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September 19, 2017

All-22 of Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott giving no effort

Eagles NFL

On Sunday during the Dallas Cowboys' game in Denver against the Broncos, quarterback Dak Prescott threw an interception to Chris Harris, which Harris returned for 23 yards to the Dallas 23 yard line.

Several media figures such as Peter King and Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson harshly criticized Elliott on the play, and rightfully so.

Barry Petchesky of Deadspin defended Elliott against his detractors on the play.

Sure, Elliott quit on that play, but I find it very hard to care too much. I’m genuinely confused by how over-the-top King is here. This doesn’t seem egregiously worse that what you’d see from tons of receivers if you ISO’d them after a pick. But more than that, Elliott was going the wrong way. He wasn’t going to catch Harris. Nobody wants their star RB risking injury just to pretend to try to make a meaningless tackle late in a three-score game. What people want, it seems, is for Elliott to have at least jogged back toward the ball the way most players do in that situation, made it look like he was in pursuit, and then, well, aren’t we bizarrely asking to be lied to? For Elliott to help us maintain an illusion that athletes go all-out at every single moment, even though we know it’s not true? Now we’re just talking about optics instead of actual football.

Well... let's take a look at the All-22. Elliott is lined up in the slot to the left of the formation. Watch as he slowly walks toward his sideline after the pick, never for a second looking to make a tackle on the play.

Obviously, Elliott's effort above is horrid, and indefensible. Yes, the Cowboys were down by 18 with a little over six minutes left in the third quarter. They were also down by 15 with the same time remaining a year ago in the playoffs against the Packers, and they came back to tie that game before eventually losing in regulation. In other words, this game was far from over. 

On the play itself, from the time Harris grabbed the interception until the time he was tackled, 8.6 seconds elapsed. The idea by Petschesky that Elliott "wasn’t going to catch Harris" is 100 percent wrong. The reality is that Elliott probably had the best chance of anyone on Dallas' offense to make the tackle, given the way the return played out.

Additionally, the notion from Petchesky that that's "what you’d see from tons of receivers if you ISO’d them after a pick" is also absolutely false. Not to consider myself a scout or something, but in my time covering the NFL and watching a lot coaches' film, I have never seen an effort as bad as what Elliott showed on that play, and that is coming from someone who has covered Reuben Randle and Dorial Green-Beckham.

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