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Diversifying The Offense

Posted Nov 11, 2013

Better running, multiple pass catchers should help Cardinals down the stretch

Wide receiver Andre Roberts hauls in his 19-yard touchdown catch Sunday against the Houston Texans.

The play, in many ways, turned out to be moot, with the way the Cardinals played defense on the Houston Texans’ final possession Sunday.

But it was crucial at the time, a perfectly executed play-action pass to the flat by quarterback Carson Palmer on third-and-2 to running back Andre Ellington after a quick fake handoff to Stepfan Taylor. The play picked up 12 yards and a first down that drained more clock and cost the Texans more timeouts.

When the game was over, Palmer noted that he thought head coach Bruce Arians “called a phenomenal game.” The pass to Ellington was an example of a diversified offense that withstood an injury to wide receiver Michael Floyd and a mundane day from fellow receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The Cardinals, minus a pair of Palmer kneeldowns at the end, rushed the ball 27 times and threw 32 passes. Four players ran the ball, and another nine made pass receptions. All three tight ends had catches, in the position’s most effective game of the season.

And Arians said he thought the offensive line – against one of the best defensive lines in the league – had its best game of the season.

“That’s the kind of balance you have to have,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “You have to be able to be able to keep a defense on its toes, especially one like (Houston’s). I thought we did a pretty good job and they still put hits on the quarterback and knocked Carson down. We had to run the ball.

“Again, we still want to run the ball better and protect the ball, but if you didn’t have something to work on every week, you’d probably not show up.”

The Cardinals clearly used the bye week to tweak offensive packages, including the use of Ellington as Wildcat quarterback. Arians also lamented the inability because of pressure to find Ellington as a receiver a couple of times on out patterns matched up – or mismatched – against a linebacker.

On the Cards’ first touchdown drive, the pass-run ratio was five-to-one, although Palmer completed passes to five different receivers – none of which were Fitzgerald. On the second TD drive, it was five passes and four runs, with the four completions again to four different receivers (and again, none to Fitzgerald.)

“There were a couple of things that I thought we improved upon,” Arians said. “I still was not pleased with third down and red zone. We did not execute. We should’ve made a catch in the end zone for a touchdown. We had a run-pass option that if we handed it off we would’ve walked in. We also had a mental error on the first play we ever put in, that Rashard (Mendenhall) probably walks in after Robbie (Housler)’s catch, but Robbie didn’t block the outside linebacker for whatever reason.

“We still had some things we have to clean up.”

Arians said he wants more efficiency with his unit, but with the running game developing behind the emergence of Ellington and better pass protection of late, that can happen. If Arians can see more of his beloved “chunk” plays, all would be right.

And even if Floyd misses a game, using multiple options will make consistency easier to come by.

EXTRA POINTS

Floyd is day-to-day with an AC sprain of his right shoulder, Arians said. “If he can’t play, it’s a big blow,” Arians said. The coach had sounded fairly confident after Sunday’s game Floyd wouldn’t miss any time but his tone shifted a bit Monday.

“At first it looked just like a bruised shoulder, but I don’t know the difference between a bruise and a sprain or a strain,” Arians said. “I think he’s going to want to play. That’s a big part of it.” …

Arians had promised the veterans a “Victory Monday” once they reached five wins, which came Sunday. The players got Monday off – as long as they have been in the NFL at least three seasons. “Young guys don’t get any days off,” Arians said with a grin.

Still, there were a handful of veterans who came in to either get treatment for injuries or to lift, including Housler, Jerraud Powers, Andre Roberts, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham and Karlos Dansby.

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