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An Invisible 156

Notebook: Playoff rushing attack off to good start; Boldin, Hayes sit out


Running back Beanie Wells runs over Packers defensive back Tramon Williams during the Wild Card playoff game.
If it's possible for a team to rush for a near-invisible 156 yards, the Cardinals did so in their playoff opener.

One caller to the team's post-game talk show lamented the Cards' inability to run the ball. Center Lyle Sendlein said he wasn't aware of the lofty number until coach Ken Whisenhunt mentioned it in a Tuesday morning meeting.

"If we can go under the radar like that, the better," said running back Beanie Wells, who had 91 of the 156 yards. "Then more teams won't worry about us running the football."

The Cardinals are still regarded as a team that can't run the football, an easy default for fans and media who have avoided breaking down the statistics. The Cards were 28th in the NFL with 93.4 rushing yards a game during the season, but they gained 124 per game during weeks 8-16 (the Cards had just 48 in their season-finale shut down against the Packers).

Then they shredded the Packers' No. 1-ranked run defense for 156, a number lost behind Kurt Warner's amazing passing day and the overall offensive fireworks.

"It's kind of how we went into last year's postseason, looking for more balance and trying to run the ball," Sendlein said. "No one is talking about (the performance) and we're used to not being talked about so it's fitting. We were just happy to have that kind of success, especially the high per-carry average, against the kind of defense they were."

The Cards averaged 6.8 yards a carry, and could use a similar performance in New Orleans. The Saints allow 122.2 yards a game on the ground and a certain amount of balance would help Warner's bid to have another great passing day.

"I was surprised at the total numbers after the game," Whisenhunt said. "You knew we were making plays. Beanie ripped off that long (42-yard) run and we had a couple others and we felt like we were being productive in the run game. Every time we ran it, it seemed like it was six or seven yards, and that's when you know you're doing OK."


Two players sat out Wednesday's practice: wide receiver Anquan Boldin and linebacker Gerald Hayes, and both have been felled by ankle sprains. Boldin continues to look better walking around but he still hasn't practiced since getting hurt in the regular-season finale. Hayes also can only hope he returns to practice Thursday.

"Hopefully both of them will be able to do something tomorrow," Whisenhunt said, "and obviously both will be a game-day decisions."

The other players on the injury list are expected to be available, including five who were limited Wednesday: LB Will Davis (knee), DE Calais Campbell (thumb), CB Bryant McFadden (chest), P Ben Graham (left groin) and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (toe, knee). Two listed players practiced fully, S Antrel Rolle (thigh) and K Neil Rackers (right groin).


If Hayes can't play, the Cardinals would slide veteran Monty Beisel in his place – an option they didn't have before bringing Beisel back in late November. The Cards had tried to use young players like Ali Highsmith or Reggie Walker as reserves, but Beisel lends an experienced presence the team simply didn't have before.

"I think that was the benefit for not only me but the Cardinals to bring me back," Beisel said. "I am familiar with the system, with (defensive coordinator) Bill Davis before and playing with these players. And to be able to play a little bit of everything is beneficial."

Beisel or Hayes wouldn't be expected to play all the time anyway; with the amount the Saints throw the ball, the Cards are expected to use nickel and dime sub packages – with extra defensive backs – often.


It's still unknown when or even if assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm will officially end up interviewing for the Buffalo Bills head coaching job – general manager Buddy Nix reportedly visited the West coast earlier this week but has returned to Buffalo – but tackle Levi Brown certainly doesn't want to see his coach leave.

"I don't really want to talk about that," Brown said. "We want Russ around here as long as possible. It goes far in talking about the kind of person he is to even be named for that kind of position. He hasn't really said anything to us about it, so we're just going to keep focusing on our task at hand."

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