Remember the game show “To Tell the Truth?”
Will the real Ezekiel Elliott please stand-up.
The NFL never saw the real Elliott during last year’s controversial season that included a six-game suspension. It saw an emotional wreck carrying the football and too many pounds.
Fans who followed Elliott’s career from John Burroughs to Ohio State to the Dallas Cowboys saw a 2017 version that wasn’t physically or mentally prepared to deal with football or all the never-ending legal maneuvers.
I doubt he’ll play postseason football for Dallas Cowboys season this year, but the old Elliott is just about back.
Through four games for the 2-2 Cowboys, Elliott has 426 yards rushing. He blasted for 152 on 25 carries last Sunday against Detroit. It should be noted that the Lions sport the worst defense against the run in the NFL.
Elliott added 88 receiving yards in his team’s 26-24 victory – and he did it while dealing with knee and ankle soreness.
“I was already sore in the first quarter," Elliot told DallasCowboys.com.
"I knew what type of game it was going to be. But I had to grind through it. Little bit of a sore ankle. Little bit of a sore knee. Nothing big.”
Elliott’s game was certainly big. His over-the-shoulder, 34-yard reception late in the fourth quarter set up the game-winning field goal and possibly saved what had been a lackluster season for the Cowboys.
"I'd been trying to get that play for a while," Elliott said.
"Once I saw they were playing man-to-man and I was going to have a linebacker on me, I was telling them, 'Give me the inside fade.'"
He leads the NFL in rushing yardage by a comfortable margin over the L.A. Rams’ Todd Gurley, who has compiled 338 yards. At his current pace, Elliott would rush for 1,704 yards, topping the 1,631 he gained as a rookie.
In 29 games with the Cowboys, Elliott has averaged 104.8 yards per game. Hall of Famer Jim Brown holds the NFL record with a 104.3 yards per game mark. It’s still early in his career, but Elliott is certainly on a Hall of Fame pace.
Elliott could continue at this impressive rate and the Cowboys still won’t make the playoffs if quarterback Dak Prescott and the Dallas passing game continue to struggle.
Both he and Elliott had a lot to say about protests during the national anthem. It drew scorn from some fans – including me – and praise from many.
But all that bold talk about standing up hasn’t helped Prescott overcome the fact that the Cowboys have a sorry set of receivers. Nor has it helped him overcome how own poor passes and decision-making.
Former St. Lois Rams head coach and current Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is on the hot seat for his play calling. He’ll be owner Jerry Jones’ first scapegoat if the offensive woes continue. Next up will be head coach Jason Garrett.
Following the game, Jones said of Elliott: “I've never seen him play as well as he did today.”
Elliott was a mess last year. In 2018, the rookie the football world was enamoured with in 2016 has returned. It’s good to see that guy back out there.
Along comes Jones?
The only red the St. Louis Cardinals are experiencing this postseason is caused by embarrassment. The Redbirds were scuffling along before one of the best August records in the history of the franchise turned the season around.
But September rolled in and the Cardinals began to slow down. However, with 10 games left in the season, the Cardinals held a one-and-a-half game lead in the NL Wild Card race.
It evaporated when the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers swept a three-game series last week.
The Cardinals lost last Friday to the Chicago Cubs in a game littered with errors and misplays. When the Dodgers won on Saturday, the Redbirds were officially eliminated from the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
There’s plenty of talk about all the great young pitching, the second half surge under manager Mike Shildt and the spirited play of the speedy Harrison Bader.
But the bottom line is that it wasn’t good enough. I guarantee you that the Brewers and Chicago Cubs will improve their respective teams in the offseason, regardless of how well they do in the postseason.
Depending on the price, the Cardinals should kick the tires of veteran free agent Adam Jones.
He’ll be entering his 14th season, but he hit .281 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI for the woeful Baltimore Orioles.
A four-time Gold Glove winner in centerfield, if the price is right and he approves a move to right field, he could be the Cardinals answer to a lot of questions. He and Bader would make quite a pair in the Cardinals outfield.
As for leftfielder Marcell Ozuna, I think he came here as damaged goods and the Miami Marlins got over on the Cardinals for at least one season.
As for Dexter Fowler, the Cardinals need to eat a sizable chunk of that salary and send him elsewhere for the best for both parties.
Monday Fun Day
Monday Night Football doesn’t draw the audience it did in its glory days, but it remains the NFL’s biggest stage.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes II continued his amazing 2018 season by rallying his team from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the host Denver Broncos 28-23.
Mahomes orchestrated a nifty 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a with a 2-yard TD throw to tight end Travis Kelce. The Chiefs quickly added a 60-yard touchdown drive, with Mahomes handing off to Kareem Hunt for the 4-yard score with 1:39 remaining.
Mahomes rushed for a touchdown, threw for another and finished with 305 yards passing. He had just 65 at halftime and MNF analyst Jason Witten wondered aloud “How will he handle adversity?”
He handled it brilliantly.
His fourth-quarter comeback included a left-handed pass that picked up a crucial first down and a dizzying array of plays that left the Denver crowd in shock.
On the left-handed pass, Mahomes said “I didn’t think [about] it at all. It just happened.”
“I was just scrambling left, I felt (Broncos end) Von Miller on my back and I knew I couldn’t throw it with my right hand. I knew we needed the first down and so I kind of just like shot-putted it to Tyreek (Hill).”
He also zinged a cross-his-body, cross-the-field pass to Kelce for another important completion.
You never want to throw across your body as a quarterback, especially in this league, because guys can make plays on the defensive side of the ball. It kind of just naturally (happened).”
Chiefs’ fullback Anthony Sherman summed it up best when he said of Mahomes, “Everything he does is amazing.”
The Reid Roundup
Patrick Mahomes turned down endorsement deals as a rookie last year because he wasn’t playing. USA TODAY reports he is still turning down deals as he concentrates on football…One thing rarer than a black NFL head coach is a black NFL punter. Broncos coach Vance Jospeh is fed up with punter Marquette King, who shanked a 35-yard punt on Monday. “He’s got to perform better. We’re at home and it’s his job to flip the field. It ain’t happening.”… Mizzou beats South Carolina this weekend to set up the showdown with Alabama … N.Y. Giants receiver Odell Beckham got a $90 million contract extension but isn’t getting many passes thrown his way. He through a mini temper tantrum on the sideline last Sunday in the Giants loss to the Saints … Safety Eric Reid signed with Carolina this week. He said in March that he didn’t plan on protesting during the national anthem this year. He will continue with Colin Kaepernick on the collusion grievance they filed against the NFL . David Tepper, Carolinas’ new owner, has blasted the POTUS over his remarks on anthem protests … Demaryius Thomas and Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall both stood with their teammates during the national anthem. Since the preseason, both players had remained in the tunnel.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.