The Arizona Cardinals’ defense received the bulk of the credit for their second half adjustments in Sunday’s 22-6 win over the Carolina Panthers, but they weren’t the only unit to show a vast improvement over the final 30 minutes of play.
After combining for just 18 yards on eight carries through the first two quarters, the Cardinals’ backfield duo of Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall completely flipped the script coming out of the half.
On Arizona’s first touchdown drive of the second half, Ellington ripped off a key 12-yard run, while Mendenhall rushed for 19 yards, including a one-yard scamper into the end zone.
And when the Cardinals needed to burn some time off the game clock up six in the fourth quarter, Ellington and Mendenhall were once again happy to take control of the offensive load.
On Arizona’s 11-play scoring drive that took six minutes and 23 seconds of game action, the two backs combined for 17 yards and had a big hand in setting up Jay Feely’s 50-yard field goal.
All and all, their head coach left University of Phoenix Stadium very impressed with the ground game.
“I thought [Mendenhall] was better,” Bruce Arians told Arizona Sports 620’s Bickley with Marotta Monday. “There were times he thought about bouncing some plays instead of sticking it in there for three or four yards. I thought he looked better to me playing the game.”
Mendenhall’s 43 rushing yards were his most since Sept. 15 against the Detroit Lions and came just a week after Arians challenged him to practice harder in the days leading up to games.
As for Ellington, the sixth-round pick continues to look like one of the biggest late-round steals of the 2013 NFL Draft.
In the Cardinals’ 16-point victory, the former Clemson standout finished with seven carries for 52 yards and four catches for 31 yards.
But as he reiterated during both his weekly radio segment and Monday’s press conference, Arians doesn’t plan to increase the rookie’s responsibilities as the season progresses.
“I think that’s his workload,” said Arians of Ellington’s 11 total touches in Sunday’s game. “He’s not that body type. If you’re going to stand and hand it to him 30 times, he’d probably play two weeks. You have to be smart with these guys.
“He’s a space player and a really good one. As he continues to find his niche he’s only going to get better and better.”
The 95 rushing yards Ellington and Mendenhall amassed Sunday were a season-high for the Cardinals.