Ezekiel Elliott has taken his fair share of criticism over the last few seasons with his numbers taking a dip from the dominance he displayed in his first three seasons. In 2021, it’s been a struggle for Elliott to consistently be productive at a high level as he’s dealt with a lingering knee issue that has forced him to wear a brace. Also, sharing carries with Tony Pollard factored into how many opportunities he’s had.
Despite whatever setbacks Elliott has faced, he came into the Dallas Cowboys season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles needing 85 yards to reach 1,000 for the fourth time in six seasons. While many dismissed his want to reach this particular mark, Elliott made it clear that it was meaningful for him to reach 1,000 yards rushing, and he did so with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter of the Cowboys 51-26 win.
Although it didn’t resemble one of Elliott’s trademark outings against the Eagles when he has run wild in past, he ran with a lot of conviction gaining 87 yards on 18 carries. Elliott hadn’t run for more than 52 yards since October so to see him somewhat reestablish a struggling Cowboys’ running game, and make it out of the game healthy, was a welcome sight to see with the playoffs starting next week.
Elliott also made history on Saturday night. He became the second running back in NFL history along with Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson to gain 1,250 scrimmage yards and score eight total touchdowns in each of his first six seasons. Elliott rushed for 10 touchdowns this season which was the third time in his career he’s hit double digits in that category and his 12 total touchdowns are the third-most he’s had since entering the NFL in 2016.
No matter how much bad mouthing Elliott gets from the media and fans he never complains and gives maximum effort when he suits up. Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who is getting ready for his first playoff run in Dallas, gave kudos to his bell-cow runner and all he does for the team.
“Zeke’s a warrior,” McCarthy said. “I think he doesn’t get enough credit for all the little things he does. He does the dirty work, particularly in the protection, grinding out with the knee since the Carolina game [Oct. 3]. Anytime you see a player with an annual milestone, it’s obviously a positive.”
The next thing for the Cowboys is to sit back and watch how the chips fall on Sunday as to who will be their first opponent in the playoffs. Running the football well will be key for the Cowboys if they desire to seriously compete for a Super Bowl title. Elliott having this type of performance was crucial for him, not only in terms of reaching the 1,000-yard plateau but to regain a rhythm as the playoffs approach.