When the New England Patriots signed veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott to a one-year, $3 million contract in August, it was to ensure the team was in good hands if something happened to top running back Rhamondre Stevenson.
Ezekiel Elliott has delivered, with his 11-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the Patriots’ opening drive against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday the latest example.
Bailey Zappe and Ezekiel Elliott Lead Patriots to Victory with Dominant Offensive Display:
In place of the injured Stevenson, who is out with a right high-ankle sprain, Elliott played all eight snaps on the opening 75-yard touchdown drive, and quarterback Bailey Zappe found him wide open on the right side and Elliott went in untouched for the score.
It marked Elliott’s first receiving touchdown in his last 30 games played. His last receiving touchdown came in Week 16 of the 2021 season vs. Washington.
The Patriots had gone 13 straight games without a touchdown on their opening offensive possession, which tied the Carolina Panthers for the third longest active streak in the NFL after the Giants (20 straight) and Jets (18 straight).
Furthermore, the Patriots became the first team to score on their opening drive after being shut out the week prior since the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ezekiel Elliott entered the night having played 38% of the offensive snaps, totaling 112 carries for 429 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 24 receptions for 154 yards.
Elliott has had success in Pittsburgh in the past. In his rookie year with the Cowboys in 2016, he scored three touchdowns in a 35-30 win — totaling 21 carries for 114 yards (2 TDs) and two receptions for 95 yards (1 TD).
Zappe threw his second TD pass of the half in the second quarter, connecting with Hunter Henry on an eight-yard touchdown toss to help New England to a 14-3 lead.
Moments later, Zapper his Henry again with a 24-yard scoring pass to enhance the Pats’ lead to 21-3.