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Run Effort Set Blueprint In Seattle

Posted Nov 21, 2014

Notebook: Fitzgerald will be game-day decision against the Seahawks; Fells in TE spotlight

Running back Andre Ellington with one of the Cardinals' 43 rushing attempts in Seattle last season.

The Cardinals overcame four interceptions to win the game in Seattle last year, and it was a Carson Palmer touchdown pass that provided the winning points. But lost in the aftermath was the way the Cards continued to run the ball – more than they had in more than a decade.

The Cardinals had 43 rushing attempts, for 139 yards, in the game. It was the most rushing attempts in a game for the franchise since the Cards had 44 (for 221 yards) in a 16-13 home overtime win against the 49ers back on Oct. 2003. With the Seahawks now missing their best run-stuffer in defensive tackle Brandon Mebane – done for the season with a hamstring tear – Seattle could be vulnerable. The Cardinals, however, are having their own issues, averaging just 1.5 yards an attempt over 48 total attempts the past two games.  

“If you can pound the ball, no matter who you are playing, you’ll have success,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “Hopefully we can duplicate (last year). If not, we’re going to be in trouble.”

The weather is expected to be about the same as last year, possible rain, temperatures in the upper 40s. Last season, the Cardinals had both Andre Ellington (15 carries for 64 yards) and Rashard Mendenhall (21 carries for 63 yards) to split the load. Ellington has been beat up of late, and Goodwin acknowledged the Cardinals need to get more from Stepfan Taylor and/or Marion Grice. The Cards put in a waiver claim on recently released running back Ben Tate, but he was awarded to the Vikings.

Goodwin was disappointed in the “10 or 11” mental errors the Cardinals committed in the run game last week. A focus on getting better in the run has been apparent for weeks, although coming up against the stout defensive lines of the Rams and Lions didn’t help.

“I’ve never been in a situation like this,” Goodwin said. “We just have to deliver. It’s about coaches and players being on the same page, and once we get to the grass, execute.”

It shouldn’t be lost that the Cardinals won both the last two games despite their running issues. Goodwin would prefer not to try that option again.

“We just have to attack them, and that was the mindset we had last year, be physical up front,” Ellington said. “It paid off.”

FITZGERALD SITS AGAIN, WILL BE GAME DAY DECISION

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald did not practice for a third straight day because of his bad knee, but coach Bruce Arians said Fitzgerald will still be listed as questionable as the Cards try to get him ready to play Sunday.

The decision to play Fitzgerald will hinge on his ability to play well enough to help the Cardinals on the field, Arians said.

“Practice at his age right now is overrated sometimes,” Arians said. “We’ll see if he can capably play on Sunday (when we are) at the game.”

Defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) has been ruled out for Sunday. The rest of the dinged up Cardinals are all listed as probable.

The Seahawks have ruled cornerback Marcus Burley (hamstring), linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) and center Max Unger (knee/ankle) out, while defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (knee) is doubtful and guard James Carpenter (ankle) is questionable. Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (toe) are among those listed as probable.

LOOKING FOR A BLOCK OF FELLS

With rookie Troy Niklas out for the season, the Cardinals are hoping Darren Fells can step into the breach. Fells is much more inexperienced than the newly signed Matthew Mulligan, but Fells is the one who has been with the team since last season trying to turn his 6-foot-7, basketball-playing frame into a quality blocking body

“That’s definitely been the most important thing,” Fells said. “I’m a big guy. I’m supposed to be able to move guys. My mindset is on being a block-first tight end.”

The Cardinals could end up with all four tight ends active. Last season in Seattle, with the Seahawks using four defensive linemen, the Cards often used multiple tight ends.

“You’re talking about a guy who is still learning the game,” Goodwin said. “He’s gotten a whole lot better since he has gotten here (as a blocker). We need him.”

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