Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott elite on Thursday, just not on the ground

Dallas Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Dallas Cowboys left the NFL’s opening night contest down in the record books. No matter which way things break on Sunday though and save for just some 100-point total barnburner, they’ll be the best 0-1 team in the league at the start of Week 2.

While that doesn’t mean anything and you don’t win trophies for losing, winning is key in any league and especially the NFL. In order to do that, each guy on the squad has to do their part to help towards the total ultimate goal.

In the case of Thursday and though a defeat, that was definitely the case for one guy that seems to be catching a ton of flack…. or at least a bit of it, with all of it being undue. That would be Ezekiel Elliott. The statement is this. Ezekiel Elliott was still, absolutely, elite on Thursday night, it just wasn’t on the ground or via running the ball.

In close defeat, Ezekiel Elliott showed he can still be elite without running a ton.

He was a huge part and perhaps, the key, to what the Cowboys were able to do. When it comes to running the ball, itself, it was always going to be hard to run on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.

They were one of the top defenses in the league last season and returned most of what they had. They ranked sixth in total yards allowed last season and though closer to the middle or bottom in passing yards allowed per game, they were number one in rushing yards allowed per game and by a long way.

They beat the next best team ( Colts at 90.5 allowed) by 10 whole yards. Think about that? They only allowed 80.6 yards on the ground last season and again, returned much of that same talent this season. That’s why the Cowboys chose to toss it around the yard, instead of fruitless redundancy against the best run-stopping team in the league.

Forgetting that for a second though, Ezekiel Elliott took that opportunity, or lack of, and proceeded to show what it takes to be a complete back, by blocking his tail off. He picked up everything and if not, almost everything.

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Basically, Dak Prescott isn’t able to look as elite as he did, without Zeke being as elite as he was as a protection man. It’s really that simple. That’s why and how, even though it wasn’t via the run or literally, on the ground, Ezekiel Elliott was still elite on Thursday. Few other backs could have made all the pickups he did, if any. Now, it’s about putting up those same kinds of efforts with his own carries.