Ezekiel Elliott earned himself major praise from a pair of key members of the New England Patriots on Sunday. Both Bill Belichick and Mac Jones gave the veteran running back heavy compliments following their 15-10 win over the New York Jets, in which Elliott rushed for 80 yards on 16 carries (5 yards per carry) in his third game with the team.
After a pair of forgettable games to begin his Patriots tenure, Elliott appeared a bit more comfortable on Sunday, making more decisive runs behind blockers while running uphill. Belichick sensed the game.
“Sure, yeah,” Belichick said when asked if he felt Elliott was getting more comfortable in the Patriots' offense. “Zeke's done a good job for us, and I think we're getting a little bit of a feel for some of the things with him and vice versa.”
While Elliott didn't have a true big run (a carry that goes for 20 or more yards), he was consistent with his carries. He helped move the chains four times on Sunday, with his longest rush going for 14 yards.
— Video from: @TSV__1 (@TSV__1) September 24, 2023
One of his top plays of the day came at the start of the fourth quarter, when he was able to hit the outside behind Patriots blockers before getting upfield to pick up 13 yards and move the sticks for the first down.
It was plays like that one that really caught Belichick's attention.
“I thought he had a couple of really good runs today,” Belichick said of Ezekiel Elliott. “We'll look at the film and look a little more carefully, but I thought he did a nice job of getting his pads down and got some tough yards. His vision was good on a couple of cutback plays. It was good.”
Elliott's emergence on Sunday certainly came in a big spot for New England. It entered the day 0-2 and was in desperate need of a win. However, it went up against a New York squad that holds one of the top defenses in the league and was playing in wet and rainy conditions for the majority of the game.
To add to all of that, many other players on the Patriots struggled to move the ball offensively. Mac Jones seemed to off with some of his receivers on a few passes while there were instances where either the receivers failed to create much separation or the offensive line didn't give him an adequate amount of time to throw the ball.
So Jones was certainly appreciative of the performance Elliott had on Sunday, adding in that Rhamondre Stevenson (59 yards on 19 carries) had a solid day, too.
“Great,” Jones said when asked about the Patriots' running game and impressions of Elliott. “Those guys are great together. The offensive line brought it today. I thought they did a great job. Zeke and Mondre (Stevenson) are definitely working well together. They're different, but they're very similar in their own ways. Just happy to have both of them.”
Mac Jones Live Postgame Press Conference: https://t.co/8fLrkkjTZW
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Sunday was by far the Patriots' best performance on the ground all season, rushing for 157 yards as a team. They didn't crack the 100-yard mark in the first two games, which was partly because they were playing from behind for much of the first two weeks.
But it's obviously a good sign for the Patriots that their ground game was able to get going on Sunday. New England has depended on its running backs a lot in the past, and it'll likely need Ezekiel Elliott to continue to pitch in with similar numbers that he had in Week 3.