July 16, 2024

Patriots

“You bought the ball in your arms — it is such as you’ve obtained the entire destiny of the staff in your arms.”

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 10: Ezekiel Elliott #15 of the New England Patriots looks on during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Ezekiel Elliott completed with 43 complete yards in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles. Maddie Meyer/Getty Photos

FOXBOROUGH — Ezekiel Elliott is probably not the every-down, franchise working again that he was throughout his prime years with the Dallas Cowboys.

However the 28-year-old working again’s ability set provides arguably the best blueprint for what the Patriots covet in a working again, particularly anticipated to fit behind Rhamondre Stevenson on the depth chart.

Elliott’s short-yardage manufacturing (seven of his 12 touchdowns final yr got here from the 1-yard line) ought to come in useful this season, whereas his pass-blocking skills will likely be utilized many instances to purchase Mac Jones extra time.

However given Invoice Belichick’s emphasis through the years on ball safety (and the following wrath that awaits the gamers who stray from these fundamentals), Elliott looks like the proper match for this roster.

Getting into Sunday’s debut with the Patriots, Elliott was knocked for only one fumble over the earlier two seasons — equating to 532 complete touches.

However in a merciless accident, it solely took two touches in a New England jersey for Elliott to reset the clock when it got here to self-inflicted miscues.

Simply seven performs into the season for Mac Jones and New England’s offense, a excessive throw (and subsequent bobble from Kendrick Bourne) resulted in a 70-yard pick-six for Darius Slay, handing the Eagles a 10-0 lead with 4:56 left within the first quarter.

New England’s subsequent play on offense yielded one other disastrous outcomes. As Jones and Co. tried to proper the ship, a easy display move to Elliott unraveled after Eagles defensive lineman Jordan Davis ripped the ball unfastened from the working again’s grasp.

Philadelphia pounced on the unfastened ball and took possession, beginning a brand new drive on New England’s 26-yard line.

Simply 5 performs later, Jalen Hurts fired a landing move into DeVonta Smith from the 5-yard line, giving Philly a 16-0 lead within the first quarter.

Although Jones was fast responsible himself for New England’s offensive lapses within the first and fourth quarters, Elliott took himself to process for his function within the Patriots’ 16-point deficit. 

“It’s unacceptable,” Elliott stated postgame. “You possibly can’t give the ball again to the protection. You bought the ball in your arms — it’s such as you’ve obtained the entire destiny of the staff in your arms. So that you simply gotta repair that … That’s not acceptable. Placing the ball on the bottom.

“So I imply, simply obtained to get again within the lab and lock in on the basics, and lock in preserving that ball good and tight and prepare for subsequent week.”

The Patriots’ offense did handle to land some punches as the sport went on, particularly via the air. Jones completed with 316 passing yards and three touchdowns, and 6 totally different gamers posted a minimum of 30 receiving yards.

However the run recreation was a unique story. Elliott led the way in which for New England with simply 29 complete dashing yards, whereas the Patriots’ No. 1 possibility in Stevenson averaged simply 2.1 yards per carry.

Even together with his pricey fumble, the Patriots dialed up loads of performs for Elliott on Sunday, using the veteran again in quite a lot of totally different formations.

His prime play of the night got here on his first contact with New England, reeling off an 11-yard pickup whereas in a “pony” formation the place he was lined up subsequent to Jones alongside Stevenson.

Later within the recreation, Elliott helped New England acquire a primary down whereas working as a fullback in I-formation, shifting in movement earlier than pushing via the center and previous a line of our bodies in an effort to transfer the chains.

“It’s nice. I feel we complement one another very properly,” Elliott stated of lining up subsequent to Stevenson. “I feel we may do lots of the identical stuff. And I feel it undoubtedly causes some issues for defenses once we’re each on the sphere on the identical time.”

Elliott’s first recreation with the Patriots didn’t come as anticipated for the previous All-Professional again.

However Jones and the offense’s second-quarter surge and late-game rally did supply some optimism for a unit seeking to construct some momentum coming into Week 2 towards the Dolphins.

“It was undoubtedly encouraging,” Elliott stated of New England’s struggle as Sunday’s recreation progressed. “We all know what we’ve got on this locker room. We all know the kind of protection we’ve got. We simply obtained to do our job on offense.”