoy it now :: Cowboys Wire

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The iconic Cowboys quarterback says the sympatico relationship he sees on the field between Prescott and Moore reminds him of some of his high-octane offenses of the ’90s. But that also means that, as with his own coordinators, Moore is a prime candidate to be poached by another club. “I know Dak realizes- I talked to him about it the other day,” Aikman said, “he realizes that, in all likelihood, Kellen will not be his offensive coordinator for much longer because he’s impressed so many people around the league.”

Cowboys’ Jayron Kearse punched Giants’ Evan Engram in face on field after Dallas win: sources :: New York Daily News

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The game got chippy, but things stayed chippy even after the Cowboys’ 44-20 win. Giants tight end Evan Engram claims Dallas safety Jayron Kearse punched him during postgame handshakes. NFL Films was apparently unable to find the incident on video, but Giants players are already circling the December 19 rematch in New York on their calendars. “Losing sucks and losing to our rival sucks,” Engram said. “But the best thing about that is we’ll see them again.”

Jayron Kearse curtly disputes Evan Engram's claim of postgame punch :: Jayron Kearse (Twitter)

Randy Gregory's pending payday among 4 takeaways from Cowboys big win over NY :: Cowboys Wire

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Apart from a decisive divisional win, what did Week 5 teach Cowboys Nation? Well, Randy Gregory’s production thus far in a contract year bodes well for his bank account, the defense played just fine without Jaylon Smith, there’s still a bit of a concern over the team’s red zone offense, and Prescott can be more than effective even when he’s putting up less-than-video-game numbers.

After further review: Cowboys defense still has plenty of room to improve :: Blogging the Boys

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The Dallas defense has been a wonderful surprise for fans of the team in 2021. But most of their success has been dependent on takeaways. The Cowboys, in fact, are giving up a ton of yards, not getting many sacks, drawing loads of penalties, and playing pretty soft in the red zone. So what happens if the takeaways dry up?

Cowboys dominate Giants, share postgame moments with Jason Garrett :: Dallas Cowboys (Twitter)

Kelvin Joseph among Cowboys back at practice, Elliott limited, Dan Quinn straps on helmet for drills :: Cowboys Wire

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Joseph and tight end Sean McKeon returned to practice Wednesday, triggering their 21-day window for activation. Safety Donovan Wilson also came back after a four-game absence due to a groin injury. Ezekiel Elliott was limited, Trevon Diggs and Damontae Kazee sat out, and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn got super-duper hands-on during drills combating cut blocks, which he expects to see a lot of against New England.

Bill Belichick Lessons: Nearly five minutes, 600 words on Cowboys :: NESN

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Just ahead of a game few think his team can win, the Patriots coach opened his Tuesday press conference with a five-minute soliloquy on how utterly impressive the Cowboys are from top to bottom. Motivating his own squad by playing the underdog card and building the opponents up to seem unbeatable is a psychology trick few NFL coaches can pull off with a straight face, but Belichick nails it.

Dallas Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy on sad Jon Gruden situation: 'It comes down to respect' :: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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The Cowboys coach says much about the NFL as a workplace has changed for the better since he first came into the league in 1993. But the situation in Las Vegas is a reminder that there’s still a long way to go. “I just think it comes down to common respect,” McCarthy said. “You have to be aware. Your thoughts and your words, they matter. It reflects your position and what you’re trying to get done. When you talk about culture and workplace, you want the positive energy and the environment to thrive so everybody can be the best they can be… We need to treat each other better.”

2021 NFL playoff odds :: Football Outsiders

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The number-crunchers at Football Outsiders virtually played out the 2021 season 50,000 times. Heading into Week 6, the simulations peg the Cowboys’ chances of making the postseason at 90.2%, with an 84% chance of winning the NFC East and most likely entering the postseason as the #3 or #4 seed. Once they get there, Dallas has a 33.5% chance of playing in the conference championship, a 16.9% chance of winning it, and an 8.6% chance of taking home the Lombardi Trophy. The site’s second-most likely pairing for the title game is a Cowboys-Bills rematch, which they assign a 7.6% chance of happening.

Jerry Jones turns 79 years old :: Dallas Cowboys (Twitter)

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