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Elliott's attitude criticized in Cowboys loss
It wasn't so much that the Dallas Cowboys were beat Sunday in blowout fashion by the Denver Broncos.
The talk on Monday centered on the contrasting actions of their two leading performers, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott in the face of the adversity.
Prescott showed leadership and a contagious competitive fire while Elliott stood for an embarrassing lack of effort.
Head coach Jason Garrett wasn't pleased with Elliott's efforts after the Broncos intercepted Prescott twice, including a 103-yard return for a touchdown by Denver cornerback Aqib Talib late in the game. Elliott wasn't seen trying to prevent that score, and had his hands on his hips on an earlier interception as Chris Harris Jr. returned it 23 yards.
"One of the things we preach to our team on both sides of the ball when there is a turnover, everybody is involved," Garrett said. "If you're an offensive player, become a defensive player on a fumble or an interception. Zeke is one of the most natural competitors I've ever been around. He loves to play. He loves to practice. I think we've seen that through his first year playing. Those two plays were not indicative of the kind of competitor that he was and we have to get that addressed."
Expect the Cowboys to address it by showing those plays to the team this week as a teaching moment of what not to do. Expect them also to show plays where Elliott showcases his competitive nature.
Garrett said he had "no idea" why Elliott had such an uncharacteristic game, although frustration likely set in with Elliott who had only 8 yards on nine carries.
"I haven't spoken to him specifically. He certainly could have been frustrated," Garrett said. "Obviously, he had been very productive as a running back over the course of his career and certainly in the NFL up to this point and he had a game where he carried the ball nine times for 8 yards, so there's no question frustration could have set in."
Garrett recalled Elliott's college coach, Ohio State's Urban Meyer, telling the organization that Elliott is "the best player he's ever had when the ball is not in his hands."
That's part of the reason why the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth overall pick last season.
"One of the things that is the foundation of our football team is fight. We're going to compete and fight and scratch and claw," Garrett said. "That's what we're going to be. That's one of the reasons we love Zeke Elliott. That's what he is. Watch him play - he competes, he battles.
"Those plays were uncharacteristic of him. We'll certainly address it with him, but we have to address that with our entire team. That's not the way we play."
Garrett praised Prescott for how he handled his forgettable day. Prescott had his second career multi-interception game, was sacked twice and hit seven times and injured his ankle on a run.
But Garrett admired how Prescott didn't sulk in the moment and kept attacking as best he could. Garrett pointed to a sequence late in the game when Broncos linebacker Von Miller sacked Prescott on second down and then scrambled for 11 yards on third down to give the Cowboys a manageable fourth-and-three.
Garrett raved about the fight Prescott displayed throughout the game.
"Watch the tape of No. 4. No. 4 is a special player," Garrett said. "It was not an easy game for him. Got knocked around a little bit, got banged up early. And talk about a guy who battles. Talk about a guy who fights. Talk about a guy who leads the team under adversity, under duress. It was special.
"I reflect back on the best quarterbacks I've been around. Oftentimes the games I remember most are the ones that the situations are the most challenging. And you see how they respond. How they respond to a turnover, how they respond to guys hitting them in the face over and over and over again. You've heard me say this before, my old man says you can hit him in the face with a shovel and he keeps coming back. That's what Dak Prescott again demonstrated yesterday. I have no real concern about him responding the right way."
"Oftentimes people when you win a game, they think everything is great. It's not true. When you lose a game, they think everything is terrible. That's not true either. It's probably somewhere in the middle. Build on the good stuff, address the bad stuff and keep moving forward."