Up next: Arizona on Edge of rare 1,000 season

For most NFL teams, having a running back rush for 1,000 yards in a season isn't a big deal. But for the Cardinals, it's a sign of progress. Edgerrin James needs just 12 yards this Sunday against the 49ers to reach that mark. James hasn't scheduled any parties, since he was more accustomed to gaining 1,500 during his seven years in Indianapolis. But for the Cards, that would be something special.

The Cardinals haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Adrian Murrell in 1998, and only three of the team's backs have done it since the club moved to Arizona in 1988. The highest season-mark is 1,070, set by former 49ers star Garrison Hearst in 1995.

For half of the season, it appeared James wouldn't get there as the Cardinals offense struggle mightily. It didn't help that there were several changes on the offensive line, a switch at quarterback and a chance at the offensive coordinator position.

All of that contributed to the club's troubles, and James' lack of production.

James isn't worried about the problems now, but it was hard for him to cope with early in the season. He eventually came to the conclusion that there wasn't much he could do about the situation, other than continue to work like he had in his seven seasons in Indianapolis.

"It's one of those things where at first you're frustrated and then you look at it and understand why you're not having success," he said. "You say, 'O.K., I got two different quarterbacks coming in, I got two different coordinators, you got five or six diff offensive lineups. This is something totally new.

"Through all the frustration and everything, I never got away from my habits. My habits are coming in and make sure I lift weights, make sure I practice, make sure I prepare for games because you know it's going to turn it over."

In seven years in Indianapolis, James went through few changes. He's made up for that during his time in Arizona, and it's likely he'll be playing for a new head coach next year. Dennis Green is 15-31 in three seasons, and the Cardinals have now lost at least 10 games in each of those years.

Cardinals ownership and management isn't commenting, but it's going to be difficult to explain keeping Green to a fan base that bought every ticket to every game this season. And owner Bill Bidwill, who shelled out big money for James, probably wants more production for his dollars.

As important as James and the running game are to the offense, the Cardinals' strength is still in its passing game. When Denver effectively shut that down last Sunday, the Cardinals struggled mightily. The Cardinals did not complete a pass to either of their top receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, until the third quarter.

"For whatever reason, we just couldn't get them the ball," said quarterback Matt Leinart.

Boldin, who finished with five catches for 60 yards, knows why.

"We weren't on the field first of all," he said. "Time of possession went to them. If you're not on the field, you can't catch the ball."

The Broncos had a 12-minute possession advantage in the first half.

"By the time we got a rhythm, they were up 10 points," Boldin said.

PLAYER NOTES
--- DE Chike Okeafor, the former 49er, has 4.5 sacks in the past month, including one last Sunday that resulted in a fumble return for a touchdown. Okeafor has played well since end Bertrand Berry went out with a triceps injury a month ago.
--- WR Anquan Boldin went over 1,000 receiving yards Sunday for the third time in his four-year career. Boldin, however, has just 9 catches in the past three games as teams continue to double team him.
--- TE Adam Bergen suffered a sprained left knee and could miss the final two games. Bergen is the team's third tight end but a decent receiver. The second tight end, Fred Wakefield, is strictly a blocker.
--- OT Reggie Wells started and played the entire game last Sunday against Denver, despite spending two nights in the hospital with an illness.
--- P Scott Player turned in one of his best performances last Sunday, averaging 52.3 yards on three punts.
--- K Neil Rackers missed a 50-yard field goal last Sunday. He has missed six of seven from 50 yards and beyond this year. Last year, he made six of seven from that distance.


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