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Anatomy Of The Cardinals' All-Runs Scoring Drive

Grinding yards and clock to close out Rams was prove-it moment for offense

Running back Chase Edmonds races upfield during his 54-yard run against the Rams last weekend.
Running back Chase Edmonds races upfield during his 54-yard run against the Rams last weekend.

The defense had made the stop – Devon Kennard stopping Matthew Stafford just short of the goal line on third down, and then Tanner Vallejo breaking up a fourth-down pass – to keep the lead at 34-13 against the Rams.

There were still more than 12 minutes left in the game and the Cardinals were at their own 1, but the NFL's most prolific offense was about to create a signature drive.

When it was over -- 12 plays covering 94 yards, all of them runs by James Conner and Chase Edmonds, save for a single Kyler Murray tote – the Rams were broken. The Cardinals, said Murray, had done "something we probably wouldn't have been able to do the past two years."

It was a punishing effort, the kind of offense few expected out of a Kliff Kingsbury team.

"Man, that's what you dream of," left tackle D.J. Humphries said. "If I could call a game, that's what I'd call on the opening drive. But that was awesome to feel, being able to impose your will like that."

1st-10 AZ 1 12:05 Conner up middle +0

2nd-10 AZ 1 11:21 Conner up middle +3

To get off the goal line was crucial. The Cardinals signed Conner just for that role – to be the battering ram between the tackles. Conner had already served his purpose well, twice refusing to be stopped on one-yard touchdown runs.

Here, it was the reverse of those plays, in the shadow of his own goalpost. Conner's first carry was stoned for no gain, but the second he carved out three yards to provide needed breathing room.

"I love him in those looks where, 'We need you to fall forward for three (yards), we need you to fall forward for four,' " Humphries said. "He is that guy. He is so physical, such a big guy. That's the type of guy he is too, he's a gritty guy."

Edmonds has essentially the same role as last year, but Conner replaced Kenyan Drake, who produced but was not the same kind of big back as Conner.

"If you followed the Cardinals last year, you saw how much we struggled in short distances and goal line situations," Edmonds said. "James has brought that physicality for us. I feel like we are complimenting each other really well."

3rd-7 AZ 4 10:35 Edmonds up middle +54

The big play of the drive came next. With a third-and-7, and Edmonds in the game, the Cardinals were ready to have Murray throw. Then they saw the light box the Rams had decided to defend with, and everything changed.

"It was a weird look," Edmonds said. "I remember me and K1, pre-snap, I was like, 'Bro, this is it.' They had a four-man D-line structure and one backer in the box and K1 was reading the end, because the end is not going to let K1 take off. I knew as long as D.J. (Humphries) could get to the second level, which he did, it was going to be a big run."

Said left guard Justin Pugh, "The third down call was a pass that Kyler saw was a good look and he checked to (the run), so it was amazing by him to get us into the right play."

With the right end staying home on the chance Murray would keep the ball, Humphries had an easy time getting to the one linebacker, creating a gaping hole up the middle for a 54-yard run.

"When they came out in that look, I was like, 'Oh my goodness,' and we checked into the run and I'm like, 'Oh yeah, great, great, great,' " Humphries said. "Then when we broke it, I was like, 'That's the game right there.' "

1st-10 LA 42 9:45 Conner up middle +7

2nd-3 LA 35 9:00 Conner up middle +4

1st-10 LA 31 8:14 Edmonds left end +14

Passing is not a bad thing. The Cardinals will only go as far as Murray takes them, and it is the passing game and the many pass-catching weapons that the underpinning of the 4-0 start.

Running the ball, however, means something. It doesn't have to be every play, but doing that once in a while cannot be ignored.

"I don't care as long as we are moving the ball and scoring point," Pugh said. "Teams will come out and say whatever they want to say, but they have to come out and stop it. To show we can do both though is huge going forward. Whatever you're going to take away, we have an answer for that."

Kingsbury doesn't have a preference either.

"I was just happy we held on to the ball and kept it away from them, honestly," the coach said. "With that offense and Sean (McVay), they are never out of a game. So we just wanted to possess it and get it out of them. It was a heck of a way to finish the game."

1st-10 LA 17 7:26 Edmonds up middle +0

2nd-10 LA 17 6:41 Edmonds up middle +11

1st-G LA 6 5:55 Edmonds up middle +3

The defense, meanwhile, was able to enjoy a rest – the drive took 8:27 on the clock, bringing the game clock to under four minutes – after their big fourth-down stop that started it all.

"Jordan (Hicks) told me five or six times during the game, the best defenses come from good offense," linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. "It makes so much sense.

"Just for them to be able to take the ball 94 yards, that's a stat that is huge in that game."

2nd-G LA 3 5:10 K. Murray left end -3

As for the quarterback, he didn't have to do much. He did rush once on the drive, keeping the ball on a read-option that lost three yards after the Cardinals had reached the Rams 3-yard line.

"I probably shouldn't have pulled it," Murray admitted. "It was a pretty boring drive for me, but it was fun to watch."

3rd-G LA 6 4:27 Edmonds up middle +1

4th-G LA 5 3:42 Prater 23-yard field goal GOOD

AZ 37, LA 13, 12 plays, 94 yards, 8:27 drive

"Coming off the field, the defense really appreciates it and that makes you feel the best," Pugh said. "You did your job for the team and that's what made us feel so good. Our defense had a huge fourth-and-goal stand and for us to take that and switch field position and take the steam out of the Rams and close the game off, that's something that gives you some sense of pride."

Both Humphries and Pugh lamented the Cardinals could not end with a touchdown, and certainly, a 99-yard TD drive of all runs would have been a truly epic finish. But the time-and-yards-eater they provided was a revelation, on a line with an imported superstar center in Rodney Hudson, a backup right guard in Max Garcia and young swingman Josh Jones playing right tackle.

"Man, I think it was a good statement for us," Edmonds said. "Just to kind of get rid of that Air Raid label. If we want to get to the places we want to go, we are going to have to run the ball in the fourth quarter. That's just the game of football.

"It was a long time coming for us. I think we kind of struggled with (running the ball) in Jacksonville and the week before against Minnesota. Just really learning how to close a game. Minnesota doesn't even need to kick that field goal if we drive down and waste the clock out. To do that against the Rams was a big-time statement for us."

The best photos from the Cardinals' victory over the Rams Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season