Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle wrestles Rams running back Steven Jackson to the ground during Sunday's 21-13 win in St. Louis.
ST. LOUIS – Tim Hightower didn't want to talk about himself. So locker neighbor and fellow running back Jason Wright took up the cause.
"I would say Tim is one of the most complete running backs in the league," Wright said, after Hightower's 110-yard rushing day was the offensive highlight of a 21-13 win over the Rams. "And it showed today.
"He was a great blocker, he ran hard, his yards per carry – all the things he can't say because he's humble or whatever."
Hightower averaged 7.9 yards on his 14 carries, and his 50-yard run was the longest of his career and the longest by a Cardinal in a little more than five years. The Cardinals had 183 yards rushing – Beanie Wells added 74 yards and a touchdown with an equal number of attempts – to surpass 180 yards on the ground for the second time in three weeks.
Over the past three games, the Cardinals are averaging 162 yards rushing as a team.
"We've been trying to improve on this running game and build on it each week," Hightower said. "We've been going back and forth between me and Beanie trying to get some balance to this offense. It's been in the making."
Said coach Ken Whisenhunt, "The running game opened up a lot of things for us."
Perhaps it shouldn't be that surprising, since Hightower's other 100-yard game – the last time the Cards had one – came last season in St. Louis. That was also Hightower's first NFL start after taking over for Edgerrin James.
"That was a special game, so I thought about those things," Hightower acknowledged. "Not that it had any bearing on today."
JACKSON GETS 100
The Rams wanted to ride running back Steven Jackson and the Cardinals ran their defense accordingly, doing a decent job slowing down the Rams' Pro Bowler. Nevertheless, Jackson gained 100 yards for the first time in nine games against the Cards, finishing with 116 on 24 carries.
The run that put him over both the 100-yard mark Sunday and 1,000 yards for the season (for a fifth straight year) was a 48-yard run that set up a third-quarter field goal.
"It would feel a lot better if we got the win," Jackson said.
Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett said the defense would have felt a lot better had Jackson not gotten 100 yards.
"We really tried to focus on keeping him under 100 yards and that one play hurt us," Dockett said. "It's a learning lesson for us. We won and at the end of the day we're 7-3. There's a lot to be happy for and be thankful for, but it's kind of disappointing because we knew we could pay the run better. All the times he got the ball we bottled him up, bottled him up, bottled him up. Then one time he gets loose and he's the (expletive) hero."
Early Doucet has surpassed, at least for now, Jerheme Urban on the depth chart. That was clear Sunday, when Doucet was the fourth receiver and Urban was inactive for the first time this season (Urban was active but didn't play a snap the week before against Seattle).
But Doucet was a non-factor until late, when he made his lone catch of the game – a 20-yard reception on third down from the Cards' 13-yard line – for a critical first down.
"He saw me and I saw him for a big third-down conversion," Doucet said.
Backup quarterback Matt Leinart had been struggling up until that point, but avoided the rush long enough to make the throw. The first down, with 2:35 still on the clock, forced the Rams to start using timeouts.
"You have to make a play so we could take time off the clock," Leinart said. "It's one of those things where you try to make a play and we were able to move the ball."
While Leinart couldn't lead the Cards to points, Whisenhunt made sure to emphasize the Doucet pass.
"That play to Early, I don't see how you can make a better play than that as a quarterback," Whisenhunt said.
Quarterback Kurt Warner's possible concussion wasn't the only impactful injury of the game. Cornerback Bryant McFadden hurt his right knee in the second quarter and wasn't able to return. Whisenhunt said he didn't have a sense of how serious the injury may be, but McFadden was standing on the sideline for part of the second half and was walking OK after the game.
Linebacker Will Davis, who was playing well and had notched the second sack of his career earlier in the game, came out in the fourth quarter after tweaking his knee. Davis didn't go back in, but he said he was fine.
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