Vikings Bottle Up Zeke & The Ground Game


ARLINGTON, Texas – Jerry Jones summed it up better than anyone else could.

The Cowboys' owner/general manager has a way with words, and he masterfully broke down the biggest problem in his team's 28-24 loss to Minnesota on Sunday night.

"You basically could've put a sign on the start of the game that said 'Zeke's not going anywhere,' and that was the story of the game," Jones said.

That's an understatement. Against a stacked Vikings front, Elliott had one of the worst outings of his illustrious career, grinding out just 47 yards on 20 carries, with a long run of just six yards.

"We had to do that. We had to make him be one dimensional," said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.

It was a stark contrast from the last two games. Prior to Sunday night, Elliott seemed to be finding his groove with back-to-back 100-yard performances against the Eagles and Giants. And while the ground game was ineffective for the entire night, you can't blame the Cowboys for a lack of trying.

As an offense, the Cowboys faced 30 first downs in the game. They ran on 16 of them, grinding out just 39 yards in the process.

"Obviously, there was a lot of attention there, they have a really good front," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "They have good linebackers, they have a good run defense."

The sequence that will be remembered the longest came in the dying minutes, when the Cowboys handed off to Elliott on consecutive plays and were stuffed, setting up an ill-fated fourth down.

"It's important for us to continue to try to run the ball," Garrett said. "In normal circumstances you would think, if we give it to Zeke a couple times on second and inside of two yards, that we're going to make that first down. Unfortunately, it didn't happen in this game."

For his part, Elliott said he doesn't care who's getting his number called, so long as it's leading to the desired result.

"I want to win the ball game," he said. "Whatever it's going to take to win the ball game, that's what I want."

It's surreal to think that running the ball wasn't part of the winning formula, given all the success Elliott has had in a Cowboys uniform. On this night, the Vikings made it clear: it wasn't going to happen.

"It's definitely frustrating," Elliott said. "But they're a pro team too, and they did a good job bottling up the run and they embattled us."