The Packers will have to stop Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (above) themselves, since the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals did not do it for them on Monday by ruling on the NFL's request for a stay of the injunction that is keeping Elliott on the field following his six-game suspension stemming from a domestic violence case in Ohio.
Elliott has been able to play since winning his injunction, but he hasn’t come close to the production he had last season, when he led the NFL in rushing as a rookie. He enters Sunday with 76 carries for 277 yards (3.6-yard average) and two touchdowns. In Week 2 at Denver, Elliott carried nine times for 8 yards.
But Elliott had a pair of 100-yard games against the Packers last season, rushing 28 times for 157 yards in the Packers’ 30-16 regular-season win in October and 22 times for 125 yards in Green Bay’s 34-31 playoff victory in January.
“He runs hard. He can make defenses pay. He can bounce it when he needs to. All around, he's a great back,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We had him bottled up in the first half (last year) in the first game we played out here but he got loose in the second half.
“He'll get his runs, but if you can look at those games in which they lost – especially this year, specifically looking at Denver – they were able to take away the running game and force a few turnovers. Obviously that's how every defense wants to play.”
Elliott admitted it has been a challenge for him to focus on football with the uncertainty of his case, but the offseason departures of Ronald Leary (free agency) and Doug Free (retirement) on the offensive line have also been a factor.
“We’ve still got some work to do,” Elliott said. “We’ve got a lot of great talent in the offensive line room. Those guys, they work their tails off every day. I think that we’ll get this run game going at the caliber it was last year. It’s not something we’re worried about.”
Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on 100.5 FM ESPN Madison.