Just enough. That is all the Arizona Cardinals need out of their rushing attack.
They don't have to have one of the best ground games in the business. They need to be able to rush the ball just enough to pose a threat in order to keep defenses honest, and let their top notch passing game do the rest.
When you have what former Ravens' coach Brian Billick calls the best receiving trio in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston, and future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner playing arguably the best football of his career throwing them the ball, the team's yards per carry average running the ball is not all that important.
What is important is that they try.
While the total yardage is low even by Cardinals standards—in fact they only eclipsed their 31st ranked yards per game average by 4.5 yards—the 25 attempts is what stands out.
I had said, if they can manage to hand the ball off 25-30 times , they would win this game in a tough environment. If they didn’t, they would lose.
In 2008 the Cardinals were second in the NFL in passing, and last in rushing during the regular season. They attempted a league-low 21.2 runs per game and averaged three and a half yards per carry en route to a 9-7 record.
In the postseason, when they increased their attempts to 28 runs per game, they found themselves two minutes and one heart-wrenching defensive collapse away from claiming the Lombardi trophy, despite their yards per carry average dipping to 3.3.
Like last season, this running attack has lots of room to improve. The difference is that now the Cardinals are blessed with two young downhill runners in Hightower and Wells.
Today they only averaged 2.4 yards per carry, but that production should improve over time if they get enough practice. The only way to practice is to give them both the rock.
Run to set up the pass, or pass to set up the run. It doesn't really matter how the Cardinals decide to go about it. What is essential is that they run the ball just enough.
It is the difference between staring mediocrity in the face versus becoming a dominant offense that can contend for a championship.