Running back Rashard Mendenhall breaks off a run Sunday during the Cardinals' 24-21 loss to the Eagles.
PHILADELPHIA – Andre Ellington is always a threat when he touches the ball, but Carson Palmer was especially excited to see the rookie running back unleashed against the Eagles on Sunday.
"You have certain things built for him," the quarterback said. "Especially against this team, we had some things we really liked."
It was not to be, though, as a knee injury suffered at practice on Thanksgiving kept Ellington sidelined in the 24-21 loss.
The running back with the best yards-per-carry average in the NFL at 6.0 was never really close to playing, coach Bruce Arians said.
"There's no way I'm pushing him," Arians said. "He's too young. We'll get him right before he plays again."
Starter Rashard Mendenhall saw an increase in his workload and performed well. He rushed 18 times for 76 yards, a second consecutive solid outing after a subpar first half of the season. Stepfan Taylor stepped in as the backup, running the ball three times for 15 yards.
Taylor also lined up as a slot receiver in five-wide formations, a place Ellington has been more frequently of late, and caught a pair of passes for 45 yards.
"I knew I had to be ready to play," Taylor said.
Ellington is hopeful to be back next Sunday at home against the Rams but said he will see how his knee recovers this week.
"Day by day," Ellington said. "I'll hit the treatment hard tomorrow and see where it goes, see where the week progresses."
FITZ THE EAGLE KILLER HAS HIS MOMENTS
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn't have his best day ever against the Eagles but once again was a thorn in Philly's side, with five catches for 72 yards – including a 43-yard touchdown that got the Cardinals energized on offense. Fitzgerald was covered, but quarterback Carson Palmer fit it in to Fitzgerald, who had a pair of Eagles' defenders bounce off him so he could race to the end zone.
"They bounced off me, I saw the end zone, I think it was Mike (Floyd) down there got me a good block from the free safety to help chaperone me," Fitzgerald said. "We needed that play to get us going. We were a little stagnant before that. We just didn't have enough of those plays to get us over the hump."
MORE TIGHT END TROUBLES
Opposing tight ends have been the Cardinals' Achilles' heel at times this year, and it was a similar story against Philadelphia. Zach Ertz caught five passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns while Brent Celek had four receptions for 29 yards and another score.
Ertz's second touchdown, a 24-yard catch with 10:16 remaining in the third quarter, gave the Eagles a 24-7 advantage, and while the Arizona defense clamped down from there, it was enough to hold off the Cardinals.
"Those guys run a lot of motions and a lot of play-actions, so as a safety, you've got to keep your eyes on the tight ends," Tyrann Mathieu said. "Two times in the first half – I'll be accountable – I was peeking in the backfield and the tight end got away from me."
The Cardinals held the Philadelphia wide receivers in check – Riley Cooper had 48 receiving yards and DeSean Jackson had 36 – but the success of the tight ends helped quarterback Nick Foles throw for 237 yards and the three touchdowns.
"We did not handle their tight ends very well," Arians said. "That was pretty obvious."
SPECIAL TEAMS ADVENTURES
Dave Zastudil did have a punt downed at the 2-yard line, but other than that it was a forgettable day for the special teams units.
In the second quarter, a Philadelphia punt hit Javier Arenas in the back, causing it to be a live football. The ball squirted around for a while until Antoine Cason picked it up and ran for 16 yards. He fumbled at the end of the play and the Eagles recovered, but a replay review showed Cason's knee was down before the ball came loose.
In the third quarter, the Cardinals had a chance at good field position, but return man Patrick Peterson let a punt go because he saw the Cardinals were getting flagged for having 12 men on the field. It ended up going 69 yards and the Eagles declined the penalty.
In the fourth quarter, Jackson returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown, though it was called back for holding.