Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett confirmed Monday that he would discuss the lack of effort Ezekiel Elliott displayed during two Dak Prescott interceptions in the team's 42-17 loss on Sunday to the Denver Broncos.
"One of the things we preach to our team on both sides of the ball when there is a turnover, everybody's involved," Garrett said, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. "If you're an offensive player, you become a defensive player on a fumble or an interception. Zeke is one of the most natural competitors that I've ever been around. He loves to play. He loves to practice. I think we've seen that through his first year playing, and those two plays are not indicative of the kind of competitor that he is and we have to get addressed."
On the first interception by Chris Harris, Elliott—who was running a slant route on the play—watched as Harris ran by him after he picked off the ball. Elliott then put his hands on his hips rather than attempt to chase him down.
On the second interception, which Aqib Talib returned for a 103-yard touchdown, it didn't appear that Elliott made much effort to pursue him. Elliott had been in pass protection on that play. While several offensive linemen and Prescott could be seen in the replay trying to chase down Talib, Elliott never entered the picture.
Garrett didn't excuse Elliott's lack of effort after the game, but he acknowledged that Elliott may have been irritated after being completely bottled up by the Denver defense for the entirety of Sunday's contest.
"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 eight yards, so there's no question frustration could have set in," he noted.
Elliott had been fantastic for the Cowboys before Sunday, never failing to rush for 50 yards in his previous 16 regular-season career games. He rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns in his rookie season.
When faced with adversity on Sunday, however, Elliott didn't put his best foot forward. NFL Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, now an analyst for NFL Network, was shocked by Elliott's lack of effort.
"Your natural reaction as a competitor and as a player, when you see that, is to go get them right away," he said on NFL Total Access, per NFL.com. "If that was me, I'm thinking right away, 'I'm going to run him down, I'm going to strip the ball and get it back, and if I don't strip it, I'm going to hit this guy so hard that he's never going to want to intercept the ball again.' The fact that he looked at Harris, turned around and walked away, that's quitting on your team. I don't know the last time I've seen that type of effort on a play like that."