FRISCO, Texas -- The talking point from the Dallas Cowboys' Week 2 loss to the Denver Broncos, thanks in part to Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, was that Ezekiel Elliott "quit on his team."
Jason Garrett offered up a different talking point on Elliott from the Cowboys' Week 3 win against the Arizona Cardinals.
"If you were thinking about how they were loading the box and they had a lot of guys around the line of scrimmage, he's handling the ball," Garrett said. "Sometimes there's not a lot of places to run. Sometimes there are negative runs. I'll tell you what: That kid is a warrior. He fights and battles and scratches and claws."
Elliott finished with 80 yards on 22 carries and the clinching 8-yard touchdown run to give the Cowboys the 28-17 win.
Against the Broncos, Elliott had 8 yards on nine carries, and his failure to chase down two returns after interceptions raised the ire of Tomlinson, Garrett and others. His work against the Cardinals was not as flashy as some performances last season, but it was effective when it needed to be.
"It was going to be important for us to stay patient and keep giving him opportunities," Garrett said. "The yards weren't going to be easy. But he just kept battling. He made a lot of 3- and 4-yard runs that made a big difference in this ballgame."
Seven of Elliott's first eight carries went for 2 yards or less. He had a season-long 30-yarder to convert a third-and-2, but he had to break a Tyrann Mathieu tackle in the backfield to do it. In the third quarter, he carried seven times for 31 yards, and only three of those carries went for a yard or less, mixing in a 20-yard gain.
In the fourth quarter, he carried seven times for 18 yards, but he lost 8 yards on his final carry when the Cowboys were killing the clock. On his touchdown, he weaved through the Cardinals defense thanks to blocks from Jason Witten, Zack Martin and La'el Collins.
In the second half, quarterback Dak Prescott had 129 of his 139 yards off play-action thanks to Elliott and the running game.
"That's just how our offense is built," Elliott said after the slow start. "We want to run the ball and tire them out and then take big shots. Dak did a great job early in the game when the running game wasn't working, making those big plays."
Through three games last season, Elliott had 71 carries for 274 yards. Through three games this year, he has 192 yards on 55 carries.
Monday was better than the Broncos' game, but he knows things have to improve.
"We got a lot of work to do," Elliott said. "We didn't play a perfect game, but we fought. That's all that matters."