FRISCO, Texas – The beauty of the quote comes in its simplicity, but also its versatility.
"This is where we are."
That's Ezekiel Elliott's response to the disappointment of this latest loss to Minnesota. The response to a sterling 3-0 start that has turned into a middling 5-4 record. As is often the case in the week-to-week world of football, it's the response of someone who can't afford to dwell on the past.
"We can't control what happened. All we can control is this Sunday," Elliott said. "We've just got to go out there and win a ball game."
That mantra applies in a literal sense, as well. Elliott speaks to reporters the minute the locker room opens on Wednesday afternoons. Win or lose, he is the first Cowboys player to face the scrutiny of the media at the outset of any given week.
When times are good, it's a fairly jovial atmosphere. When the Cowboys lose in heartbreaking fashion, not so much. All the more motivation for Elliott to help his team regain that winning feeling.
"Go win Sunday and you guys won't be too disappointed next Wednesday," he joked. "If we win, you guys think we're the best team in the world; if we lose, oh no. So we've just got to go out there and win."
It's been a season of streaks to this point in the year, which helps explain the mood swings that surround the Cowboys. They won three straight to open the season, then they lost three straight. That turned into a pair of wins against New York and Philadelphia, before this latest setback – which the Cowboys can't afford to allow to extend.
The taste is especially bitter for Elliott, who suffered one of the most frustrating nights of his career in that 28-24 loss.
"You never expect to have a performance like that, but you've got to take it," Elliott said. "Take it, put that chip on your shoulder and use it as fuel when you go back to work the next week. Try to not let it happen again."
As trying as the season has been already, this next month figures to tell the full story. The Lions are currently struggling with a 3-5-1 record. But the next two opponents after Detroit, and four of the next five, are at least one game above .500. It sounds like a steep challenge for a team with just one win against a winning team this season.
To hear it from Elliott, though, it's not surprising – it's a byproduct of playing in a hypercompetitive league.
"It's the NFL. You're not going to be 12-4 every year, you're not going to be 13-3, you're not going to be 10-6 every year," he said. "But what matters is you give yourself a chance at the end of the year in the playoffs. We're not 9-0, we're not 8-1, but we still are in the race for being in the playoffs."
To borrow Elliott's own phrase, this is where they are -- not quite where they want to be, but with everything still in front of them. The only thing that matters is what comes next.