Kenyan Drake is zeroing in on the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career, but he might not get there if the Cardinals' rushing attack doesn't become more productive in Sunday's finale against the Rams.
Drake is only averaging 3.3 yards per carry in his past six games, and with 919 rushing yards on the year, it will take an efficient effort to have a shot at reaching the marker.
The Cardinals were on pace to set a franchise record in yards per carry earlier this season but have fallen off since Week 11 in Seattle, and Drake places much of the blame on himself.
"I put a lot of that on my shoulders," said Drake, who is averaging 4.0 yards per carry on the season. "Obviously, playing this position and being a running back, this game is the greatest team sport in the world, and you really can't do it on your own, but I'm my own worst critic when it comes to things I see week in and week out when I watch film. The yards I potentially could have left out there, the few fumbles I left on the ground this year. I'm just looking to finish this year out strong."
Drake said multiple offensive linemen have spoken to him this week about getting him to 1,000 yards rushing. His previous career-high was 817 yards, set last year between his time with the Dolphins and Cardinals.
"Obviously the most important stat is a win, to be 1-0 at the end of this week, but I would definitely be lying if I said it wasn't important to me, it wasn't important to the guys in front of me that work their ass off, to get us to that milestone," Drake said. "Not a lot of players and teams can say they have a thousand-yard back. The guys in front of me probably honestly want it more than I do."
The Rams are known for using two high safeties to limit explosive plays in the passing game. If they stick to that scheme on Sunday as expected, it will mean lighter boxes for the rushing attack.
The Cardinals couldn't take advantage in the first matchup, as a 27-yard run by Drake in garbage time made the rushing performance look better than it was, and it seems imperative the ground game gets going in the rematch.
"I definitely feel like we've got to be able to run the ball," said quarterback Kyler Murray, who leads the NFL in yards per carry at 6.2. "It's as simple as that. They're a great defense. When they get to pin their ears back and just rush the passer, it's tough. We've got to have a good balance."
The Cardinals may not have Drake's partner in crime, Chase Edmonds, who left the Week 16 loss to the 49ers with a hip injury and is a game-day decision.
Drake's had many standout games as the solo component during his time with the Cardinals, and the team's playoff hopes would get a boost if he can pull out a vintage performance against Los Angeles.
"When we're playing good in that phase, we're hard to stop, when we can play downhill and stay on schedule, " coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "When we're not, it makes it tougher. That's been evident."
KINGSBURY 'HOPEFUL' BUDDA BAKER WILL PLAY AGAINST RAMS
Safety Budda Baker suffered a neck injury on Thursday and was limited in practice. He didn't practice Friday, and while the Pro Bowler is dealing with some soreness, Kingsbury is "hopeful" he can play.
Baker is listed as questionable, as are Edmonds, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (groin), tight end Darrell Daniels (hamstring) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle).
Kingsbury said both Edmonds and Fitzgerald will be game-day decisions against the Rams.
"We'll see," Kingsbury said. "The good thing about both those guys is they are very smart football players. They know the plans inside and out, so if they're ready to roll, they'll be prepared mentally."
For the Rams, quarterback Jared Goff (thumb) and linebacker Micah Kiser (knee) are out. Running back Cam Akers (ankle) and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (abdomen) are questionable.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (injured reserve), defensive end Michael Brockers (COVID-19 list) and wide receiver Cooper Kupp (COVID-19 list) are not on the injury report but seem unlikely to play.
MURRAY 'INTENSE' IN PREPARATION THIS WEEK
Murray said on Wednesday that the leg injury he suffered against the 49ers won’t keep him off the field. Kingsbury believes the bruising the team took in the 20-12 loss could serve his quarterback well.
"Just like the rest of us, he's been on edge since last Saturday," Kingsbury said. "None of us liked how that went, or our style of play. I think it did re-focus all of us, having the 49ers roll in there and do that. I definitely see he is intense this week. I expect him to play at a high level."
Kingsbury is hoping Murray won't have any limitations on Sunday, but said he can adjust his game if the mobility is affected.
Images from practice at the Dignity Health Training Center, presented by Hyundai.