Arizona Cardinals must utilize sound running back trio better in final five games

Sitting at 2-10, the Arizona Cardinals 2023 season has been one of the worst in recent memory, right down there with the ill-fated 2018 season.

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals / Norm Hall/GettyImages
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The Arizona Cardinals could probably win another two games in 2023 and finish the year with another 4-13 record, which will at least show us that head coach Jonathan Gannon isn’t in danger of losing the locker room. And for a team searching for more stability, that’s a more ideal scenario than snagging a higher draft pick. 

But if the Cardinals want to stand a chance at winning two of their last five, they need to stop leaning on quarterback Kyler Murray so much and start running the ball more. It’s looking clearer that Murray isn’t the answer, though he still has time to turn things around. But the Cards are wasting a solid rushing attack that could help Murray’s cause. 

Despite their abysmal record, Arizona was seventh in rushing offense with 1,388 yards heading into the Week 12 matchup. They were tied for second with the Baltimore Ravens in yards per attempt at 4.8, and they are ninth with 126.2 rushing yards per game. Yet they still insist on rolling with a Kliff Kingsbury-like “Air Raid” attack, as we saw yesterday. 

Yesterday afternoon, James Conner and Emari Demercado were playing good football while Michael Carter was getting acclimated and saw most of the action late in the contest. It’s clear that Conner, when healthy, can still play while Demercado once again showed that all 32 teams (including the Cardinals) made a mistake by passing up on him in last April’s draft. 

Arizona Cardinals are wasting a solid running back trio

The Cards, if they wanted to, could have controlled the game better and at least remained within striking distance had they run the football more in the second half when they were down 21-8. Instead, Arizona went three-and-out on that first drive of the second half, in which Murray threw back-to-back incomplete passes. 

A fake punt run from Blake Gillikin kept the drive alive, and unfortunately three penalties nullified what could have been a momentum shift. But the Los Angeles Rams only scored a field goal on their next possession, and it was still a two-score game at that point. Then, the Cards embarked on a drive that didn’t include a single run, and a missed field goal from Matt Prater led to a Rams touchdown on the ensuing possession, sealing the Redbirds fate. 

Overall, it was a contest in which the Arizona Cardinals should have established the run better, especially with the Rams offense being so hot in the game’s first 30 minutes. A mixture of the run and pass worked on the first drive, when James Conner carried the ball four times. He saw just two carries after that while Demercado saw three, and Carter, four. 

Note to Drew Petzing: At the absolute least, why not try something closer to a 50-50 split instead of an “Air Raid”? You may see a more productive offense next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers if you establish the run better.

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(Statistics and information provided by ESPN.com)