FRISCO, Texas - Ezekiel Elliott didn't run the ball well in the Cowboys' 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos. But he also didn't run from criticism when he addressed the media on Thursday.
That criticism included more than just his performance. Elliott's effort was put into question on specific plays, including an interception by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris after which Elliott put his hands on his hips rather than attempting to make the tackle.
"I was very frustrated," Elliott said, "But that's no excuse for the lack of effort that I showed on tape."
Jason Garrett said after the loss that he took note of the Elliott's effort and even suggested that it might be singled out in perhaps a team wide conversation. Thursday, Garrett already considered the topic a thing of the past.
"Zeke is a professional," Garrett said. "He isn't perfect. When things happen we address them and move on."
It was clear on Thursday that the subject had been addressed and that, whether or not he had admitted it beforehand, Elliott was confronted with the issue in the film room where it could not be denied.
"I just can't do that being one of the leaders on the team and being a guy that people count on," Elliott said. "I can't put that type of stuff on film."
It was also the worst game of Elliott's young career from a production standpoint. He ran the ball nine times for just eight yards. Fortunately for Elliott, his track record for shouldering a large workload has allowed his teammates to keep faith in him.
"I know who he is," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "I know the type of football player he is and I know the type of guy he is. I never would have questioned his competitiveness or his lack of effort or whatever you want to say. I'll never question it. I know he's going to be there for me, for his teammates, and for this organization."
Elliott agreed that "who he is" is different than what fans saw from him in Denver.
It [was] definitely not me," Elliott said. "It's definitely not the type of player I am. It's definitely not who I am for this team. I just can't do that. I was frustrated. I wasn't myself."
The good news for Cowboys fans is that if Elliott's performance really was a momentarily lapse in effort due to frustration then the course for correction is pretty simple. The Cowboys keys to success rely pretty heavily on Elliott's ability to dominate early and frustrate defenses, not the other way around.[embeddedad0]
Elliott said that Denver's defense didn't show them anything they hadn't seen before. It just happened to be the first time it worked so successfully for a defense.
"I don't think there's any blueprint on how to stop us," Elliott said. "I think it all depends on how we go out there and execute."