The Dallas Cowboys' season ended in rather dramatic and heartbreaking fashion on Sunday afternoon. The three-seeded Cowboys were defeated and upset by the six-seeded San Francisco 49ers by a final score of 23-17 after a controversial quarterback sneak play call resulted in the clock expiring before the Cowboys could get another play off. San Francisco's defense was extremely energetic and haunting, holding Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to just 17 points and 307 total yards of offense. It's a far cry from how effective and efficient Dallas' offense performed throughout the regular season. Somewhat lost in the controversial and gut-wrenching loss was the ineffectiveness of Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for just 31 yards on 12 rushing attempts. Furthermore, Elliott was targeted four times in the passing game but hauled in just one reception for a zero-yard gain. Elliott's lackluster performance put a bow on what was a rather disappointing campaign. The former Ohio State ball-carrier rushed for 1,002 yards in 17 appearances while averaging a rather pedestrian 4.2 yards per carry. It represents the third-worst mark of Elliott’s career and is a minuscule improvement from last year’s career-worst mark of 4.0 yards per carry. Elliott feels well-removed from his 2018-19 form that helped earn him a lucrative six-year contract extension worth $90 million. It qualifies as two disappointing campaigns in a row for Elliott, who should see his role reduced throughout the 2022 campaign. The Cowboys are a better, more effective, and dangerous offense when Tony Pollard is on the field. The former Memphis standout was limited to just 169 touches throughout 2021, which is 155 fewer than Elliott (284) garnered despite Pollard outgaining Elliott 7.05 to 5.15 on a yards-per-touch basis. It may sound minimal to some, but an extra two yards per touch represents a sizable difference for every offense in the league. Pollard has made a profound impact on Dallas' offense when given the opportunity to do so. Dallas could have better utilized Pollard's playmaking ability on Sunday, but he inexcusably touched the ball on just six occasions despite head coach Mike McCarthy’s and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s struggles to create and scheme up explosive plays against San Francisco’s fierce front seven. Pollard is especially productive as a pass-catcher. He finished the season with 41 receptions and is averaging a healthy 8.5 yards per reception. Pollard essentially places Dallas’ offense in extremely friendly territory in relation to moving the chains on the majority of his catches. For comparative purposes, Elliott averaged a much more pedestrian, career-low 5.97 yards per catch. According to multiple reports, Elliott played through part of the 2021 season with a partially torn PCL injury. It may explain his ineffectiveness, but also provides even more reason to limit his workload in 2022. Elliott has a ton of wear on his body and further limiting his snaps would greatly benefit all parties involved. The Cowboys now prepare to enter an offseason after yet another supremely disappointing and short-lived postseason run. Jerry Jones will ask major questions and demand answers. In a league where explosive plays reign supreme, Pollard is creating much more for the Cowboys both as a rusher and receiver. Pollard is simply doing more with less and needs to be more involved going forward.
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