Elliott managed just eight rushing yards on nine carries in the loss, the worst game of his career.
Tomlinson, now an analyst for NFL Network, pointed out that Elliott was often by himself on the sidelines and not talking to his teammates. He also showed footage of the 2016 NFL rushing champion giving up during a Dak Prescott interception.
The play happened with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter, while the Cowboys trailed 28-10. Prescott stepped back in the pocket and fired the ball to his left. The pass ricocheted off of Dez Bryant‘s hands and into the waiting hands of Chris Harris, just a few yards from Elliott. The running back saw the play happen but jogged away from the action slowly, as Harris raced toward the Cowboys’ end zone. Harris returned the ball inside the Cowboys’ 25-yard-line.
“This is serious business right here,” Tomlinson said on NFL Network after the Cowboys’ loss. “This is Ezekiel Elliott just watch the effort. So he’s one of the leaders on the team. Watch what he does right here. How you want guys to follow you Ezekiel? You want them to follow you when you are doing good and you are running the football. And you want to be the captain of the team. But when things ain’t going right, baby, you gotta show the same respect to everybody else on that field. Everybody else hustling, trying to get a tackle.”
“We know it ain’t going right, baby. You gotta do the same thing. That’s what I was talking about earlier. About quitting on your teammates. It can’t happen. It cannot happen. You are better than that. Show them you are better than that. I don’t ever want to see that again, because you are wearing 2-1.”
Tomlinson entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. The three-time All-Pro and 2006 NFL MVP led the NFL in touchdowns three times nad was the rushing champion twice during his 11 year career.
At a different point in the segment, Tomlinson expanded on his comments about Elliott.
“I didn’t like the way he quit today,” Tomlinson said. “I didn’t like that. He absolutely quit on his team today. And there’s gonna be times when you’re not going to have room to run. On a couple of plays, first his attitude on the sideline…clearly, he didn’t have any communication with his team.
“He didn’t want to talk to his teammates. Sometimes when things are going wrong, as a leader of that team, as a captain, you’ve got to rally the troops.”
In 170 career games, Tomlinson only had one game during his career when he rushed for eight yards or fewer on at least nine carries.