Elliott talking football after helping Cowboys top Giants
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Ezekiel Elliott churned out another 100-yard game in the opener after leading the NFL in rushing as a rookie for the Dallas Cowboys.
The tough yards against the New York Giants came two days after a judge blocked the league’s six-game suspension of the star running back in a domestic violence case, although he knew before the ruling he would play in what turned out to be a 19-3 Dallas win Sunday night.
Now that he could play the entire season depending on the NFL’s next legal move, Elliott is ready to talk about football – and not much else.
”I’m not really talking about it anymore,” Elliott said in his first public comments since June after rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries and getting another 36 yards receiving.
”I’m just talking about this team. And that’s what’s important. This whole situation has been such a distraction but what’s really important and what really should be getting all the light is this team.”
Tight end Jason Witten scored the only touchdown while breaking Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin’s franchise record for receiving yards, and the Dallas defense shackled a New York offense that was missing dynamic receiver Odell Beckham Jr. because of a sprained left ankle.
”Obviously he’s a tremendous player, but we have players and we have to play better than that,” Eli Manning said after joining Brett Favre (297) and brother Peyton Manning (208) as the only quarterbacks with at least 200 straight starts. ”We just have to do a better job.”
Elliott was suspended last month after the NFL concluded following a yearlong investigation that the former Ohio State star had several physical confrontations with his then-girlfriend last summer.
The 22-year-old Elliott denied the allegations under oath, and his legal team argued that the NFL denied him a fair hearing. A federal judge agreed in a ruling issued Friday in Sherman, Texas, about 65 miles north of Dallas.
”I think every person (who is) a part of the Cowboys was lifted by that decision,” owner Jerry Jones said. ”Although he was playing in this game no matter what, the idea that we could have him for an extended period of time was certainly inspirational.”
Elliott had to work for his yards after the crowd cheered loudly when he was introduced and kept up the ”Zeke” calls while he made his trademark feed-me gesture after first downs. His biggest play was a 30-yard catch-and-run, easily the most open field he saw against one of the league’s best run defenses a year ago.
”You just have to focus on being the guy I need to be for this team,” said Elliott, who had 1,631 yards rushing last season. ”I think I am good for this locker room. And I just continue to remain myself and not let it weigh on me and wear me down. Just kind of put it aside and be me.”
Things to consider after the Cowboys snapped a three-game losing streak against the Giants and improved to 9-1 in openers against their NFC East rivals:
MORE WITTEN MILESTONES: Now that he’s broken Irvin’s record of 11,904 yards, Witten is set to break Ed ”Too Tall” Jones’ club record by playing in his 225th game at Denver next Sunday. Witten had seven catches for 59 yards, including a 12-yard score. His franchise leads now are 1,096 catches and 11,974 yards.
WITHOUT BECKHAM: Running back Shane Vereen led all receivers with nine catches and had 51 yards. Tight end Evan Engram, a rookie first-round pick, looks as if he could be an option after getting four catches for 44 yards.
Six-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall needs to show more if Beckham’s absence lingers. His only catch was a 10-yarder on the final drive with the outcome no longer in doubt. ”We just didn’t have any plays, especially in the first half,” Manning said. ”He’s a weapon and we’ve got to find ways to get him the ball.”
STEADY DAK: The Cowboys saw again that they can count on the steady hand of NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott. He struggled in similar ways to his second loss to the Giants last year, when the Cowboys had the best record in the NFC at 13-3 despite the New York sweep. But he led a turnover-free offense while throwing for 268 yards and the TD to Witten. ”We’ll take it starting the season off,” Prescott said.
OMINOUS OL: The offensive line was a big question for the Giants going into the season, and still is. Manning was sacked three times and hurried four more, and New York had just 35 yards rushing. ”No part of the offense was functional tonight,” coach Ben McAdoo said.
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