Ezekiel Elliott just wants to win.
It’s obvious in the running back’s body language, especially in his postgame interviews. He’s all smiles after a victory, literally bouncing around in his seat whether or not he had a particularly noteworthy outing in the personal stats department.
While his Monday night performance was Elliott’s season-best in terms of carries, yards, average, and touchdowns, it was clearly the fact that the Cowboys had manhandled the division rival Eagles by a 41-21 score that made his face light up.
Toward the end of the Week 3 contest, Elliott found himself on the sideline just five yards shy of posting his first 100-yard game since last December (also against Philadelphia, by the way), but that was okay with the two-time rushing champ. He was happier that backup Corey Clement got to see the field and take a few totes against his former team.
“I wanted him to go in there and get a chance to get after them,” Elliott told reporters after the win. “A hundred [rushing yards]? That’s cool, but the win is everything. A big win is everything. Division win, home opener, can’t beat it.”
#ICYMI @EzekielElliott’s TD in the first quarter of #PHIvsDAL moved the RB into sole possession of third place for the most rushing touchdowns in team history (48). #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/xGTdGXP7b6
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) September 28, 2021
Three games, three noticeably different game plans by Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The effort against Tampa in Week 1 may have fallen just short, but 2021 is already demonstrating that the Cowboys can attack in a variety of ways, depending on the opponent.
“Kellen always says, ‘We’re going to aggressively take what the defense gives us,’” guard Zack Martin explained of the night’s ground-and-pound approach. “We knew it was going to be a physical game. We knew we had to establish the run to kind of keep in our rhythm. We definitely took pride in that early on.”
The result? Dallas went into halftime more than doubled up on Philadelphia in time of possession. By the fourth quarter, Eagles defenders were clearly gassed.
“You can definitely tell,” Elliott told media members. “You can tell with the O-line pushing them all back five yards. You can tell when we’re going hurry-up and they’re still on the ground cramping up. They definitely felt us.”
Ezekiel Elliott’s attacking mentality behind a powerful offensive line set the early tone. https://t.co/1mmtnVs3ba
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) September 28, 2021
“It starts with the offensive line,” quarterback Dak Prescott said in his postgame press conference. “They were moving guys, double-teaming, getting to the next level, allowing Zeke to get through. And then when Zeke was, he was lowering is helmet and doing what he does, imposing his will. Once we got to the fourth quarter, it was obvious.”
“That’s the mentality of this team,” Elliott agreed. “We want to impose our will week in and week out. I think we took a step today.”
“Probably his best game of the year,” confirmed Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. “Ran hard, a lot of hard inside runs. I thought we did a really good job keeping both our backs square, downhill. That was the emphasis; I thought our guys delivered.”
Elliott delivered indeed, to the tune of notching his best per-carry rushing average (5.6 yards) since the 2019 season finale. Tony Pollard posted similar numbers on the night: 60 yards on 11 rushes for a 5.5-yard average.
After a Week 1 outing that saw Elliott acting primarily as a pass blocker and a Week 2 follow-up that featured a tandem split between him and Pollard, the team stressed that Elliott’s overall role had in no way diminished. There will be games when we need him was the mantra.
Ezekiel Elliott standing on the bench, waving his arms as the crowd gets louder pic.twitter.com/LaWMstRSgo
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 28, 2021
Yet even after delivering his best game in some time, Elliott found himself standing on the sideline in the waning moments of a division rivalry. And that was just fine, given the victorious circumstances.
“It’s a great feeling,” Elliott said. “A lot of times in this league, a lot of games are coming down to that last possession. You really don’t get that luxury a lot.”
He was, of course, beaming as he left the podium.