The Dallas Cowboys already had the top seed in the NFC and home field advantage locked up heading into the Monday Night Football game against the Detroit Lions. It was a bit surprising to see stars such as Ezekiel Elliott on the field risking injury in a game with no stakes, which is why Darren McFadden began to see increased minutes over the course of the game.

Slow insertion into the game

The Cowboys decided to stick with Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott to start the game, perhaps as an ode to the high-paying fans who wanted to celebrate their great players at home. The running back didn't disappoint, reeling off two touchdown runs, including a highlight reel 55-yard dash down the right sideline.

With less than five minutes remaining in the game, he has 12 carries for 80 yards, in addition to a catch, mostly with McFadden on the sideline.

But as the fourth quarter waged on and the deficit between the Cowboys and the Lions grew greater, Elliott became relegated to the sideline to protect him. McFadden began to get the share of the touches in the backfield and actually ran to great effect for a backup - with two minutes to go, he has 13 carries for 47 yards.

Finale on the horizon

Of course, McFadden's ability shouldn't surprise Cowboys fans. Before the team drafted Elliott with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, McFadden was coming off a season where he was fourth in the league in rushing with 1,089 yards.

The arrival of the rookie relegated him to backup duty, but the former college star still has a lot of skill and could stand to make some money in free agency this winter.

With next week's regular season finale being even more meaningless in terms of the playoff push for the Cowboys, they should definitely play McFadden over Elliott and protect their prized rookie headed into his first post-season.

They should do the same for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, which may mean putting polarizing quarterback Tony Romo into the lineup for the first time this year.

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