Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is not ready to give up on the season.
But he said the team is clearly in must-win mode at 3-5 heading into Sunday’s NFC East showdown at the Philadelphia Eagles.
“100 percent, it’s a must win,” Elliott said. “Being a division game that makes it that much more important. Must win
“We definitely have talked about it. Definitely talked about kind of just having that mentality. We got to go out there and win as many ballgames as we can to get ourselves the opportunity to get in the playoffs.”
For the Cowboys to reach that goal, Elliott said he and the ground game need to become big factors in the offense again.
He ranks fourth in the league in rushing with 680 yards, but the numbers lie in terms of his effectiveness, especially the past two games, losses to the Washington Redskins (20-17) and the Tennessee Titans (28-14) on Monday.
Elliott had 15 carries for 32 yards against the Redskins and 17 for 61 against the Titans when he had just six touches in the second half.
“We’ve got to get this run game going, point blank, period,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to get it going. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to do that. It’s been inconsistent. I think we made some good strides last week early in the game, but still not where it needs to be. Still not at the level that it should be.”
Elliott said he was encouraged early against the Titans when he gained 32 yards on his first four touches. But then he was stopped for a three-yard loss on 2nd-and-4 from the 17.
An incomplete pass on third down was followed by a missed field goal.
He had six-yard carry and a loss of two yards on the next drive that resulted in a four-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper.
And then following a 37-yard reception on a screen, a two-yard loss on run was followed by an interception by quarterback Dak Prescott.
Nine carries for 31 yards in the first quarter was followed by four carries for 14 yards in the second quarter and five carries for 16 yards in the third.
He had no carries and just one reception in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys were in comeback mode down 28-14.
Elliott thought was going to have a big game early then it fizzled out.
“Definitely frustrating,” Elliott said. “It just gets back to the conversations we had earlier this season. If you’re down two touchdowns, there’s no running the ball. If you’re down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, you’ve got go with the passing game, score quick. I think it’s a casualty of the situation.”
But the larger point is not lost on Elliott. The Cowboys have to find a way to make him and the running game effective throughout the game and that’s the plan for Sunday.
“There’s a bunch of different ways you can do it,” Elliott said. “I think we have some good plans, some good schemes to get me involved in the game, keep me involved.”