FRISCO, Texas – Ezekiel Elliott isn't ready to hear too much praise about the Cowboys' run game.
Sunday's 171-yard performance was a nice start, to be sure. But if Elliott is to believe the Cowboys have truly turned a corner, he needs to see it again and again.
"I think we made steps last week for sure, but we've got to repeat that this week. I think it's way too early to say we've turned a corner or anything," he said on Wednesday. "That's one performance. The one before last week wasn't that at all."
It feels strange to nitpick a ground game that is currently ranked fifth in the league, churning out 133 rushing yards per game. But if you've seen the Cowboys play offense this season – and if you remember their dominant seasons of the past – you know it hasn't always been that smooth.
Elliott struggled to get going two weeks ago against Tennessee, finishing with just 61 rushing yards, and he was stymied by Washington and Houston in weeks past. It's got to be encouraging to rack up eight yards per carry on the NFL's second-best rushing offense, though.
And looking at an Atlanta defense that's surrendering 120 yards per game on the ground can only serve as further encouragement.
"It's hard to say we've turned a corner, but what's important for us is that we look at what we did last week and prepare the same way we did last week and get ready to go play," Elliott said.
The obvious storyline this week for Elliott is the throwback to last year's trip to Atlanta, which was the first week of his six-game suspension. After a months-long legal battle, the NFL's penalty was eventually upheld and Elliott wasn't in attendance as Dak Prescott was sacked eight times in a 27-7 beatdown.
"I was just at home watching it," Elliott said. "It was tough to watch, but I'm glad I'm out there this year and able to help my guys go out there and try to get this win."
Not surprisingly, Elliott wasn't overly interested in talking about last year, when a muddled and contentious league investigation turned into one of the most widely-scrutinized legal battles in recent NFL history. The Cowboys' star running back was in and out of the lineup, as well as in and out of different court rooms roughly a dozen times before ultimately serving his suspension.
From the time since he returned, though, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he's been impressed by his focus and the dedication – not just to his game, but the team.
"I thought he handled a lot of the distractions last year very well," Garrett said. "He came back from them and now he's focused on those same things that we always thought he was all about. He's demonstrated that each and every day and certainly on Sundays."
This time around, when the Cowboys hit the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Elliott will be with them. And if he can find success like he had in Philadelphia, he'll give them an excellent chance to leave with a win.
Asked if the events of last season motivated him in this situation, though, Elliott brushed that aside. He said this current group of Cowboys can find plenty of motivation here in the present.
"It's hard to even need extra motivation when you're going into this game 4-5, you know what I mean?" he asked. "For the rest of this season, our backs are going to be against the wall. We have to do the best we can go out there and try to win every one of these last games."