The Dallas Cowboys entered halftime of Thursday’s season opener trailing, 21-16, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cowboys went on to lose, 31-29, in an action-packed affair that nearly resulted in a massive upset of the reigning Super Bowl champions.
No thanks to Ezekiel Elliott.
The $90 million running back, who vowed to avenge last year’s career-worst output, carried the football four times for 12 yards in the first half of the game. He finished with 33 scoreless yards on 11 attempts. That’s it. That’s the stat line.
Contrast this to quarterback Dak Prescott, who connected on 23 of a whopping 32 pass attempts for 224 yards and two touchdowns over that same span. Prescott ended the night having completed 42 of 58 balls for 403 yards, three TDs, and one interception. It was evident his partner-in-crime wasn’t central to the game plan.
“Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott have produced a good first half. Looks like Dallas has elected to pass instead of run the ball in an attempt to beat Tampa Bay,” tweeted beat reporter Calvin Watkins.
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Reaction to Zeke’s Non-Usage
Being a nationally televised prime time opener, fans, media, and even fellow NFL players alike lit social media aflame upon noticing Elliott’s contributions — or lack thereof. Some were quick to note the box score of Zeke’s understudy, Tony Pollard. Others … well, just had memes.
“Cowboys RB Tony Pollard has four touches: three receptions for 23 yards and that 0-yard run. RB Ezekiel Elliott has three touches, all carries for 10 yards,” tweeted Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
“It’s two minutes left in the half and Zeke Elliott has four carries. Five touches, total,” tweeted Watkins.
“They gon give Zeke the ball any…. I’m trying to see bro spin,” tweeted Denver Broncos RB Melvin Gordon.
“Zeke has been a monster in pass protection tonight. He is not getting his number called much in this first half, but he is finding a way to help out,” tweeted Grant Paulsen of NBCS Washington.
“For everyone complaining about how much the Cowboys are throwing, the Bucs were No. 1 in run defense last year. They have a pair of guys inside named Suh and Vea. You are not going to run against them,” tweeted Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk.
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Prior to Thursday’s lid-lifter, Elliott declared that he has turned the page on his career-worst 2020 — when he recorded personal-lows in ground yards (979), yards per carry (4.0), yards per game (65.3), and carries per game (16.3) — and is ready to pen a new plot in 2021.
“I’m definitely excited to kinda start a new chapter so I can kinda redeem myself from last year,” Elliott told reporters Sunday, via USA Today. “Just excited to get back out there and put my best work on film.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL