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For Cardinals, a running game takes root

Posted by Darren Urban on September 29, 2015 – 12:34 pm

The Cardinals ran for 120 yards against the Saints, 115 against the Bears and 139 Sunday against the 49ers. It is the first time the Cardinals have rushed for at least 115 yards in each of the first three games of the season since 1988. The 374 rushing yards are the most for the franchise in the first three games of the season since the Cards had 416 in 2002. (That 2002 start was aided by Thomas Jones’ 173 yards in the first regular-season game ever at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, a Cardinals’ win, the second week of the season. The Cardinals had 249 yards rushing in that game alone.)

The Cardinals have done it with nearly equal contributions from Andre Ellington — who looked great against the Saints before he got hurt — and David Johnson and Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson had 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the 49ers, and showed plenty of burst just a couple of days after his 30th birthday. Better yet, after Bruce Arians said that generally Earl Watford was a better run blocker than Bobby Massie at right tackle, the Cards had their best rushing game against San Francisco with Massie in there. And this team hasn’t even gotten to see what guard Mike Iupati — arguably their best run blocker — has to offer yet.

“It’s just a start,” veteran center Lyle Sendlein said. “You can’t just show up and expect you’ll get that kind of yardage every week.

“Obviously it had a level of importance in the offseason that they had been working on, and when I got here (in training camp) it was pretty apparent we were going to commit to getting yardage in the run game.”

Under Arians, the Cardinals are 14-1 when rushing for at least 100 yards. That can be misleading; Arians always says being committed to balance only counts in the first three quarters and then the game itself dictates how the fourth quarter will be called. Against the 49ers, for instance, the Cardinals went into the fourth quarter with a 40-7 lead and 10 of 13 Arizona offensive plays were runs as they drove for one more touchdown. (The final “drive” was three Drew Stanton kneeldowns, which count as “runs” but also screw up the stats with minus-one yard on each kneel.)

Like everything else, Sendlein emphasized it’s only a start. But it’s a start. The Cardinals, since 1995, have ranked higher than 21st in the NFL just once — 15th in that 2002 season — and haven’t been higher than 23rd since 2004. Seven times they have been ranked 30th or lower. This year, the Cards are currently 11th in the NFL.

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Posted in Blog | 33 Comments »


33 Responses to “For Cardinals, a running game takes root”

  1. By Dynosoar on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    This picture just looks surreal.

  2. By jeffgollin on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    It’s a start. But I’m greedy.

    When we get to the point where when the times our RB’s get stopped behind the LOS are considered rare occurrances and we can be reasonably sure that there will consistently be at least 2 – 4 yard “dents” in the defensive line all the time…then and only then will I be a completely happy camper.

  3. By Dynosoar on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    I’ll only post this every four weeks or so. (Unless, of course, this is wildly popular and ya’ll demand it. Somehow I’m not seeing this. Haha!)

    Unlike most Power Ranking lists, This is a Power Ranking list and not a popularity list. (All of them have the Patriots at 1 or 2 because they’ve scored 119 points. Well we’ve scored 126, so…)

    My tie breaks are as follows.

    1. Win/Loss Overall Record
    2. Strength of schedule of opponents played
    3. Win/Loss Division Record
    4. Win/Loss Conference Record
    5. Alphabetical order of team mascot (Tied teams are tied in rankings)
    6. Does NOT take into account scores or how well a team looked/looks and/or injuries

    And now My Power Rankings

    1 Patriots +-
    2 Falcons +6
    3 Bengals +-
    4 Packers +1
    5 Panthers +2

    6 Cardinals +3

    7 Broncos -5
    8 Cowboys -3
    9 Bills +1
    10 Steelers +3
    11 Raiders +1
    12 Jets -9
    13 Vikings +8
    14 Jaguars +4
    15 Chiefs +-
    15 Forty-Niners +3
    17 Eagles +7
    18 Giants +6
    19 Colts +9
    20 Chargers -6
    20 Texans +7
    22 Browns -11
    23 Rams -2
    24 Seahawks +5
    25 Dolphins -10
    26 Redskins -9
    27 Titans -7
    28 Buccaneers -5
    29 Ravens -3
    30 Bears -1
    31 Saints +-
    32 Lions +-

    Obviously in the third week we should expect wild swings as a single win or a single loss is huge.

    I can’t wait to compare my system to Richard S’s system.

  4. By D on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    This will be the most challenging game to run the ball versus this D Line on Sunday. But, with the intensity I hear from BA on this game, I am guessing his game plan will be spot on. I can see why with the Rams HC and DC. Fischer and his DC are known for dirty play during the game, the fact that they took out Palmer last year/killed our year, Fischer’s overall record as a HC is way below 500 and he is paid in the top 5 of HC’s in the league is a joke. I see the Cards trying to top the 47 pts from last Sunday..

  5. By wyocardfan on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    If I’m not mistaken, Palmer went down in the first game against the Rams last year. Stanton went down in the second game against the Rams. Big Ben went down against the Rams Sunday. Is it just me or are the Rams hard on quarterbacks?

  6. By JohnnyBluenose on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    @D….with all due respect, Carson Palmer’s injury was not caused by contact. He stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush and his knee gave out. As for Jeff Fisher, he has been around a long time and did take Tennessee to the SuperBowl and came up one yard short on the game’s last play. He has often been on committees and speaking out on rule changes so I think he has a lot of respect from a lot of people around the league. And, one last thing. I was at the game last year against Saint Louis. We won on a late TD. At the conclusion of the game I happened to see Fisher on the field. The first person he sought out to congratulate was Drew Stanton. I think Fisher is a class act even if he is not as good a coach as Bruce Arians. Be well.

  7. By clssylssy on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    i believe we also lost Mathieu in a game against the Rams…hmmm, coincidence, I think not when Greg Williams is the DC. If we can top the 47 points from last Sunday and escape without injury, that would be awesome!

  8. By Scott H on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    wyocardfan –

    Yes, we lost both QB’s against the Rams last year. Oh, but they never seem to put a scratch on Russell Wilson, right? 🙂

    But remember, Palmer was hurt on a play where he wasn’t even touched. That was more our own damn turf than the Rams. Our offense was also struggling pretty badly in that game and it was actually Stanton who delivered the go-ahead score. Then, the defense took over. A good win, but…it cost us everything.

    I have much respect for the Rams on defense. But the balance the Cardinals are showing on offense right now will be a big test for them. They were keeping the Steelers in check even before Big Ben was hurt and that is one high octane offense right there.

    The Rams are no joke. Toughest team we have faced yet, no doubt. But yet again, I don’t see the Rams coming here and winning this game unless they get a lot of help from the Cardinals. This doesn’t have to be a 30, 40-point blowout. It just needs to be a win. 23-17 will do, if necessary.

  9. By BirdsSTC on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    Palmer went down without being touched fellas.

  10. By Don on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    wyocardfan

    You aren’t mistaken. Jeff “bountygate” Fisher teaches his boys well, must be why he is paid so much.

  11. By georgiebird on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    Another division game. Question here is how many guys can the Rams put in the box and still cover downfield. If the Cards have the balanced offense, this game will prove it.

  12. By TucsonTim on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    Chris Johnson did a great job picking up blitzes last Sunday. I think I heard BA say he’s just about in game shape! Think about that!

    Our O-line is still a work in progress. I can’t imagine that CJ knows the BA system cold, yet he still gains yards and protects CP like he has been here for years.

    Mid season he is going to be awesome and that more than anything else will keep CP healthy.

    Wildly optimistic about our future. Can’t wait for Sunday to get here.

  13. By Big Red Fan in MO on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    My first foray into this forum. Been a Cards fan since the 70’s, saw Jim Hart & co back then, been a fan ever since. I followed my Big Red to Arizona, yet I still live near St. Louis. A big shout out to Darren, thanks for all your efforts and insight! And congrats to our birds, that was an epic beatdown of the 9ers!

    wyocardfan, you are correct to note that injuries to opposing QB’s happens A LOT when teams play the Rams. One possible fact it that their DC was the on the saints during BountyGate, the same that basically ended Warner’s career after that saints playoff game.

    Also gotta say that Rams and Blues here have what I consider to be “goonish” tendencies. Am also a Wings fan and everytime the Wings get a big lead in a game, the blues always start fights at the end of the game. Seems to me the mentality with those teams is “If we can’t beat them with offense we will injure them.” Just saying…

  14. By Credit Card on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    Whatever it is worth, I think the Rams are a dangerous team, and match p nicely with the Cards.

    The balance attack the Cards are showing, and the improved play of the offensive line — I think the Cards will win, but it’ll be close.

  15. By Scott H on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    Love the pic of CJ! I am very happy for CJ. He is becoming a great story-line in what could be a magical season. One of many, as it turns out. He still has plenty of the lateral quickness and vertical speed that made him special in the past. He may have had 2000 yards in a season back in 2009, but….I’m hoping the Cardinals can give him something else!

    I’m not only counting on CJ for my REAL team, I’m also counting on him now for my FANTASY team as well. Far less important, but….hey, if he can help me there, too, then who’s livin’ better than me? Hell, who’s livin’ better than ANY Cardinals fan right now? Absolutely NO ONE!

    Bringing him in here this off-season was like striking gold.

    Between Palmer, Fitz, and CJ, the battle for NFL comeback player of the year is totally right here in Glendale! Look nowhere else!

  16. By Dr. G. on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    CJ .219K ..! so far….. good work Keim….

  17. By krehbieo14 on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    Don,
    There isn’t a shred of evidence to show that a Ram player intentionally injured Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton or Ben R. Fisher is a respected coach in the NFL.

  18. By JohnnyBluenose on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    @ Don…..New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and then defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams (now coaching in Saint Louis) were both suspended by Roger Goodell for their supposed roles in what has become known as “bountygate”. Jeff Fisher had nothing to do with that.

  19. By Don on Sep 29, 2015 | Reply

    krehbieo14

    Respected by who? Jeff fisher is at best an average coach who has never won a Superbowl. Every team he has coached has been one of the most penalized in the NFL under his watch. He hired Gregg Williams the architect of the Saints bounty system not once but twice. This is the NFL, while a few people have come out and said he plays dirty most won’t go that far but he is neither liked or respected by his peers. No, there is no proof but when your best buddy is a man who would actually pay players to intentionally take out other teams key players even if it meant ending their careers then that speaks volumes about Jeff Fishers integrity. Like associates with like.

  20. By MichaelinStl on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    Rams have brought a few quarterbacks down actually. If I’m not mistaken, Alex Smith is on the list too; which gave Kap the opportunity ‘faster’.. Someone needs to do a quick history check lol

  21. By E.F. Huddle on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    I wasn’t particularly thrilled when the Cards signed Carson and was not impressed
    with his play last year b4 he went down. The defense was mostly responsible for
    the wins IMO. with good starts in some games and in games when offense wasn’t clicking coming thru strong to escape with a low scoring win.
    But this year, one thing is certanly clear. Carson is alive , awake , and dialed in.and throwing…. no .i take that back…..rifling the ball with confidence. He is placing the ball in areas that are difficult to defend..Ie.low, less sailing and lofting .
    The deep balls are spreading the field.His accurracy so far as been amazing.and being able to step up in the pocket because of the OLines play.You can see he is
    in charge and his timing and receeivers are one and the same. Wonder if he’s offered new Rolexes to the OL for protection!! Firing on all cylinders! The timng is the key!

  22. By Scott H on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    Big Red Fan in MO –

    Welcome!

  23. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    Any update on JJ Nelson? Hope he’s recovering. Concerned he’s too thin to survive NFL hits. Maybe John Brown’s regimen could help him as well.

  24. By Scott H on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    Geez, just saw where the Honey Badger was given the honor for Defensive Player of the Week. This, after both Fitz AND David Johnson took honors last week for Offensive and ST Players of the week. Good lord, the way this team is playing, we might be putting somebody on these lists every week!

    Again, who is livin’ better than us right now???

    Just saw something on NFL.com where there was a debate among the “experts” as to who the most complete team in the league is right now. The only teams in the discussion were the Pats, Cards, and Packers. Both Ladian Tomlinson and Steve Mariucci picked the Cardinals. Look this up if you get a chance. It’s pretty sweet!

  25. By Scott H on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    EF Huddle –

    I really don’t think Palmer has EVER had this much talent around him, and I think that is a factor. But I’m with you in that I have also had a change of heart with Palmer. Two years ago this time, it was not looking good at all. He was throwing as many INT’s as he was TD’s and was showing no indications of being the guy to take us to a different level. But since he started to roll during the 2nd half of 2013….my lord, he might be THE best QB in the league during that time! Nothing short of amazing.

  26. By krehbieo14 on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    Don,

    Jeff Fisher led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999. He has 142 career wins in the NFL which ranks him third among current coaches for the most victories by a head coach. Not too shabby.

  27. By clssylssy on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    So proud of Tyrann Mathieu and the fabulous job he’s done in Arizona. He’s everywhere and intimidates opposing QBs with his speed, toughness, and unpredictability…they never know in the blink of an eye when he’ll be in their face.
    He intercepted Drew Brees in the Dome which, I think, left a lasting impression that helped throw Brees off his game, wondering where he was going to pop up again!
    We have the best secondary in the NFL, but they operate in concert with the rest of the defense which makes watching them the kind of football that gets praise and attention from even the most jaded skeptics. Great Job Tyrann and the rest of the defense. Keep the No Fly Zone razor sharp this week against the Rams!

  28. By D on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    My apologies to Jeff Fisher. His coaching career record is 326-298, 14 over 500. Contract $7mil per year.

    BA is 24-11. Contract around $5mil per season.

    The owner of the Rams, Stan Kroenke who wants to move the team back out to LA, $7mil can be found in his car ash try. (7.5 billion worth) He’ll probably keep Jeff on as HC through the move to CA since Jeff has strong USC ties.

  29. By Douglas Forgatsch on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    I must apologize about mu submit. I did not check yesterday to see if their was a reply to my question about what is the story on Daryl Washington??

  30. By JohnnyBluenose on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    @D…..do you really think Jeff Fisher has been a head coach in the NFL for 624 games? that’s 39 seasons. how old do you think Fisher is, 80 years old? his record going into this season is 168-154, including play-offs.

  31. By Dr. G. on Sep 30, 2015 | Reply

    And….if Palmer starts giving out nice chronometers, he can start with a guy named Steve Keim….

  32. By Brian Crum on Oct 1, 2015 | Reply

    Do you think our O line has the talent and ability to shut down the Rams D line & backers? (with or without Lupati)

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