Despite illustrating some semblance of offensive balance in back-to-back victories over the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, the Arizona Cardinals were forced to veer from that game plan in order to preserve a third straight victory Sunday in Jacksonville.
Although the Jaguars featured the league’s worst rush defense — 153 yards per game allowed — heading into the non-conference matchup, Bob Babich’s unit made a conscious effort to shut down Arizona running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington.
It was an effort that proved quite fruitful.
The Cardinals’ backfield duo, along with quarterback Carson Palmer, rushed for a mere 14 yards on 24 carries — a season-worst 0.6 yards per carry.
“It definitely alarms you,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Monday in regards to the lack of a run game in Jacksonville. “We were coming off the two best games of the season where we had balance offensively. They were games that we talked about where Carson didn’t have to sit back and throw the ball 35 or 40 times to beat you. As we all know, when you put the ball in the air that many times, bad things can potentially happen.”
Bad things didn’t happen to Palmer, though, as he completed a game turnover-free for the first time in 2013. In the process, he threw for a season-high 419 yards and two touchdowns, as the Cardinals went on to win rather easily 27-14.
As alarming as the backfield woes were, Keim admitted that he was quite pleased from what he saw out of his quarterback.
“Carson did a nice job taking care of the ball,” said Keim. “He took what they gave us, and really from a ball placement standpoint, accuracy and timing, he had a really nice game. I think he did a nice job in the pocket locating secondary options. With him, it’s something to build on. He continues to grow in this offense.”