It’s the key to nearly every NFL offense’s success.
Don’t believe me?
Ask the NFC West leading Seattle Seahawks who have thrived in recent years following Pete Carroll’s run-first philosophy. It’s a simple formula which lends itself well. Your offense being able to dictate the play-calling and not vice-versa because you’re “behind the sticks” in obvious passing situations.
The Arizona Cardinals (5-4) have benefitted in their modest two-game win streak from an improved run game featuring veteran Rashard Mendenhall who came over from the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent last off-season and rookie sixth-round Andre Ellington.
“It helps,” head coach Bruce Arians said before Wednesday’s practice. “We’re not throwing it 45 times a game right now. We don’t have to. When you have to throw it 45 times, it’s tough. Right now we’ve been able to stay two-dimensional.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer agrees.
“Definitely, the running game always helps out,” he said. “I think a big part of it is really starting to gel as a unit, get better as a unit. I think it’s a combination of a number of things.”
One of those could be the improved play of the offensive line behind veterans Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge, Eric Winston and others. Arians says staying in manageable down and distances helps set up high percentage passes like bootlegs when you have defenses guessing.
Although Ellington has been more flashy on the field breaking big plays in both the rushing and passing game, Arians said Mendenhall’s attributes and contributions stretch far beyond the field on Sundays. He serves a leader and mentor off the field to Ellington and fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor.