Ezekiel Elliott was at a loss for words Sunday when asked whether he was surprised by Bill Belichick benching Mac Jones.
However, Elliott then was asked whether New England could benefit from a permanent change at quarterback. The veteran back used it as an opportunity to openly lobby for a greater emphasis on the running game.
“I don’t know,” Elliott told reporters. “I think today we showed how good of a run game we have, and I think that we have two really good running backs. And I think that our O-line is great in the run game, and they showed that today. … I think we could run it more. But to do that, we got to take care of the football. We have to eliminate the penalties so we don’t have long distances. But the more we put ourselves in position to run the football, the better off this offense will be.”
Elliott’s comments arrived after he and Rhamondre Stevenson combined to run 33 times for 142 yards, good for an average of 4.3 yards. And the Patriots, despite trailing in most of their games, still rank 16th in the NFL with 245 rushing attempts.
So, while the timing was odd, the reality is that Elliott probably is right. New England’s passing game is living in the stone age, and its only possible path toward success is on the ground.
But the real story is that Elliott, in his first season with the Patriots, feels comfortable telling Belichick and Bill O’Brien how to do their jobs. The three-time Pro Bowl selection’s remarks weren’t mean-spirited, but they were the kinds of comments you rarely hear from players in New England.
That’s what you get when you’re 2-8 and perhaps the worst team in the NFL.