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The Cowboys’ new era belongs to Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott

Whatever happens when Tony Romo comes back, it's clear that the Dallas Cowboys are a much different team now with their two rookie stars paving the way to a 4-1 start.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON -€”- Early in Bengals-Cowboys clash as Ezekiel Elliott's offensive line whacked and razed everyone in front of them, Elliott began spinning his right hand in front of his mouth, scooping as if he had a spoon in hand.

"I was telling the coaches to keep feeding me," Elliott said afterward, grinning.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett soon summoned Elliott next to him. Garrett performed the spooning motion. He told him to watch it, that it could lead to a taunting penalty.

And then Garrett and the Cowboys kept "feeding" Elliott anyway.

You take the radiant running of Elliott and the efficient playmaking of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, toss them behind the NFL's most crushing offensive line and you've got one scrumptious meal. Blend in special teams that function and a defense that is reactive and you get a 28-0 blitz to start a game. This is what the Dallas Cowboys did to the Cincinnati Bengals en route to a 28-14 victory on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

This was Dallas taking a quality opponent and displaying "a recommitment to our values," Garrett said.

That would be:

  1. We have massive, strong, scary people up front on offense. Let's make sure they maul. They did. They annihilated the Bengals. It was Bengals cornerback Adam Jones who succinctly and accurately described it: "Those guys were better than I thought. I take my hat off to them. Now I see why he has a hundred million dollars on his line. Those guys blocked their asses off. To come out here and get beat like this, this is embarrassing."

  2. The guys Dallas didn't block, Elliott handled. He ran it 17 times for 134 yards and plowed through Bengals on his 13-yard scoring rumble and outran them on his 60-yard touchdown burst. He dialed it in every way. This league-leading rusher is the core of the Dallas offense. He will be fed.

  3. Prescott efficiently orchestrated the offense, passing and rushing, displaying variety of talents. Keep putting him in great spots and he looks capable of continuing deliverance.

  4. Special teams, stay active, and the defense, neutralize a team's top threat (Bengals receiver A.J. Green was a ghost) and hit the quarterback (four sacks of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton).

Dallas owner Jerry Jones has seen this recipe before.

But not as exacting as this since the Cowboys Super Bowl champion days.

"That first half of football was the best I've seen around here in years and years and years,"  Jones said, smiling. "This was more about who we were than what Cincinnati wasn't."

It made the Cowboys 4-1 and winners of four straight. It gave them first place in the NFC East. They play next at Green Bay, a bye follows and then home against Philadelphia. That is when Tony Romo is scheduled to return from back injury.

The way Prescott is producing, the Cowboys may give Romo more time to heal. But Jones said that the plan now is that when Romo is ready, he will play.

If Dallas can physically maul good teams like this, it hardly matters.

"I thought the physicalness of the game in all three phases was the difference in the game," Garrett said. "I think you felt it out there. I know our team did."

That is a lousy indictment of the Bengals. They play the Pittsburgh Steelers twice a year every year in some of the most rowdy football the NFL offers.

"We played hard but got dominated in all phases of the game," Bengals receiver Brandon LaFell said, who earned two fourth-quarter touchdown catches that were more cologne than game-altering.

Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said: "I think that's a helluva football team over there. They've got some special players."

So do the Bengals. It's how they've made the playoffs for five straight seasons. So, what happened?

"We'll have to just look at it very hard and make corrections and move forward quickly," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said.

Quite quickly. The Bengals play next at New England. The Bengals are 2-3 with victories over the Jets and Miami, teams that have combined records of 2-8. The Bengals' losses are against Pittsburgh and Denver, and now Dallas, each by eight or more points. Getting flattened and controlled like this in Dallas can shake confidence. That will be Cincinnati's chief chore, moving on and returning to its rougher edge with improved execution.

Dallas, however, is feeling good. It is starting to feel supremacy in how this offensive line matches up across the league. Guard Zack Martin talked about getting the Bengals "on the ropes." Tight end Jason Witten said the Cowboys have been talking all year about starting fast and keeping the pedal down, and now they showed themselves just how they can do it. Receiver Terrance Williams was targeted five times and caught every pass, all over the field, and afterward said these Cowboys don't "blink" where past teams here did.

It is a new day in Dallas, one where the Cowboys without Romo and injured receiver Dez Bryant are surprisingly infused by a beastly offensive line and two frisky rookies, Elliott and Prescott.

"I know, for myself, this is the player I am, this is the man I am," Elliott said. "I'm not surprised by it. I expected it."