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Cardinals Run Game Balance Off to Promising Start

The Arizona Cardinals held the ball for over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter last week against the Tennessee Titans.

The Cardinals needed to rely on the run game to wrap up last Sunday's 38-13 victory over Tennessee. 

Quarterback Kyler Murray passed the ball 22 times in the first half to just 10 in the second, while Arizona ran an additional five times. 

The ground game was steady with an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Importantly, it kept the clock and the chains moving. 

"I was really impressed from about the middle of the third quarter on," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Friday. "We were able to run the football when they knew it was coming. That's a physical defense, and we were still able to make yards, make first downs. I think we held the ball over 10 minutes in that fourth quarter, just running it. That was a good sign for moving forward."

Kyler

Arizona held the ball for 17:40 in the second half and 10:15 in the fourth quarter. 

The Cardinals finished in the top 10 in the league in adjusted line yards and stuffed percentage last week, a promising start for the offensive line working with two new starters. 

Rodney Hudson now lines up at center and second-year pro Josh Jones at right guard, joining returning starters D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh and Kelvin Beachum. 

"Me and Hump, we've been working together, we feel really great about a lot of our combination blocks," Pugh said Thursday. "Working with Rodney, getting a feel for that, me being out (COVID-19) definitely hurt that progression. But he's a pro's pro and we picked it up where we left off."

The wrinkle within the Cardinals running game is Murray, who can make a chunk play out of thin air if given any space. 

Pugh notes that it's complicated to block when Murray scrambles because the line does not know exactly where he is sometimes. Hudson said the trick is to continue to block and adjusting to where the defender is shifting. 

But, the Cardinals cannot rely solely on Murray to lead the rush. Last year, teams keyed in on him, forcing the Cardinals run game inside where it struggled statistically. 

Murray had just 20 of Arizona's 136 rushing yards on Sunday with 63 coming from Chase Edmonds and 53 from James Conner, a well-balanced attack. 

"We've still got a long ways to go figuring out what runs we're comfortable with running against certain teams against certain looks," Edmonds said Tuesday. "It's Week 1. We want to really just build on it. We had solid numbers as a whole running unit. 

"Anytime as a team that you can rush over 100, it's a solid job. But of course, obviously, we're always looking to improve."

Sunday was just one game, but the Cardinals being able to rely on the ground game to close out wins could be a recurring test this season.