Kerwynn Williams a ‘spark plug’ for a Cardinals run game that needed one

Dec 3, 2017, 7:45 PM | Updated: 8:58 pm
Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (33) is hit by Los Angeles Rams strong safety John ...
Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (33) is hit by Los Angeles Rams strong safety John Johnson (43) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you’re a fantasy football player, you might have spent some time Sunday morning trying to figure out who was going to get the bulk of the carries for the Arizona Cardinals against the Los Angeles Rams.

After all, bell cow back Adrian Peterson didn’t practice all week and was a “game-time decision.” Kerwynn Williams, the likely successor, had cracked ribs and nobody was quite sure what he’d be able to provide.

Williams answered the call, however, delivering 97 yards on 16 carries in the Cardinals’ 32-16 loss to the Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Arizona dug itself a hole, falling behind 16-0 after one quarter, but it was Williams and the running game that helped the Cardinals climb back into contention.

After getting only three carries in the first quarter, Williams, with help from Arizona’s offensive line, racked up 76 yards on eight carries in the second.

“Kerwynn always steps up,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “He was hurt. Every time he starts, he gets 100 yards almost. He was a spark plug to get us back in the game.”

To the head coach’s point, Williams does deliver when called upon. Sunday was his fifth career game getting 12 or more carries. He’s had 60 or more yards in each one of those contests.

“I think the offensive line did a great job of getting a body on somebody,” Williams said. “Every time we would run the ball, they opened a lot of holes.”

All of Williams’ second-quarter production came on two drives, both of which ended in Arizona touchdowns.

The second half was a much different story, however. Williams got only five carries for 11 yards after halftime and his final tote came with 12:55 left in the game. The Cardinals were playing catch-up, but Arians had admitted to abandoning the running game too early in Arizona’s first loss of the season to the Rams.

One can ask if that happened again. Or if the Rams did anything different to limit the run in the second half.

“No,” Arians said. “With those plays that were eight or nine yards (in the first half), we’re getting two or three. We didn’t finish the blocks as much as we had.”

A first for Penny

Peterson’s injury also opened up some opportunity for other backs. Elijhaa Penny didn’t get a lot of work, but he made the most of it, scoring on a 1-yard run in the second quarter for the Cardinals’ first touchdown. It was his first touchdown run as a pro.

Penny got only two carries and now has three in his NFL career, but he provides something different to the Cardinals’ offense due to his size. His 6-foot-2, 234-pound frame makes him an option in short-yardage and goal line situations.

“Definitely, especially for me and my size,” Penny said. “I’ve just got to use my frame and hopefully on that goal line, I feel like I did what I was supposed to do and did what was expected of me.

“With me being my size, goal line and short yardage is definitely important for me.”

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