Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott overcomes slow start as Cowboys get running game on track

Ezekiel Elliott scores for the Cowboys against the the Arizona Cardinals in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on Monday night.
Ezekiel Elliott scores for the Cowboys against the the Arizona Cardinals in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on Monday night. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys rushing attack got back on track enough Monday. Don’t expect any Hall of Famers questioning his effort this week.

It wasn’t pretty at first, but Elliott and the offensive line eventually wore the Arizona Cardinals defense down like they did to so many opponents last season.

Just look at the drive in which the Cowboys took the lead for the first time and held on to it in a 28-17 victory over the Cardinals.

On the four-play, 46-yard touchdown drive early in the second half, the Cowboys handed the ball off to Elliott three straight times. He rushed for 8, 3 and 20 yards, setting up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Dez Bryant.

The Cowboys took a 14-7 lead after that. Then Elliott put the game away with an 8-yard rushing touchdown late in the game, his first of the season.

Elliott finished with 80 yards on 22 carries, including a season-long 30-yard run in the second quarter. Those are far from eye-opening numbers, and is tied for the third-fewest in his young career.

But it’s a significant improvement from how Elliott and the rushing game fared against the Denver Broncos in Week 2. Elliott was held to just 8 yards on nine carries, the worst performance of his football career.

Elliott drew more ire from the coaching staff and NFL analysts such as Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson for his lack of effort on a couple of interceptions thrown by Prescott. Elliott didn’t disagree with the assessment and said he couldn’t play like that going forward.

“I would say I was just very frustrated, but that’s no excuse for the lack of effort I showed on tape,” Elliott said last week. “I just can’t do that. Being one of the leaders on the team and being a guy that people count on, I can’t put that type of stuff on film.”

Early on, though, it appeared that Elliott and the Cowboys were in for another dud performance. Elliott had three carries for minus-3 yards on the opening two drives, each three-and-outs.

On the next drive, Elliott busted loose for the 30-yard run and went on to have a solid enough night for the Cowboys to win.

Still, there remains lingering questions about Elliott’s status the rest of the season as he fights the NFL in federal court over a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He is expected to be available for next Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, but beyond that remains unknown.

Elliott could learn his fate as early as Oct. 2 when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a hearing on the NFL’s emergency motion for a stay.

The hearing will take place at 1 p.m. in New Orleans, and lawyers for the NFL and NFL Players’ Association will argue their cases for 20 minutes. A decision could come as early as that day.