Who earned game balls from the Cowboys-Broncos game?

The stars were less than bright as the Denver Broncos dominated the Dallas Cowboys 42-17 Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
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The stars were less than bright as the Denver Broncos dominated the Dallas Cowboys 42-17 Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Dallas Cowboys

Elliott’s hustle, energy level will be watched closely against Cardinals

September 24, 2017 08:52 AM

Ezekiel Elliott’s lack of effort on some plays against the Denver Broncos last week trumped his suspension battle with the NFL during the rest of the week.

The second-year running back took responsibility for his play — which resulted in career lows for rush attempts (9) and rush yards (8) — in the Dallas Cowboys’ 42-17 loss to the Broncos. He’s also playing the legal waiting game from week to week over his six-game suspension without pay for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

At least for one week, his play on the field was more of a concern than his legal battle.

The Cowboys play at Arizona in their first and only Monday Night Football appearance this season.

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Here are five storylines to watch:

Zeke’s effort

Ezekiel Elliott is still involved in the well-documented legal fight with the NFL and created a stir over his “lack of effort” on a couple Broncos interceptions last Sunday in Denver. Elliott owned up to it and said he has to do a better job in those situations. Let’s see him back it up against the Cardinals.

Dak’s response

Dak Prescott acknowledged that the loss in Denver was the most “humbling” experience of his young career. He was flustered by the Broncos defense, and couldn’t rally the Cowboys. He’s confident he’ll bounce back against the Cardinals, and must do so to quiet the critics ready to paint him as a “bus driver” and “game manager.”

O-line matters

The Cowboys have what’s widely regarded as the best offensive line in the league. They sure didn’t look that way against the Broncos, with Elliott being held to eight rushing yards on nine carries. There’s a variety of issues as to why they couldn’t establish the running game, but linemen Travis Frederick and Zack Martin both said it comes down to execution. Expect the Cowboys’ O-line to get back on track.

The Tank

DeMarcus Lawrence is off to an impressive start with 3.5 sacks. He is finally healthy and looking to build on that moving forward. More attention is going to come his way, though, which could open opportunities for other pass rushers such as Benson Mayowa, rookie Taco Charlton and Damontre Moore, who returns after a two-game suspension to start the season.

History watch

This is a rare opportunity for football fans to watch two all-time greats play in the same game. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are among the 14 NFL players with 1,000 career catches and have more than 15 miles of receiving yards combined. Plus, both are known for their work within their communities and have been honored with the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison