I wanted to take a look at the Cowboys running game against the Packers defence, who were giving up less than two yards a carry against the run coming into this game, as this looked to be the match-up of the week and so it proved.
In a game where your defence gave up one hundred and ninety-one yard games, it might seem strange to say that for large parts of the game the run defence held up well, but to my eyes for good chunks of the game the Packers did well against the run. The Packers’ front seven were not pushed off their run fits and there were no huge holes for Ezekiel Elliott to run through. However, they were clearly unable to contain Elliott who finished the game with one hundred and fifty-seven yards on the ground.
The big chunk plays that Elliott did manage to pick up were when he ran off the end of the line to attack the periphery of the defence where he was able to run the ball consistently. That’s not to say however that he did not have success up the middle, as Elliott only requires a small crease to get a good pick up as he hits the hole so hard. Even when there were no holes up the middle, the Cowboys offensive line is good enough for them to get positive yardage by pushing their men back. The other thing that struck me about Elliott though is that he is a running back who rides contact effectively as well as being able to make defenders miss, which means that it is hard for defenders to get a hit on him and even when they do he doesn’t go down easily. This when coupled with his speed and acceleration makes him a fearsome runner which allowed him to generate these kinds of numbers against a defence that wasn’t playing badly.
His longest run was a twenty-nine yard play in the fourth quarter where coming out of a double tight-end formation with one either side of the formation and there was no player over left tackle Tyron Smith. With Packers’ linebacker Blake Martinez bursting through between guard and centre but unable to disrupt the hand off, Smith was able to seal off safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Elliott had enough space to run up the middle for the huge gain. This was really the only time that the defence was miscalled, and whilst the Cowboys line did occasionally open up some nice holes, most of the time it was Elliott’s ability to run the ball as much as anything that did the damage.
So how do you solve a problem like Ezekiel? Well since he has developed some patience after the first couple of games, he has consistently run for over one hundred and thirty yards a game so the answer appears to be at the moment that you don’t. In this game you do wonder why he was in during the last series given the Cowboys were two touchdowns ahead, but numbers aside, Elliott has got off to an excellent start behind a no doubt very good offensive line. The big problem for the Cowboys last year was their inability to win without Tony Romo, but with both Romo and Dez Bryant out again this year, the new foundation of Elliott combined with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has the Cowboys at 5-1 and whilst we shouldn’t get carried away yet, the signs are hopeful in Dallas. I would not be too worried about the defence for the Packers as they still looked good against the run for large parts of this game, and I doubt they will be the last to get gouged by Ezekiel Elliot.