ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Kareem Hunt will get to compare himself to Ezekiel Elliott after all when Kansas City visits Dallas.
The dynamic rookie running back for the Chiefs is doing many of the things the suspended Cowboys star did in his debut last season, headlined by leading the NFL in rushing.
Thanks to another temporary legal reprieve for Elliott, Hunt will get an up-close comparison Sunday against Dallas (4-3). Elliott will be able to play after a New York appeals court granted an emergency stay on Friday. There have been two previous halts to Elliott’s six-game suspension over alleged domestic violence that kept him on the field.
“He’s the engine behind that offense,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said of Hunt. “He’s been one of those guys who’s been steady for them, but also has made a lot of plays for them.”
Elliott, the former Ohio State star and the NFL’s leading rusher as a rookie, is third this year behind the ex-Toledo back and Ohio native. The Chiefs (6-2) are trying to set a franchise record with their 10th straight road victory.
“I watched Zeke a ton,” Hunt said of his senior year with the Rockets, when Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, his fellow rookie, were powering the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC.
“Dak played pretty well and so did he. I was able to watch and see all the great runs he had. I kind of wanted to come in and have a year like he did his rookie season.”
Consider it done so far. Hunt is the first NFL player with at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of first seven games and leads the NFL with 763 yards rushing and 1,070 yards from scrimmage.
While he’s not quite on the rushing pace of Elliott a year ago, Hunt is another option when quarterback Alex Smith already had plenty, including All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.
Smith is four touchdowns from tying Peyton Manning’s record of 20 without an interception to start a season while guiding the NFL’s third-ranked offense.
Things to consider in Kansas City’s first visit to the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys that opened in 2009:
REPLACING ELLIOTT: The Cowboys were prepared to replace Elliott with Alfred Morris, a 1,500-yard rusher as a rookie in 2012 and Elliott’s backup all season.
Last year, Elliott was backed up by Darren McFadden once he was healthy. McFadden led the Cowboys in rushing two years ago despite starting just 10 games. Rod Smith is the wild card. He surged in training camp to make the roster and has shown some big-play ability.
If form holds, McFadden will be inactive again with Elliott getting a late reprieve.
“All of them have got good experience now in the league,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “That’s a big part of feeling good about those guys stepping in after really not playing a whole lot up until now.”
THE BUTTKICKER: If the game comes down to field goals, give the edge to the Chiefs. Harrison Butker has connected on 18 straight attempts since missing the first of his career. The pickup off the Carolina practice squad was 5 for 5 in Monday night’s victory over Denver, including one from 51 yards.
The Cowboys are without Dan Bailey, the most accurate in history among kickers with at least 100 attempts, because of a groin injury. Mike Nugent missed his first kick as the replacement last week against Washington, a 49-yarder, but made the next four in a 33-19 win.
UP TO THE BOOTH: Tony Romo, the Dallas franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns, will call his first Cowboys game as the lead analyst for CBS. A year ago, he was still recovering from a back injury that made Prescott the starter, a job Prescott never gave up thanks to a franchise-record 11-game winning streak.
Romo was the backup when he was healthy again, then chose replacing Phil Simms alongside Jim Nantz over trying to chase an elusive Super Bowl somewhere else. “I am looking forward to the production meeting,” Prescott said. “Obviously the first time with Romo will be cool.”
BULLDOG BUDDIES: Prescott could see a lot of an old friend in the backfield. He was teammates with Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones at Mississippi State. Jones was actually chosen ahead of Prescott in 2016, going in the second round to Kansas City. Prescott was a fourth-rounder.