Ezekiel Elliott had a trying time in Denver. (Jack Dempsey/Associated Press)

Ezekiel Elliott had a trying day in Denver and came away with only eight yards rushing on nine carries in the Dallas Cowboys’ 42-9 drubbing at the hands of the Broncos. That might not be the worst of it, though.

Elliott, who has a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy hanging over his head, was called out by a Hall of Famer who accused him of one of the worst things you can say about someone who plays a team sport. That’s right: He invoked the dreaded Q word.

“He didn’t have any room today. He was running, getting hit in the backfield, making moves in the backfield. But all of that is okay. I didn’t like the way he quit today. I didn’t like that,” LaDainian Tomlinson, the former San Diego Chargers and New York Jets running back, said on the NFL Network. “He absolutely quit on his team today.”

Specifically?

“First, his attitude on the sideline. Clearly, he didn’t have any communication with his teammates. But also, 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 have to step up and rally the troops. You have to go to the offensive line and say, ‘I know it’s tough, but let’s keep battling, let’s keep fighting.’ You have to go to the quarterback and say, ‘Hey, man, I’m not getting it done today — you have to step it up.’ You have to rally the troops. … They need him to do that because last year he led the league in rushing. So everybody is looking at him as the top dog. So if you want to be the top dog, you have to do it on and off the field.”

Just what was, in particular, Elliott’s transgression? He failed to pursue a defender after an interception, for one thing.

That’s a play that SI.com’s Peter King pointed to, writing that the Cowboys should punish Elliott for not trying to track down Chris Harris after he intercepted a Dak Prescott pass. Elliott, who was around five yards from Harris, just stopped and put his hands on his hips. The Cowboys were down 28-10 at the time, which was midway through the third quarter, and the game was hardly out of reach. King called Elliott’s lack of effort “horrendous”:

[V]ery often, Dallas players get passes, because the Cowboys take chances on great players who have character or behavior or ethos flaws. Elliott might have all three of those. To give up on that play was horrendous. Dallas coach Jason Garrett has to do something about it — if he has not already. Owner Jerry Jones should back his coach 100 percent when Garrett does discipline Elliott. And if Garrett does not, then there’s something seriously wrong in Dallas.

It’s one thing to be frustrated. It’s another thing to quit. Elliott is a good football player who quit on a play. Don’t sugarcoat it. He quit on a play in the middle of a game that was still a game. And he should not be allowed to get away with it.

Garrett promised Monday morning that he would address the issue “with everybody on our team.”

“Obviously you want guys to pursue the ball and get the guy to the ground,” Garrett said in his weekly appearance on 105.3 The Fan’s “Shan and RJ” show. “Those things happen sometimes and we’ll certainly coach our guys to play the right way. On those takeaways, it’s really, really important that everybody gets there and everybody somehow, some way, does everything they can to get the guy to the ground. We’ll address that with everybody on our team.”

Tomlinson, despite his Hall of Fame credentials, was once accused of the Q crime himself, which brings added weight to his decision to level the accusation. In 2008, he spent part of an AFC championship game against the New England Patriots sitting on the bench with his helmet and dark visor covering his face while his quarterback, Philip Rivers, played with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Tomlinson had rushed for 1,474 yards and 15 touchdowns that season, had two carries for five yards and caught a screen pass for one yard before leaving the field with a sprained medial collateral ligament.

His coach, Norv Turner, told former Washington Post former columnist Michael Wilbon that a question about Tomlinson “was the stupidest thing you could ask. The guy was not able to go. The doctors and trainers said he couldn’t go.”

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