All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott had his first 100-yard performance in a Week 2 win on the road against the Washington Redskins. After 48 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Elliott had only 36 yards in the second half until a 27-yard run pushed his overall total to 111 yards on 23 carries. Exactly the kind of yardage and attempts you would expect from your bell cow. However, the last three weeks have been a little different as his carries have diminished each game. It hasn’t been from a lack of commitment to the run game per se, but sometimes certain game situations force you to adjust your gameplan.
When the Miami Dolphins came to town in Week 3 they were considered by many to be the worst team in the league. That all sounds good on paper but games are played on the field, and as we all know, every team gets fired up for the Dallas Cowboys. The first half saw the Cowboys score ten quick points on their first couple of possessions but they wouldn’t score again before halftime. The one bright spot was Elliott who ran for 86 yards on 13 carries as the Cowboys led 10-6.
The Cowboys jumped all over Miami with back to back touchdowns from Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott to start the second half pushing the lead to 24-6. Elliott wasn’t really needed much after that point and his last carry came with under nine minutes remaining in the game. This allowed rookie Tony Pollard to take over the fourth quarter with 74 yards on 8 carries, and keep Elliott fresh for a showdown with the New Orleans Saints a week later.
In all, Elliott ran for 125 yards on 19 carries, extremely productive and not taxing on the body. Pollard running for 103 yards himself allowed Elliott to stay on the sidelines and rest up for the next game.
In Week 4 the Cowboys faced the Saints on the road in prime time. Unfortunately for Elliott, this would be a game where his offensive line would get manhandled for four quarters. This put the Cowboys in quite a few second/third and long situations because Elliott seemingly saw gold helmets in his face immediately after taking each handoff. He would only rush for 35 yards on 18 carries, less than two yards per attempt.
In these situations when an offense can’t muster anything on the ground you simply stick with it just to keep the defense honest and not become one-dimensional. The flow of the game, in this case, dictated that Elliott wouldn’t see a lot of touches with his offensive line getting dominated.
This past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers could’ve been a monster day for Elliott considering he would be going up against the 26th ranked run defense, but like the previous two weeks, the flow of the game forced a different scenario. The first half saw the Cowboys invade Packers territory on three consecutive drives, but one stalled due to a sack and the other two ended with interceptions. Elliott had 60 yards on 10 carries in the first half but the Cowboys found themselves in a 17-0 hole.
That deficit quickly ballooned to 31-3 in the second half and virtually took Elliott out of the game. He had only two carries after halftime and finished with just 62 yards on 12 carries. Early turnovers put the Cowboys behind so much that the only way to get back in the game was to air it out the rest of the way.
Given the way the previous three games have unfolded no one should be overly concerned at this point about Elliott’s carries going down. The Cowboys simply adjusted to what was happening on the field and in these cases. Elliott was either not needed or taken out of the gameplan.
This Sunday against the New York Jets the Cowboys will be facing a good defensive front seven. I would still expect Elliott to be used early and often to establish what the Cowboys do best which is run to set up the play-action passing game.