The Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott is off to a great start, but history is beyond the horizon

The Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott is off to a great start, but history is beyond the horizon
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) evades pressure from Bengals defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick (27) and linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) on Oct. 9. (Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

Ezekiel Elliott has thumbs as quick as his feet.

The Dallas Cowboys rookie, who leads the NFL in rushing, fired off a playful text to former Rams great Eric Dickerson last week that read simply: "I'm getting close."


"You've got a long way to go," Dickerson tapped out in response.

The two were talking about the NFL rookie rushing record that Dickerson set in 1983, when he ran for 1,808 yards, a mark he thinks will last longer than his single-season record of 2,105.

"You only get to be a rookie one time," Dickerson said Monday. "You can't say, 'Aw, I'll get that next year.' If a team is willing to build an offense around a young running back … I was fortunate that we ran the ball a lot."

Week 5 of the NFL saw the return of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Elliott rushed for 134 yards Sunday in a 28-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, becoming the first Cowboys rookie to run for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games. That brought his season total to 546 yards, meaning he would need to average 115 a game to eclipse Dickerson's mark.

It doesn't hurt that Elliott is running behind an outstanding offensive line, maybe the best in the NFL, one that paved the way for DeMarco Murray to run for 1,845 yards in 2014. A big test comes Sunday when the Cowboys play at Green Bay against a Packers defense ranked No. 1 against the run, a unit that has given up 42.8 yards rushing a game and one touchdown.

Elliott also benefits from the play of fellow rookie Dak Prescott, who has passed for 1,239 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Elliott and Prescott are the first rookie tandem in NFL history with at least 1,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing in the first five games of the season.

"You have to have a line," Dickerson said. "I don't care how great a back is, you have to have an offensive line. Look at what's going on with [Rams running back] Todd Gurley. I don't care how fast, how big, how strong you are, it's not going to work. When you have a great offensive line, it makes it that much easier on a running back to rip off a big run."

Gurley, last season's NFL offensive rookie of the year, ranks 19th in the league with 288 yards rushing and has run for 100 yards only once in his last 13 games. That was eight games ago. Earlier last season, he had four consecutive 100-yard games.

That underscores just how difficult it is to sustain a top-tier performance throughout the season. As Dickerson said, Elliott has a long way to go.

Teams at the extremes

The Cleveland Browns (0-5) are the NFL's only winless team. That's not especially surprising.

What's remarkable is that the Minnesota Vikings (5-0) are the league's lone undefeated team after starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Adrian Peterson and left tackle Matt Kalil were sidelined because of injuries.

Quarterback Sam Bradford, who took over in Week 2, completed 73.3% of his passes (22 of 30) in a 31-13 rout of the Houston Texans on Sunday, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, Vikings quarterbacks haven't had a pass picked off, making Minnesota only the second team since 1933 to start 5-0 without having a pass intercepted. That matches the 1969 Rams.

This much we know: Minnesota will be undefeated heading into Week 7 too. The Vikings have a bye this week before resuming their season at Philadelphia, where Bradford will face his former team.


Making change

Marc Trestman is out as the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator and Marty Mornhinweg is in. The Ravens announced the move Monday, a day after mustering only one touchdown against the Washington Redskins' 29th-ranked defense in a 16-10 defeat.

The Ravens can only hope their switch works out as well as the one in Buffalo. The Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman after the team's 0-2 start and have won three in a row with Anthony Lynn calling the shots.

Although the Ravens got off to a 3-0 start, it came against teams that were a combined 1-8. Now, Baltimore has come back to earth with consecutive losses.

This could be good news for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco: Baltimore plays Sunday at the New York Giants, who are last in the league with four sacks.

In the zone

Even without suspended receiver Martavis Bryant, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger is tearing it up. He leads the league with 15 touchdown passes, three more than Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, and has passed for at least one in 41 consecutive home games, the third-longest streak in league history.

No Steelers quarterback has passed for so many touchdowns in the first five games of a season.

Well rested

The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a Thursday game and preparing for a game Monday. That means the Cardinals will have had 11 days rest before they host the New York Jets and that 27 NFL games will have been played between their bookend games. Just kind of strange.

Coach Bruce Arians said he expects Carson Palmer to pass the last stage of the concussion protocol Tuesday, meaning the quarterback could be back to face the Jets.