LANDOVER, Md. — The Dallas Cowboys’ season now hangs in the balance. As Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal of his six-game suspension heads to a federal courtroom in New York on Monday afternoon, he gave a stark reminder Sunday of how vital he is to the Cowboys’ success. Of Dallas’ 63 plays against Washington, Elliott accounted for 35 of them. On a sloppy, rainy afternoon when Dak Prescott couldn’t get anything going, Elliott finished with 150 yards rushing, averaging more than 4.5 yards on his 33 carries. And while field goals were the Cowboys’ best friend in the 33-19 win, Elliott found the end zone twice. It would have been three times if not for a holding penalty on left tackle Tyron Smith.
Sure, the Cowboys’ special teams had a big day, setting up Elliott's second TD with a blocked field goal and long return. The Dallas defense was all over Kirk Cousins, too, sacking him four times and forcing a pick-six in the final minute to pad the score. (This wasn’t really a fair fight, however, given Cousins was playing behind an offensive line cobbled together with safety pins and duct tape because three starters were out with injuries.)
But the Cowboys are first and foremost Elliott’s team. And there’s a chance they’re going to have to do without him in the most crucial stretch of the season. After an investigation that lasted more than a year into allegations of domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend, Elliott was suspended in August for six games. He has denied the allegations – the running back was never charged, though the prosecutor in Columbus, Ohio, said he believed the woman – and has vigorously appealed the suspension.
Much like Tom Brady did with Deflategate, Elliott has bounced from courtroom to courtroom -- in Texas, New Orleans and New York, for those keeping track -- looking for someone to give him a reprieve. On Oct. 17, Elliott was granted a temporary restraining order because the federal judge assigned his case, Kathleen Polk Failla, was out of town.
Now Failla is back, and she’ll hear arguments Monday afternoon. If she grants Elliott’s request for an injunction, odds are good he’ll be able to play the rest of the season. If not, he’ll be suspended immediately and wouldn’t be able to return until Dec. 17, a Sunday night game against the Oakland Raiders. But the season might be a wash by that point.
Dallas plays the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday, followed by a game at the Atlanta Falcons. Then there’s the first showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles, the hottest team in the NFL. With the Cowboys already in a tight race for an NFC wild-card spot, even going .500 over the next six games might be enough to doom their playoff hopes. The potential decision Monday will have a huge impact on Elliott, no question. But its impact on the Cowboys and their season looms just as large.
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