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Tony Pollard becoming major X-factor in Dallas Cowboys push to relevance

Vincent Frank
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It was back in Week 10 that Tony Pollard put up 115 rushing yards and two total touchdowns for his Dallas Cowboys. It came in the midst of an otherwise brutal performance for the team in an ugly loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Pollard was being tasked with replacing an injured Ezekiel Elliott for a second consecutive game. In the process, this former fourth-round pick from Memphis proved that he is a better running back than this iteration of Zeke.

Dallas knew that it needed more of the same from Pollard against the one-loss Minnesota Vikings on the road Sunday afternoon. Even with Elliott back in the mix, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and Co. were going to rely on Pollard to be that dual-threat option in the backfield with Dak Prescott.

For the third consecutive game, Pollard looked like one of the best all-around running backs in the game. The impending free agent put up 189 total yards and two touchdowns on just 21 touches. That included an absolutely electric 68-yard touchdown catch as Dallas treated Minnesota like a junior varsity team throughout the game inside U.S. Bank Stadium.

Let’s point out the obvious first. Who on the Vikings’ staff had the idea of lining linebacker Jordan Hicks up against Pollard in coverage? That’s almost enough to get your walking papers.

But it does point to larger-scale issues defenses have when it comes to defending this iteration of the Cowboys’ offense. Minnesota felt that wrath in a big way as the team fell to Dallas by the score of 40-3.

For the Cowboys, this represented their second-largest margin of victory on the road in franchise history. No one could have foreseen this after the Cowboys’ disastrous performance last week and with Minnesota having won seven consecutive heading in.

As has been the case all season, Pollard has proven to be Dallas’ biggest X-factor outside of the quarterback position. Here’s how he can help spearhead their return to relevance heading into Thanksgiving.

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Tony Pollard creates a ton of mismatches for the Dallas Cowboys

dallas cowboys running back tony pollard
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

We saw that in the video embedded above. Teams are not going to be able to cover Pollard with linebackers. He’s just too athletic and shifty. Heck, in-the-box safeties are going to have a hard time with him in the passing game.

That one particular play shows us how Moore can utilize the underrated back. Pollard was not lined up at wide receiver. Rather, the pre-snap motions led to him being one-on-one against a linebacker who entered Sunday’s game having allowed quarterbacks to complete 30-of-40 passes when targeting him on the season.

It’s this creativity that can go a long way as Dak Prescott returns to form and with Elliott acting as a nice supplement to Pollard. After all, Elliott scored two touchdowns himself on Sunday despite averaging a mere 2.8 yards per rush.

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We should have seen Tony Pollard coming

dallas cowboys running back tony pollard
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not like the former mid-round pick has come out of nowhere over the past few weeks. The youngster put up 1,056 total yards at a clip of 6.2 yards per touch as a third-year player in 2021. He’s just being given more of an opportunity in his contract year. These past three outings are a prime example of this.

  • Tony Pollard stats (past three games): 51 attempts, 326 rushing yards, 10 receptions, 138 yards, 6 total TD

To say that those are some eye-opening numbers would be an understatement. In fact, Pollard is now on pace to compile north of 1,600 total yards and 14 touchdowns. That seems pretty good.

If Pollard can continue to provide this dual-threat ability out of the backfield, it opens things up for Elliott to become Dallas’ short-yardage guy. It will also lead to defenses struggling against the ‘Boys receivers.

Going up against a good Vikings defense on Sunday, Prescott completed 10-of-11 passes for 128 yards when targeting his top-three receivers. We’re sure Pollard played a role in that.

Related: Tony Pollard and NFL’s top free agents of 2023

Dallas Cowboys are the biggest threat to the Philadelphia Eagles back east

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

As Dallas was doing its thing in the Twin Cities, the Eagles nearly dropped their second consecutive game before barely defeating the Indianapolis Colts. Meanwhile, the New York Giants put up a disastrous performance against the Detroit Lions.

All the while, the Cowboys’ defense absolutely dominated Minnesota’s offense. That included getting to Kirk Cousins for 13 quarterback hits and seven sacks while yielding 183 total yards. Talk about a well-rounded stomping.

It was just this time last week that Philadelphia found itself undefeated. Dallas was coming off an ugly road loss to a pedestrian Packers team. As for the Giants, they were coming off a fifth win in their past six games.

Fast forward a week, and things have changed on a dime in the NFC East. These Cowboys will go up against the Giants at home on Thanksgiving. A win would have Mike McCarthy and Co. in sole possession of second place in the NFC East. Depending on what happens with the Eagles in Week 12, these Cowboys could also just be one game out of first place in the division heading into December.

The common denominator all season has been the performance of Tony Pollard. And in reality, he’s going to be the X-factor if this Cowboys team finds itself as a conference title contender during the winter.