Run game an issue for Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals have the NFL's best record at 9-1, but a sputtering ground game is concerning.

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — For all the success the Arizona Cardinals have had, there's been a nagging problem.

The Cardinals are having a hard time running the ball.

It's been an issue most of the season but has been especially bad the last two games, and coach Bruce Arians blamed both the offensive line and running back Andre Ellington.

"Right now, he's as healthy as he's been and we need more out of him," Arians said earlier this week.

In the last two games, Arizona has rushed for a combined 74 yards in 48 attempts, an average of 1.54 yards per attempt.

"It's one or two guys have to finish blocks, or the running back has to hit the hole, things like that," right tackle Bobby Massie said. "But we'll get it. We'll get it."

The last two games were against two of the league's best defenses — St. Louis and Detroit.

After rushing for 28 yards in 22 attempts against the Rams, the Cardinals gained 48 yards in 26 attempts against the Lions on Sunday. Take away Ellington's early 17-yard run and the team averaged 1.1 yards per carry against Detroit.

"It's just those same small things," Arians said before Wednesday's practice. "It's a helmet on the right side of a player, getting to the second level too quick and not blocking the down lineman, or hanging on the down lineman too long and not getting to the linebacker. It's mostly technical stuff."

The team knows that a solid running game would be a great help to Drew Stanton, who took over as quarterback when Carson Palmer went down with a knee injury.

It's also essential for the play-action passes to work.

"'It's vital for us to be able to do that and have that threat (of a running game) on a defense where they have to respect that factor for sure," Stanton said.

A big part of the problem is a nagging injury to Ellington's left foot. He has a partial tear in a tendon, an injury that occurred in practice before the season opener. The second-year running back has been able to play in games, but he's been held out of practice on Wednesdays.

"It hurts tremendously to miss Wednesday's practices in pads because of getting his run reads," Arians said. "He knows all of his assignments, but when you don't practice them until you get out there on Sundays, it's hard."

Ellington practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday.

The Cardinals also could use a power back like they had a year ago in Rashard Mendenhall. Jonathan Dwyer was to be that guy, but he is gone after his arrest on a domestic violence charge.

To make matters worse, backup Stepfan Taylor has been sidelined with a calf injury, although he played a little against the Lions.

Ellington, meanwhile, has taken a pounding.

He wasn't in the locker room when reporters were there on Wednesday.

But after Sunday's win over Detroit, he said the Cardinals need to "continue to work at it."

"Every week we're trying to get better," Ellington said. "I feel like we're headed in the right direction, we just have to continue doing what we do."

Ellington is a dynamic runner.

"Anytime you give him the ball he can take it to the house," Stanton said.

But he needs space, and he needs to hit the right hole, if there is a hole.

Arizona is tied with Detroit for 30th in the NFL in rushing with an average of 79.8 yards per game. The only team worse is winless Oakland.

Of course, the Cardinals are winning despite that problem. They're on a six-game winning streak and have the league's best record, largely because of a stout defense and an offense that's been good enough when it had to be.

On the surface, this Sunday might seem to be a tough time to get the running game going. The Seahawks have the No. 3 overall defense in the league, and are seventh against the run. Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, though, rushed for 159 yards against the Seahawks last Sunday.

But, Massie said, "Every defense in the NFL is hard to run on."


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