Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson could have a big workload on Sunday against the 49ers.
The Cardinals are doomed if Drew Stanton doesn't play passably in place of injured quarterback Carson Palmer over the next couple of months.
The best way to help him? Run the ball efficiently.
Adrian Peterson's individual success has mirrored the team's in his two games since being acquired from the Saints. Peterson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinals' 38-33 win over the Buccaneers in Week 6, but had only 21 yards on 11 carries last time out in a 33-0 loss to the Rams.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin hopes the Cardinals rely on the ground attack Sunday against the 49ers.
"Feed the beast," Goodwin said. "It's like an old stove. The more wood you put in it, the hotter it gets. We've just got to make sure we feed him the ball so he can get comfortable."
Said Peterson: "I'm all about that."
For nearly his entire career, Peterson has been the focal point on offense, helping carry teams with average or below-average signal-callers. In the eight seasons in which Peterson has played 12 games or more, his quarterbacks have combined to throw an underwhelming 151 touchdowns against 121 interceptions, but his teams have still gone 65-62-1.
When Peterson was with the Vikings in 2008, they won 10 games with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. In 2012, Christian Ponder started all season and Minnesota went 10-6. Two years ago, the Vikings went 11-5 with youngster Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. Peterson led the NFL in rushing each of those seasons.
Peterson is no longer in his prime, and it remains to be seen which of his first two games is the outlier. If Peterson can shoulder the load, the Cardinals will have a much better shot at winning.
"Drew, he's proven," Peterson said. "He's won many games for this organization. He's had a couple great days of practice. I remember looking out there today and I saw one ball. I was like, 'Wow.' It was just a beautiful pass. We're confident in him, but of course I want to do my job and make things easier for him."
FIXING THE DEFENSE
The Cardinals are searching for answers on defense as well as offense. The team is a surprising 30th in points allowed as the midway point beckons.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher was asked about possible schematic or personnel changes to kickstart improvement, but there doesn't seem to be anything on the horizon.
Bettcher said the mistakes have hit randomly in various areas, and he doesn't think playing more zone this year has hurt.
"There's no less production when we're in zone than when we're in man coverages," Bettcher said. "It's execution. It's playing hard. I looked at the calls. Could we be in a better call here or there? Sure, maybe. I looked at all those things critically."
Bettcher said it comes down to two key areas: forcing turnovers and getting off the field on third down. The Cardinals have yet to force a fumble this season and are tied for 25th in the NFL with seven takeaways. They are 31st in the NFL in third-down defense, allowing conversions 47.7 percent of the time.
"We improve those two things, we're going to give ourselves a whole lot better chance of helping our team win games," Bettcher said.
DANSBY MISSES PRACTICE
Linebacker Karlos Dansby missed a second straight day of practice with finger and hamstring injuries. Wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin) and wide receiver Chad Williams (back) were downgraded and did not practice. Center Daniel Munyer (toe) was added to the injury report on Thursday and did not practice.
Defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (knee/hip) and running back Andre Ellington (quad) were limited.
The 49ers had eight players who didn't practice. They were: wide receiver Pierre Garcon (neck), left tackle Joe Staley (eye), defensive end Solomon Thomas (knee), guard Brandon Fusco (biceps), tackle Garry Gilliam (knee), defensive tackle D.J. Jones (knee), defensive end Aaron Lynch (calf), and cornerback K'Waun Williams (quad).
Linebacker Reuben Foster (ribs) and running back Matt Breida (knee) were limited. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil practiced in full after missing Wednesday for non-injury reasons.
Images of the Cardinals' leading rushers after seven games