Ezekiel Elliott's message to Cowboys: 'It's on us to turn it around'

Ninkovich: Cowboys can't hang with the big boys (1:13)

Rob Ninkovich doesn't think the Cowboys can get to the Super Bowl, let alone beat the Seahawks, Saints or 49ers. (1:13)

FRISCO, Texas -- At 5-4, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had a message for his teammates.

"I think it's all on us in this locker room," Elliott said. "It's all about us to turn it around. It's on us to turn it around and play better."

Entering Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game against the Detroit Lions, the Cowboys remain in first place in the NFC East based on their undefeated division record, but Elliott said he is not surprised his team is in this position.

"I mean, should I be surprised? I don't know. It's the NFL," Elliott said. "You're not going to be 12-4 every year. You're not going to be 13-3. You're not going to be 10-6 every year. But what matters is you give yourselves a chance at the end of the year, in the playoffs. So we're not 9-0. We're not 8-1, but we still are in the race for being in the playoffs."

Since Week 4, only the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and Lions have a worse record than the Cowboys (2-4) after their 3-0 start.

With last week's 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, questions regarding Jason Garrett's game management have arisen after two failed running plays late in the fourth quarter and a miscommunication that led to a fair catch by Tavon Austin despite having room to run.

"For us, we're competitors and we want to win. We want to win every game, so it's disappointing but it also provides an opportunity for us to persevere with our backs against the wall," linebacker Jaylon Smith said. "We talk about it all the time: It's going forward and really fighting. So that's what coach Jason Garrett is hounding us on. It's about fighting. That's our foundation of our team and that's what we're focused on."

At the midway point of last season, the Cowboys were 3-5 and went on to win seven of their final eight games to win the division and make the playoffs. Elliott sees a similarity between this season and 2018.

"I think we had definitely a lot more urgency or had to have a lot more urgency last year at 3-5," Elliott said. "So we had to put some games together. Right now, we're still tied for first in the division, or we're leading the division. We've just got to make sure we keep winning ballgames."

Winning the division is the Cowboys' best chance to make the postseason.

"Obviously we're upset that we lost and you don't ever want to lose games, but you have to take everything that you've done, win or lose, and put it behind you and focus on what the situation is now," center Travis Frederick said. "You always have to be reevaluating that situation. So we're 5-4 and we need to win this game to continue to put ourselves in position to make the playoffs. That's what it's really about -- getting a spot."