Anybody who's kept up with the first four weeks of the Cowboys season has a pretty good idea of which side of the ball the majority of the blame has fallen on. But when a team has a negative turnover ratio both the offense and the defense are complicit in the problem.
The Cowboys are sitting on a minus-seven turnover ratio, and to put it bluntly, head coach Mike McCarthy is not happy about it.
"Trust me, I do not like where we are with the turnover ratio," McCarthy said on Wednesday. "Everyone clearly understands that on our team."
One of those people has been a source of the problem: Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys star running back is arguably at his most dangerous when protecting a lead and wearing down a defense. Unfortunately, the Cowboys have still yet to hold a lead for any substantial amount of time this season. Again, some would blame the defense, but Elliott knows better.
"We've gotten behind in games, and I'd say that's because we've turned the ball over," Elliott said on Wednesday.
It has mostly seemed like an inevitability that the Cowboys' offense will start rolling as the game goes on and score a healthy amount of points, but they've managed to start games and halves with a nonchalance that has actually made life more difficult on their defense.
"We're turning the ball over, giving them short fields, and putting them in position to go score and get leads on us," Elliott said. "We've just got to take care of the ball early in the game."
We turned into I fairly quickly as Elliott spoke, as he has already fumbled it three times in four games. On Wednesday he was asked to explain his costly fumble against the Browns and he mostly attributed it to a lack of focus.
"The fumble in Cleveland, I think once I rolled over and my butt was on his head I kind of eased up and that gave him the opportunity to take the ball out. I just got to focus and work on it in practice and make sure I'm keeping that ball tight."
When you look at the rollercoaster of games that have led to the Cowboys' 1-3 record, mistakes like these really do make the difference between wins and losses. The expectations for Elliott's performance are far too high for him to be the one making them, and he knows that.
"It hurts," Elliott said. "I look at myself as a leader for this team. And I look at myself as someone who's supposed to help pick the team up when we get down and not be the cause of falling behind."
It's still early in the season, and Elliott still carries an enormous responsibility for the team going forward. He says that he knows that that future opponents are going to see his three fumbles on film and look at him as an opportunity to create a turnover.
"I can't give up the ball anymore," Elliott stated, emphatically.
McCarthy reminded the media on Wednesday that in his 13 years in Green Bay the Packers had a plus-103 turnover ratio, and it's an aspect of the game he knows is crucial to success. For his part, Elliott said that he needs to address the issue, even if it means running a little bit conservatively. Nothing is more important than keeping the ball.
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