Arizona Cardinals Still Pass First, Run Later

The Cardinals say all the right things about wanting to run the ball, but when given the opportunity to prove it, they usually pass. That's what happened against the Texans. Ahead 21-0 at halftime, the Cardinals stuck with the pass, running the ball just four times in the second half.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt's rationale for the play selection is the Texans were loading up against the run, leaving receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald in single coverage.

That prospect is too alluring for Whisenhunt and quarterback Kurt Warner to pass up. Against Houston, Warner audibled out of some runs to try to take advantage of the outside matchups.

But what worked in the first half didn't work in the second, as Houston fought back to tie the game. The Cardinals ended up winning because of their superlative first half.

Warner showed again that he is among the game's most accurate quarterbacks when given time. The teams that have beaten the Cardinals -- the 49ers and Colts -- have been able to get to Warner with a four-man rush.

The teams that the Cardinals have beaten have been forced to blitz to bring pressure, and Warner has made them pay.

Predicting how Seattle will fair is difficult. Two years ago, end Patrick Kerney gave tackle Levi Brown fits, but Brown was a rookie playing in one the NFL's toughest venues.

If the Seahawks can get pressure on Warner while keeping seven defenders in coverage, the Cardinals will struggle, unless they are able to make those defensive linemen respect the run.

Tim Hightower has looked solid as the starting running back, and rookie Beanie Wells has shown flashes of big-play ability. But neither is handed the ball often enough to get into a rhythm.

Wells in particular is frustrated because he's used to being the focal point of the offense.

The Texans game seemed a perfect situation in which to get Wells more work. The Cardinals led by three touchdowns at halftime, yet ran the ball only once in the third quarter. They called nine straight pass plays to start the second half, and their offense went nowhere.

That same scenario probably won't play out on the road. If the Cardinals get a lead in Seattle this Sunday, or in Chicago the following week, they're going to need a running game to protect it. And there's no proof they've developed a competent one.

LINEUP WATCH: Tight end Ben Patrick returns from a four-game suspension at a fortuitous time. Starting tight end Stephen Spach suffered a sprained right ankle against the Texans and could miss a significant amount of time. Patrick was the No. 1 tight end in training camp and has the best all-around skills on the team at the position. But he'll be rusty. The team also will rely upon veteran Anthony Becht, who is a solid blocker.

TRENDING: Defensive end Calais Campbell played on most of the special teams last year as a rookie, but those duties declined this year with his move into the starting lineup. Campbell is still making a significant special teams contribution. He's blocked two field goals and he made a game-saving tackle on a Texans punt return. The Cardinals need to get more out of Campbell as a pass rusher. The club hasn't had a sack in its past two games.


-- QB Kurt Warner has now passed for more than 13,000 yards as a Cardinal. Warner is the second player in NFL history to hit that milestone with two teams. He also did it with the Rams. Fran Tarkenton did it with the Vikings and Giants.

-- CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie proved he can catch despite wearing a small cast on his right hand. Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a fractured index finger two weeks ago, but he caught a pass against the Texans and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.

-- RB Beanie Wells hasn't played much the past two games as the team has used more spread formations. Wells has carried only nine times. He has shown the ability to make big plays but isn't getting much of a chance.

-- DL Alan Branch is continuing to play a bigger role this season. He was in the line rotation at nose tackle and end against the Texans.

-- WR Anquan Boldin has 525 career catches, moving past Roy Green into second place on the franchise's career list. Boldin is 10 behind former fullback Larry Centers.

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