Cardinals' Report: What's So Funny About Getting a Running Game Going?

Douglas McDanielContributor IMay 21, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Quarterback Kurt Warner #13 of the Arizona Cardinals attempts a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Given the remarkable success of the Arizona Cardinals' last season ... well, due to their unremarkable regular season and miraculous (nearly, probably anyway, despite losing the Super Bowl) second playoff season, one could arguably ask: Why does this team really need a running game?

Doesn't it kind of get in the way of the strength of the team, that is, the airborne points piled up, often in rapid fashion by quarterback Kurt Warner, receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, to do anything but put the ball up in the air 40 or 50 times a game?

Considering the kind of wild game the team played during the regular season? Those sloppy, mistake-driven, up and down affairs full of turnovers and penalties and the need for points, quick, late in the contests resulting in a 9-7 season. To get to the end zone by throwing deep and always keeping an eye out for the big plays would seem to be the point. The rein it all in would be like, duh, avoiding the obvious.

The choice of Chris Wells, a running back out of Ohio State, in the first round, indicates a shift, of course, to a more orthodox view of how to get to the Super Bowl and actually win.  Usually, it's the ball control teams with great defenses and, yes, razor-sharp passing schemes, but circuses? ... rarely, that end up with the Super Bowl rings.

The fact is, the Cardinals can't even be considered a viable playoff team, from season to season, without a running game. Not just because a reliance on the pass makes even the team with the greatest passing teams 50-50 performers in the playoffs. Where swarming, blitzing defenses can be found in the cities of the north, any Foutz-meets-Warner, all-air, all-the-time NFL-style flight plan can get grounded by the weather.

To presume Wells and the current likely starter Tim Hightower are the answers to the running game is to presume the offensive line can continue to improve. If that happens then 25-35 carries a game is what the monster, roll-'em over offenses do each week, limiting the offense to 20 passes or less, if the game (as in the ball) is really under control.

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That the Cardinals couldn't eat up the clock in a heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl is part of the evidence for what they are lacking going into the next season.

One could conceive of an offensive game plan for the team each week that called for a two tight-end set, because how many teams would still defense Warner and Co. by stacking the line then? But if they could manage to avoid the hits on Warner this next season (a big if for any Cardinals quarterback for decades now), the Broadway lights might go on late-season still if the team can improve its regular season record and, perhaps, thinking now of the weak division, stack up some wins for a home playoff game, or two.

However, the real question is: Does Warner, or any team with this kind of air power, ever really function that well, anyway, as a ball control team? Maybe they should just throw, baby throw, blitz on every defensive play, and please, please, please, forget about playing the prevent for that final, fatal minute. Because that's the real reason we are not trying to examine, for the upcoming campaign, why they can't repeat.


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