Running back Andre Ellington breaks off his 80-yard touchdown run against the Falcons.
The Cardinals ran 54 offensive plays in Sunday's win over the Falcons, and more than a third of their total yardage came on just two of them.
The first was the 51-yard catch by Teddy Williams late in the first quarter, which set up a Larry Fitzgerald touchdown. The second was Andre Ellington's 80-yard scoring run on the next possession.
The sequence changed the entire tenor of the game, as Arizona went from down by a field goal to ahead 14-6 midway through the
second quarter, and the Falcons never recovered.
Although sustained drives have their place in a successful offense, the healthy gains were a welcome sight.
"Oh, gosh, it makes it so much easier," coach Bruce Arians said. "It's like taking a monkey off your back at times. You don't have to grind it out and grind it out and grind it out.
"You have to have chunk plays when you want to go 80 yards. You have to have a 30-yarder in there somewhere."
It was a stark turnaround from the previous game against the Seahawks, when the Cardinals didn't have a single 'big play' -- categorized as a rush of 10 yards, a reception of 20 yards or a return of 30 yards – in a 34-22 loss. In every other game this season the Cards have had at least three.
"It was a little frustrating," Ellington said. "In that Seattle game we shot ourselves in the foot plenty of times."
Wide receiver Andre Roberts said the offense must toe the line between moving the chains with short gains and going for the home run. It's good to chew up the clock and keep the opposing offense off the field, he said, but it's also important to strike when there's an opening.
"We want to be explosive every week," Roberts said. "We're trying to get at least six (chunk) plays on offense. If it happens, you never know, but we'll try to make it happen. We're going to take our shots every game. You just have to take them at the right situations."
The increased role for Ellington and the addition of Williams has given the Cardinals another dimension.
Ellington, a rookie, had four runs of 10 yards or more against Atlanta in his first career start and has 13 on the season.
Williams is one of the faster players in the NFL, and while he's still raw at wide receiver, the Cardinals felt it was imperative to use his big-play ability against Atlanta.
"Carson had told me earlier in the week, 'It's coming, so be ready,'" Williams said. "When he called the formation, I knew what was up. Let's go. We needed that play to spark the game."
The Cardinals, on a bye this weekend, have their next game Nov. 10 against the Texans, who are giving up 4.8 yards per play -- third-lowest in the NFL.