Kenyan Drake's return to action on Sunday was not issue-free.
In his first game back from an ankle sprain, the Cardinals' running back went the wrong direction on a pitch play and false started in the first half, then fumbled in the third quarter.
But those drawbacks did not take away from this more big-picture assessment: the Cardinals' rushing attack is a handful at full strength.
Drake ended up carrying the ball 16 times for 100 yards in the 32-30 win over the Bills, while Chase Edmonds added eight carries for 56 yards. Throw in quarterback Kyler Murray's 11 rushing attempts for 61 yards, and the Cardinals racked up 217 yards at a whopping 6.2 yards per carry.
It was a surprise that Drake only missed one game, but it's a good thing he was a quick healer, because his absence was notable in the Week 9 loss to the Dolphins. Edmonds played nearly every snap and carried the ball 25 times for only 70 yards.
On Sunday, the playing time was split almost 50-50, giving both running backs ample time to refresh.
"They are a great 1-2 punch, and they complement each other tremendously well with all the different skillsets they have," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Chase is a great change of pace, great out of the backfield catching it, and it allows him to be fresh and really bring a burst when he gets into the game. I thought K.D. ran the ball tough. We'd like to have that (fumble) back, but I thought he finished downhill, ran the ball tough and got better as the game went on."
Murray, who leads the NFL with an average of 6.9 yards per carry, had two rushing touchdowns on zone read keepers against Buffalo, a play that has been lethal all season.
The defense is put in a bind each time, because if the unblocked defensive end slows his pursuit of Drake or Edmonds, Murray hands the ball off. If the defensive end crashes, Murray keeps the ball.
"It's not a situation where I'm being asked to run the ball," Murray said. "Those are run plays, and I have a read. If they give me that read, then it's my job to carry the ball."
Left tackle D.J. Humphries knows the Cardinals have a schematic advantage because of Murray's elite mobility, but the offensive line still must capably block the other defenders in the box. The group has done it with aplomb this year, as it is currently ranked second in the NFL in ESPN’s run-block win rate metric.
"We just have to stay on churning it up front so we can make it easy for those guys," Humphries said.
The Cardinals are averaging 5.3 yards per carry this season behind the dynamic trio, which is on pace to set a franchise record for the second consecutive season, and the individual numbers are gaudy.
Drake has 135 carries for 612 yards and four touchdowns. Murray has 87 carries for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns, as both are on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing. Edmonds has 62 carries for 302 yards and a touchdown while adding 261 receiving yards.
Humphries gets one-track-minded during live action, so he will flip the game on after it's finished to watch from a broader perspective. On Sunday, like many games before it, impressive ground highlights were waiting.
"I love to go back and watch the film because in a game I have no clue what's going on," Humphries said. "I just know what I have to do and how I have to do it. That's kind of my philosophy and what I stick to, so I love to go back and watch the game after and see the plays that those guys are making, and the way they're moving with the ball. It's fun to watch."