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Of course, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott would prefer to total more than the 39 yards from scrimmage he had in a 31-29 loss to the Tampa Buccaneers in last Thursday’s season opener.
He knows he couldn’t be stopped by a one-on-one tackle on a key third down in the red zone that led to a field goal.
And of course, Elliott and the Cowboys hope he has a bigger impact in the running game, starting with more than 11 carries in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
But the two-time NFL rushing champion has no patience for anyone using his production against the Buccaneers as a referendum on his worth or his importance to the team’s performance.
“If you know football, then you can tell someone had a solid game without having the best statistics,” Elliott said. “I feel if you’re saying that, maybe they should be studying a little bit more.”
And by all accounts from the Cowboys, Elliott had an outstanding game in terms of helping the offense with his blocking in a passing game that saw quarterback Dak Prescott post a career-high with 58 attempts.
The Buccaneers’ game plan was to stop the run and force the Cowboys to throw the ball.
The Cowboys gleefully obliged with Prescott passing for 403 yards and three touchdowns, including 12 times when he completed passes after checking out of a run against a stacked front.
“I had a lot of blitz pickup,” Elliott said.
And the man the Cowboys gave a six-year, $90 million contract extension to before the 2019 season did it with aplomb as he fancies himself as a complete and unselfish football player.
It’s the reason he attends quarterback meetings and offensive line meetings so he can be prepared to protect in the passing game.
“Every play I’m given a job,” Elliott said. “It’s my job to do that job to the best of its ability. I take a lot of pride in being well-rounded, do a lot of things and I think it’s big for a running back to keep the quarterback safe, keep him untouched.”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said he has come to respect Elliott’s attitude and football intelligence the most since McCarthy was hired last year.
“No he hasn’t. He really hasn’t,” McCarthy said when asked if Elliott expressed any frustration. “I know I say this all the time. He’s the same guy every day. He was in the quarterback meetings earlier. He’s all football. He understands exactly the why of what we’re doing. He’s definitely on board.”
Elliott and the Cowboys hope he will be a bigger part of the game plan as a runner against a Chargers defense, which allowed 126 yards on 27 carries in a 20-16 victory over the Washington Football Team in the season opener.
One thing Elliott knows for sure is that he has to make his opportunities count, especially near the goal line.
The Cowboys blamed tight end Blake Jarwin for whiffing on a block against Buccaneers safety Andrew Adams, who tackled Elliott for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-goal play from the 2 in last week’s game.
Elliott, however, took personal ownership of the failed play.
“I’d say on that play, that’s on me,” Elliott said. “We’re inside the 5, me vs. a DB, I got to get the ball in my left hand so I got something to fight him off with on my inside hand. I got to find a way to get in the end zone.”
It’s a great attitude by Elliott and an understandable one by someone paid so much to be a difference maker on the team.