"Zeke, to his credit, he didn't have any room today," Tomlinson said Sunday on NFL Network (h/t Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). "He was running, getting hit in the backfield, making moves in the backfield. But all of that is OK. I didn't like the way he quit today. I didn't like that. He absolutely quit on his team today."
The Broncos held Elliott to a career-low eight yards on nine carries. He had never been held under 50 yards in an NFL game and rushed for at least 80 in 15 of his first 16 pro contests.
"We definitely won't be discouraged," Elliott told reporters. "Last year at this time we were 1-1. It's a 16-game season and it's only Game 2. We can get so much better. If you're peaking right now, you're going to have a problem. You don't want to peak right now, you want to peak at the end of the season and get rolling. We just can't come out like this.
"It's a little bump in the road. We got to learn from this and get better."
The Cowboys finished with a disappointing 268 total yards overall, with the Broncos defense looking in peak form in all facets. Dak Prescott had one of his worst games as a pro, throwing for 238 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. Prescott averaged just 4.8 yards per pass attempt, threw a pick six and had only one play of 20 or more yards.
"First his attitude on the sideline. Clearly, he didn't have any communication with his teammates," Tomlinson said about Elliott. "But also, he didn't want to talk to his teammates. Some times when things are going wrong, as a leader of that team, as a captain, you have to step up and rally the troops. You have to go to the offensive line and say, 'I know it's tough but let's keep battling, let's keep fighting.' You have to go to the quarterback and say, 'Hey man, I'm not getting it done today - you have to step it up.' You have to rally the troops.
"They need him to do that because last year, he led the league in rushing. So everybody is looking at him as the top dog. So if you want to be the top dog, you have to do it on and off the field."
Dallas has scored 36 total points through the first two weeks; its 18-point average is more than eight points off its 2016 rate.