TEMPE, Ariz. — Despite all the change the Arizona Cardinals defense has undergone since last season, one thing has remained the same.
You don’t run on it.
Three games into the 2014 season, last year’s top-ranked rushing defense is fourth in the NFL, allowing 215 total yards on 75 attempts, good for just 2.9 yards per attempt. Take away runs by quarterbacks and receivers, and the Chargers, Giants and 49ers have combined to for just 142 yards on 55 attempts, or just 2.58 yards per tote.
In fact, in last Sunday’s win over the 49ers, San Francisco — normally a team that likes to run the ball — surprised the Cardinals by coming out throwing. Though the game was close throughout, running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde received just nine carries.
“I didn’t know,” Gore said after the game when asked if he knew the game plan would be pass-heavy. “We did what the defense gave us.”
For the last year or so, the Cardinals defense has not given anyone much room to run. Though they had some early success throwing the ball, the 49ers didn’t even try to do much on the ground.
“I took it as a sign of respect,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “I was surprised because they’re the one team that makes us work real hard in the run game for sure. But it’s a sign of respect, though. They know what kind of players we have and they know we’re tough to run against.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians believes the 49ers’ lack of running had more to do with the fact that they were missing their top two tight ends than anything else, and that very well could be the case. But even still, if the 49ers thought they could have success on the ground, you have to think they would have tried.