The Cowboys’ O-line is the real NFL MVP so far

The Cowboys’ O-line is the real NFL MVP so far

Overview

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  • Bill BarnwellESPN Staff Writer

 

Ezekiel Elliott has been great for the vast majority of the 2016 season, but Sunday marked the moment his MVP campaign kicked into full swing.

Elliott scored three touchdowns in the Cowboys’ dramatic 35-30 win over the Steelers on Sunday, including two in the final two minutes of action. In addition to two rushing scores, he added in an 88-yard touchdown on a screen and finished the day with 209 yards from scrimmage. As many have pointed out, he’s one of just three rookie backs to rush for 1,000 yards in his first nine professional games, joining Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson.

And yet, as great as Elliott undoubtedly is, I keep going back to a number from ESPN Stats & Information. Do you know how many times Elliott was even touched by a Steelers player on his three touchdowns?

Zero.

Elliott traveled 129 yards from scrimmage on those three plays and never even had to beat an unblocked defender one-on-one. Zeke showed great patience in hitting his hole and accelerating past the flat-footed Robert Golden on his final score, and the Steelers might have been trying to allow Elliott to score on his second touchdown, but one would think Elliott would run into a Steelers defender just based on sheer electric football chance.

There’s a third actor in this discussion, and it’s the reason Elliott went untouched on those plays. The Dallas Cowboys‘ offensive line is as dominant as any unit or any individual player in football on a week-to-week basis. Despite losing La’el Collins to a foot injury, Dallas’ five-man gang of Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free has been the backbone of an offensive renaissance in Dallas. The Cowboys are averaging 28.7 points per game, the fourth-best rate in the league, while starting a rookie fourth-rounder at quarterback and missing their star wideout for a large portion of the season. The offensive line is making everybody on this offense look great. They, collectively, deserve serious consideration as league MVP.