The star running back quit on two plays, but the coach said that doesn’t make him a quitter. The star quarterback showed the coach why his teammates voted him a captain.
Ezekiel Elliott, perhaps frustrated by the worst day of his career, didn’t chase the ball-carrier on either of Dak Prescott’s interceptions.
It was such a bad look that Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson accused him of quitting on the team. That seems harsh for a player known for excelling without the ball, but Elliott put himself in the position of having coach Jason Garrett defend him.
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“Zeke is one of the most natural competitors I’ve ever been around,” Garrett said Monday. “He loves to play. He loves to practice. I think we’ve seen that in his first of year playing and those two plays are not indicative of the kind of the competitor he is.”
While Elliott was criticized for his lack of hustle, Prescott earned the wrath of social media after completing 30 of 50 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
While Romo Apologists still fawn over Tony Romo, Garrett offered high praise to Dak Prescott.
“If you get a chance, go back and watch tape of No.4,” Garrett said. “No.4 is a special player. It was not an easy game for him.
“He got knocked around a little bit. He got banged up early and talk about a guy who battles and guy who fights. Talk about a guy who leads the team under adversity and under duress.”
Garrett said he has not yet spoken to Elliott about the egregious plays. When he does he’ll show Elliott the plays and ask the running back if that’s indicative of who he is as a player.
We all know the answer. After all, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer once said Elliott is the best player he’s ever had without the ball in his hands, and he’d done nothing until now to dispel that notion.
Sometimes, we forget players are human, and they don’t always handle frustration the right way.
None of us do.
Elliott, who had gained at least 80 yards in 15 consecutive games, had one carry of more than four yards against Denver. He finished with nine carries for eight yards.
This from a dude who led the NFL with 48 runs of 10 yards or more last season. He also led the NFL with nine runs of 20 yards or more last season.
In 33 carries this season, Elliott has one run of 10 yards.
“We’re going to compete, fight, scratch and claw. That’s one of the reasons we love Zeke Elliott,” Garrett said. “That’s what he is when we watch him play. He competes. He battles. He’s made great blocks with us.
“Those plays were uncharacteristic of him and we have to address it with our entire team that’s not the way we play.”
When he shows the team video of Prescott, the tone will be different.
“It was special, and I reflect back on the best quarterbacks I’ve been around and often times the games I remember most are the ones where the situations were the most challenging and I see how they respond,” Garrett said. “How they respond to turnovers. How they respond to guys hitting them in the face over and over again.”
If you understand what the Cowboys want to do offensively, then you know Prescott isn’t the epicenter of the offense.
This offense revolves around Ezekiel Elliott.
When he’s racking up the yards like he did last season, when he led the NFL with 1,631 yards rushing, the play-action passing games works and the points come in bunches. It’s why the Cowboys finished fifth in the NFL in scoring last season.
When the running game doesn’t work, and Prescott must carry the biggest load on offense, the Cowboys struggle. Prescott is not supposed to average 47.5 passes per game.
Denver sacked Prescott twice and hit him seven times officially, though it probably twice that many times. He never backed down.
“Watch how he stands in the pocket, climbs the pocket after he’s gotten hit,” Garrett said of Prescott. “Watch how he throws the ball under duress and delivers the ball down the field again and again and again. Watch the run down the sideline late in the game where he takes the guy on rolls and spins and makes 12 yards to get us into a fourth and manageable situation. Just watch how he plays.
“Watch the intensity he plays with, the fight that he plays with. It’s contagious. He did a hell of a job.”
Still, he must play better.