Arizona: Circumstances Skew Ground Statistics

Tim Hightower (Getty)

The Cardinals' lack of a consistent rushing game created much angst among their fans. And while coach Ken Whisenhunt would like an offense that produced more than 73.6 rushing yards a game, he knows that improvement isn't going to come now. The Cardinals developed into a passing team this year because that was their best chance to win the NFC West. .

And they don't think they are as bad of a running team as their statistics suggest.

Circumstances of some games skewed the statistics, coaches said. They fell behind early in games against the Jets, Eagles, Vikings and Patriots. That cut down on their rushing attempts and hurt their per-game averages.

The ratio between run and pass last week against Seattle was more what Whisenhunt had in mind this year. The Cardinals threw 38 times and had 19 runs.

Their running game produced 111 yards, a statistic that's not exactly eye-popping unless it's 40 yards more than your average. That was the case with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals won't need a lot of yards from their run game against the Falcons on Saturday in the playoffs. But they do need to maintain the threat of the run.

They need to give the Falcons more to worry about than just stopping their passing attack. If the Cardinals can't run, the Falcons will play two-deep coverage all afternoon, gambling that the Cardinals won't be able to go on extended drives.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Kurt Warner hasn't decided if he's going to play in 2009, saying he'll take some time after the season to make a decision. Warner wants to get away from the game a bit, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, recently said his client wanted to play after this year. Warner is in the last year of his contract.

--RB Tim Hightower is back to reserve status. Hightower lost the featured back job to Edgerrin James after taking over for James in Week 8. Hightower will still play in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

--RB J.J. Arrington remains the team's situational back, playing on obvious passing situations.

--RB Edgerrin James has returned to the featured back role. James had 100 yards rushing last week, his first 100-yard game since the season opener.

--WR Anquan Boldin is expected to play this week after missing two games with a shoulder injury. Boldin looked quick and sure-handed in Tuesday's practice.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald saw man coverage last week for the first time in weeks and scored two touchdowns. Fitzgerald used his size and strength to beat Seahawks corner Marcus Trufant for two scores.

--WR Steve Breaston finished the regular season with 77 catches and 1,006 receiving yards. It was a dramatic improvement for the second-year player, who had eight catches for 92 yards last year.

--TE Stephen Spach is starting, but he's not entrenched in the role. He likely will share the job with Ben Patrick.

--TE Leonard Pope suffered a left knee injury last week and might not play against the Falcons.

--K Neil Rackers has made 21 of his last 22 field goals. His only miss came on a 68-yard fair-catch kick.

--OLB Travis LaBoy has a sprained ankle and might not be able to play on Sunday.

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