FRISCO, Texas – All NFL games are important, but there's no harm in acknowledging the situation at hand.
Sitting two games below .500, with an NFC East game on the horizon this weekend, Ezekiel Elliott was asked Wednesday if this trip to Philadelphia is a must-win situation. He answered accordingly.
"One hundred percent, yeah. It's a must-win," Elliott said. "Being a division game, that makes it that much more important. So I mean definitely it's a must-win."
The Cowboys' 3-5 record at the halfway point of the season hardly inspires confidence, but if there is some reason for optimism it'd probably be the current state of their division. The NFC East has rounded into one of the shoddiest divisions in football this season. Its lone winning team, the Washington Redskins, just finished off a 38-14 loss to drop to 5-3.
Sitting two games back with three more division games to play, the Cowboys have plenty of time to catch up. The only remaining issue is whether they can play well enough to do so – especially without much in the way of a margin for error.
"We've definitely talked about having that mentality – us versus the world," Elliott said. "We've got to go out there and win as many ball games as we can to give ourselves an opportunity to get in the playoffs. We need to attack that the right way and prepare so we're ready."
If they're going to do that, a big part of the equation will be their struggling ground game. The Cowboys built their team to run the ball, and they've prided themselves on that ability for years.
The blunt truth of the matter, though, is that they haven't been hitting those marks recently. Elliott was stonewalled for just 33 rushing yards in the Oct. 21 loss to Washington, and after a hot start against Tennessee, he finished with just 61 yards on 17 rushes.
"We've got to get this run game going – point, blank, period," Elliott said.
That total, 94 yards, is the lowest two-game total for Elliott going back to September of last year, when he tallied 88 yards in back-to-back efforts against Denver and Arizona.
Elliott said at least part of that is due to the way the game played out. The Cowboys had just four second half possessions against the Titans, and only three when the game was within one score. That's been a familiar problem for the Cowboys, and it's something Elliott said they need to fix by starting faster.
"It just gets back to the problems we had early in the season. If you're down two touchdowns, you're not running the ball," he said. "If you're down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, you've got to come out passing and score quickly. I think it's a casualty of the situation."
The Eagles will present another opportunity to do that, though it doesn't look likely to get easier. Philadelphia allows an average of just 84 rushing yards per game, good enough for No. 2 in the NFL.
Given the situation they're in, Elliott said they'll simply have to find a way.
"We've got to get it going, we've got to figure out how we're going to do that," he said.