Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott believes the running game is slowing coming together after two respectable but less than dominant performances.
He rushed 15 times for 69 yards in the 16-8 season-opening loss against the Carolina Panthers and 17 times for 78 yards in last Sunday’s 20-13 victory against the New York Giants.
That’s the first time in his career with back-to-back sub-80-yard rushing games. It’s also the first time Elliott has had consecutive games with fewer than 20 rushes.
If history is an indicator, then Elliott should break out in Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.
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In each of the past two seasons, it was the third game when Elliott started to get on a roll.
It was Week 3 during his record-breaking rookie season in 2016 when he began a streak of four straight games of least 134 yards of more en route to 1,631 for the season.
Last season’s suspension-marred campaign saw Elliott rebound from a nine-carry, eight-yard performance with no less than 80 yards in every game he played for rest of the season.
“I think it does feel that way just the way we’ve progressed from Week 1 to Week 2 finally kind of getting it together Week 2 and getting a little momentum and making sure that we take what built up to last week and carry it over and get better,” Elliott said if he felt he was ready to break out in Week 3 again.
What has him most excited is how the Cowboys finished against the Giants by clinching the game in the fourth quarter with an 86-yard scoring drive. He had five carries for 29 yards, including the capper on a six-yard run.
“I think we were getting into a rhythm,” Elliott said. “I think we are really close to where we need to be. We are one block, one man away from hitting some big ones.”
Elliott said he is “itching” to hit the big one but he has to stay focused and disciplined because of the formula for success of wearing teams down with physical play in the run game is tried and true.
That last drive reminded him of the identity and style the team patented in 2016 when he led the league in rushing and they finished 13-3.
“I think that is what we are getting to,” Elliott said. “When we play physical from the first to third quarter those defensive guys are going to be worn down in the fourth quarter. And we have to keep bringing it to them early in the game and keep that same mentality.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll is certainly wary.
“He can do everything,” Carroll said. “He’s got great versatility. He can run with power, he runs with speed. He can catch the ball real well. He’s a very good competitor. He can block really well. He’s just a complete football player.”
Carroll would know as well as anyone.
As if the Cowboys are regaining their old identity and Elliott is starting to feel like himself again, then it’s fitting that it would all come together Sunday in Seattle, considering that was where he first let the NFL world know that he was fast, physical and fearless in what was his first outing as a rookie.
Elliott, who missed the first two games preseason games with a hamstring injury, made his NFL debut in the third preseason game. He ran right at the famed Legion of Boom defense and standout safety Kam Chancellor, announcing his arrival to the rest of the league.
Guard Zack Martin remembers it well.
“I think it was the first time he played,” Martin said. “He was very physical, putting his head down and getting extra yards. That’s how he runs. It spoke volumes to how much of a competitor he is and how hard he runs the football.”
Said Elliott: “You know it was just exciting. It was my first time suiting up as a pro. I had been hurt all camp with a little tweaked hammy so it was like my first time getting to go full speed and just was a lot of energy up there.”
It’s Week 3.
He’s planning to bring the energy again and get on his traditional roll.