Ezekiel Elliott: Statistics don’t always tell the full story

NFL: SEP 09 Cowboys at Buccaneers
Getty Images

Ezekiel Elliott had 13 touches for 39 yards in the opener as the Cowboys had only 14 running plays by running backs. (Dak Prescott‘s four rushes were one more than backup running back Tony Pollard.)

The Cowboys’ imbalance was predictable considering they were facing the No. 1 rushing team from 2020 with Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle and with All-Pro right guard Zack Martin out with COVID-19. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said Monday that he called 28 runs, but Prescott checked out of 12 of them after seeing the defense.

Moore also praised the play of Elliott, whose role as a blocker Thursday was unsung.

“Zeke’s a big-picture guy. He sees it,” Moore said. “He did a phenomenal job in pass protection for us. There’s a lot of guys in the box, and we’re going to have other games where people are going to play two-high shell and give us an opportunity to run the football, and Zeke’s going to be ready to rock and roll there.”

Elliott defended himself Wednesday.

“If you know football, then you can tell someone had a solid game without having the best statistics,” Elliott said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I feel if you’re saying that, maybe they should be studying a little bit more.”

The Cowboys’ imbalance, though, is unstainable for a full season, and the Cowboys aren’t paying Elliott $6.82 million in 2021 to block. Elliott needs more than 11 rushes, and Pollard more than three.

“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.”

Elliott was tackled for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-goal play from the 2 after Blake Jarwin missed a block on safety Andrew Adams. The two-time rushing champion, though, pointed the finger at himself.

“I’d say on that play, that’s on me,” Elliott said. “We’re inside the 5, me versus a DB. I’ve got to get the ball in my left hand, so I’ve got something to fight him off with on my inside hand. I’ve got to find a way to get in the end zone.”