Running back Rashard Mendenhall (28) celebrates with wide receiver Michael Floyd after Mendenhall's touchdown run Sunday.
Rashard Mendenhall's postgame interview session on Sunday was no different from his past ones. He was reserved and succinct, unwilling to add any extra significance to his performance against the Colts.
Deep down, though, it had to feel good.
The Cardinals' maligned running back showed a burst that's been missing for much of this season, running 13 times for 54
yards and a touchdown and adding a 24-yard catch in the 40-11 victory. Mendenhall came into the game averaging a career-low 2.9 yards-per-carry and had become the whipping boy of armchair coaches everywhere.
However, he had a season-long 15-yard rush in the first quarter and a 13-yarder later in the game. He sat out the Oct. 27 victory over Atlanta with a turf toe injury, but seems to be noticeably healthier now.
"Rashard looked like himself," coach Bruce Arians said. "He looked healthy like he did back in training camp. I was really glad to see that, and no better time. I thought he had, by far, his best game."
The Cardinals ran 30 times for 120 yards in the contest, as Andre Ellington added 50 yards on 10 carries. The team averaged 6.4 yards-per-attempt in the first half before moving to more conservative play-calls with the big lead after intermission.
The impressive performance was a contrast from last week against the Jaguars, when the Cardinals rushed for only 32 yards on 16 carries, the second-worst output of the season.
"We took that as a challenge and went out there and imposed our will," Ellington said.
Mendenhall was asked about the criticism he's dealt with this season, but said it's not a motivating factor.
"It's not really what I think about," he said. "I approach my job and my work the same. I prepare throughout the week and
do the best that I can on Sunday. Today was no different."
Ellington, though, hears the potshots directed at his teammate and knows they must serve as motivation.
"He's taking all that criticism and making it a chip on his shoulder," Ellington said. "He's going out there trying to prove people wrong. You don't want to get criticized. You want to go out there and shut up the naysayers. I felt like he did that today. Whoever had doubt in him, he shut them up today."
Mendenhall was particularly effective in the first half when the Cardinals built up their big lead, rushing six times for 43 yards and turning a short catch into the 24-yard gain. He scored a 5-yard touchdown with 5:57 left in the third quarter for a commanding 34-3 lead, and had a second one called back because of holding.
"Man, that's the Rashard we used to see back in Pittsburgh (with the Steelers)," safety Tyrann Mathieu said.