Patriots’ RB Ezekiel Elliott takes the blame for costly fumble: ‘It’s unacceptable’


“You got the ball in your hands — it’s like you’ve got the whole fate of the team in your hands.”

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 finished with 43 total yards in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

FOXBOROUGH — Ezekiel Elliott may not be the every-down, franchise running back that he was during his prime years with the Dallas Cowboys.

But the 28-year-old running back’s skill set offers arguably the ideal blueprint for what the Patriots covet in a running back, especially expected to slot behind Rhamondre Stevenson on the depth chart.

Elliott’s short-yardage production (seven of his 12 touchdowns last year came from the 1-yard line) should come in handy this season, while his pass-blocking talents will be utilized many times to buy Mac Jones more time.

But given Bill Belichick’s emphasis over the years on ball security (and the subsequent wrath that awaits the players who stray from those fundamentals), Elliott seems like the perfect fit for this roster.

Entering Sunday’s debut with the Patriots, Elliott was knocked for just one fumble over the previous two seasons — equating to 532 total touches.

But in a cruel twist of fate, it only took two touches in a New England jersey for Elliott to reset the clock when it came to self-inflicted miscues.

Just seven plays into the season for Mac Jones and New England’s offense, a high 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 in the first quarter.

New England’s next play on offense yielded another disastrous results. As Jones and Co. tried to right the ship, a simple screen pass to Elliott unraveled after Eagles defensive lineman Jordan Davis ripped the ball loose from the running back’s grasp.

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

Just five plays later, Jalen Hurts fired a touchdown pass into DeVonta Smith from the 5-yard line, giving Philly a 16-0 lead in the first quarter.

Even though Jones was quick to blame himself for New England’s offensive lapses in the first and fourth quarters, Elliott took himself to task for his role in the Patriots’ 16-point deficit. 

“It’s unacceptable,” Elliott said postgame. “You can’t give the ball back to the defense. You got the ball in your hands — it’s like you’ve got the whole fate of the team in your hands. So you just gotta fix that … That’s not acceptable. Putting the ball on the ground.

“So I mean, just got to get back in the lab and lock in on the fundamentals, and lock in keeping that ball nice and tight and get ready for next week.”

The Patriots’ offense did manage to land some punches as the game went on, especially through the air. Jones finished with 316 passing yards and three touchdowns, and six different players posted at least 30 receiving yards.

But the run game was a different story. Elliott led the way for New England with just 29 total rushing yards, while the Patriots’ No. 1 option in Stevenson averaged just 2.1 yards per carry.

Even with his costly fumble, the Patriots dialed up plenty of plays for Elliott on Sunday, utilizing the veteran back in a variety of different formations.

His top play of the evening came on his first touch with New England, reeling off an 11-yard pickup while in a “pony” formation where he was lined up next to Jones alongside Stevenson.

Later in the game, Elliott helped New England gain a first down while operating as a fullback in I-formation, moving in motion before pushing through the middle and past a line of bodies in order to move the chains.

“It’s great. I think we complement each other very well,” Elliott said of lining up next to Stevenson. “I think we could do a lot of the same stuff. And I think it definitely causes some problems for defenses when we’re both on the field at the same time.”

Elliott’s first game with the Patriots didn’t come as expected for the former All-Pro back.

But Jones and the offense’s second-quarter surge and late-game rally did offer some optimism for a unit looking to build some momentum entering Week 2 against the Dolphins.

“It was definitely encouraging,” Elliott said of New England’s fight as Sunday’s game progressed. “We know what we have in this locker room. We know the type of defense we have. We just got to do our job on offense.”