ARLINGTON, Texas — Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was not blaming any part of Monday night’s 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on quarterback Dak Prescott‘s absence. He was putting it all on himself.
“I don’t think we can use that as an excuse,” Elliott said of not having Prescott, who suffered a season-ending compound fracture and dislocated right ankle in Week 5. “I’m just going to keep saying it over and over — I started the game out with two fumbles, gave the ball away and gave them all the momentum they need to go take off. I want to say I’m sorry and this one is on me. I need to be better.”
Elliott finished with 49 yards on 12 carries and caught a team-high eight passes but for just 31 yards. However, it was fumbles on back-to-back drives in the first and second quarters that changed the game.
The first fumble came after catching a short pass from Andy Dalton on second down, but safety Budda Baker stripped the ball free and Jordan Phillips recovered. Eleven plays later Kyler Murray and Christian Kirk hooked up for a 6-yard flip for a touchdown.
Two plays into the next possession, Elliott fumbled again, with Phillips poking the ball free at the Dallas 30. Five plays later, Arizona running back Kenyan Drake scored the Cardinals’ second touchdown and gave them a 14-0 lead.
“I mean, when you’re fumbling every game obviously teams are going to lock in on it and go for it even more,” Elliott said. “That’s even more of a reason I need to figure it out, man. I don’t want to keep talking about it, but I’ve got to figure out a way to figure it out.”
When the Cowboys took the field after Elliott’s second fumble, Tony Pollard was the running back. When Elliott returned to the field after eight snaps, there was a murmur among the crowd.
“Every player that plays in this league, no different on our football team, if you don’t take care of the football, it does affect your opportunities,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Tony got an opportunity, and I thought he did some really good things with his opportunities.”
Elliott has lost a career-high four fumbles in six games, and opponents have turned every takeaway into a touchdown. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Elliot has more fumbles lost in 133 carries than all nine of the NFL’s other top 10 rushers combined in 1,104 touches (three).
“I’m giving the ball away,” Elliott said. “I wasn’t helping my team. I think they did the right thing and gave some of those reps to [Pollard], but I can’t do that. I have to be a guy this team can lean on, especially at times like right now with so many of our starters hurt and not playing. So it’s not acceptable, and I need to figure it out.”
Elliott said he focuses on keeping the ball tight in practice. The Cowboys do ballhandling drills every day in practice.
“I just got to have a short memory,” Elliott said. “I’ve got to get that behind me and play some good ball and get on a roll.”
Elliott has gone a career-long six games without a 100-yard outing. He had a five-game drought in Weeks 10-14 last season, but had not gone more than two games to open a season without a 100-yard performance prior to 2020.
Some of that can be pinned on a defense that has struggled, but 84 of the 218 points the Cowboys (2-4) have allowed this season have come off turnovers.
“He understands that. He knows that,” Dalton said. “Zeke’s going to get this thing fixed.”
Elliott also knows he needs to get it fixed quickly.
“At the end of the day, Zeke is our bell cow, and we need to get it right,” McCarthy said. “He’s part of the plan. He’s going to be part of the success. We have to get it right. We have to take care of the football, and that’s for everybody that touches the football on our team.”