NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. – Had Ted Ginn Jr. not recovered either of his muffed returns Sunday in Oakland, he knew this week might have been vastly different.

But he did and he kept his job as the Arizona Cardinals’ kickoff and punt returner for at least another game.

“The good thing about the whole situation is that it didn’t hurt us,” Ginn said. “So, that’s the biggest thing that keeps me afloat. If we didn’t recover the two, then it can be a possibility of a change or whatever coaches may feel.

Ginn
Ginn
“But as of right now, I think we’re pretty steady.”

Ginn muffed a punt by Oakland’s Marquette King less than a minute into the game. It dropped through Ginn’s hands and he fell on it just before the Raiders’ Neiko Thorpe could pounce on it.

The second muff came on a kickoff from Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski in the third quarter. Ginn appears to catch the kick and then it falls off his hands, but he cleanly recovers it in the end zone for a touchback.

Ginn was able to return just two of six punts for seven yards in Oakland but didn’t have a chance to return any of Janikowski’s four kickoffs.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still supports Ginn as his returner.

“It’s been hit or miss,” Arians said.

“He’s a threat any time he touches it. Kickoffs have gotten – I don’t know if anybody’s returning kickoffs anymore – but if and when he gets an opportunity, he can crack any one. So, I’m still pleased, very pleased with him.”

Ginn said his muffs are amplified more because there are so few of opportunities to return a punt or a kickoff. But he was glad to hear that Arians was still behind him.

“Always when your coach takes your back, it’s always a great deal,” Ginn said.

“It would’ve been game-changing plays but in the same sense, they wasn’t. So, just go on, move on. It ain’t no different than missing a pass or missing a block or missing a tackle. It’s all in the same boat. You just fight through.”
TEMPE, Ariz. – If it was up to Calais Campbell, he would be playing Sunday against Philadelphia.

But Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will be the one who makes that call, and Arians said Friday that that status of his 6-foot-8 defensive end will be a game-time decision.

“When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go,” Arians said.

Alford
Campbell
Campbell was listed as limited in practice Thursday and Friday, but said he pushed himself hard this week to see how his right sprained MCL will respond.

“I feel explosive and everything, so it depends on what you consider limited,” Campbell said. “In my opinion, I feel like I can play football and help the team win.”

Campbell has missed the last two games after suffering a knee injury when Denver tight end Julius Thomas illegally chop-blocked Campbell in Week 5. Without him, Arizona has continued its dominating pace against rushing offenses, ascending to the top of the NFL’s rush defense rankings.

If Campbell returns Sunday, he won’t be given a snap count, Arians said. Instead, the coach will trust Campbell to determine his own limits, leaving how many snaps Campbell plays “strictly” up to him. If he’s active, Campbell doesn’t think he’ll play the majority of the game.

“I know that no matter what, going out there having the last two weeks off, my reps won’t be as high,” Campbell said. “I’ll have to rotate, even if I’m going to be able to be out there. The big thing is giving everything I have and being honest with the training staff and my coaches and myself, and just making sure I’m doing what’s best to help the team.”

Campbell’s toughest obstacle to overcome might be the brace on his right leg.

He’s said Friday it’s more of a preventative measure than anything so he doesn’t further injure his knee. Campbell said he has “pretty good” function with the brace on, though.

“That’s different,” Campbell said. “I’ve never played with a brace on my knee before. So, I just got to get used to it. I felt explosive and I was able to play football the way I like to play football.”

If Campbell arrives at University of Phoenix Stadium feeling as well as he did after Friday’s practice, he said he’ll be good to play. But the decision will still be left to Arians.

“There’s nobody quite like him,” Arians said. “Even if he’s 90 percent, the energy he brings, just the respect that he brings, that you want him on the field.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The pop came overnight.

Palmer
 When Carson Palmer threw the Thursday before Arizona hosted Washington in Week 6, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald saw passes that were “a little soft coming out.” A day later, when the Cardinals took the field for their final practice before Palmer’s return, his velocity was back.

“That next day it was boom, boom, boom,” Fitzgerald said. “[When his passes] hit your hands, there was some zip and velocity on it, and we knew he was ready to roll.”

He’s been rolling ever since.

Palmer is preparing for his third game since returning from a five-week absence because of an axillary nerve contusion in his right throwing shoulder, and the 34-year-old feels like he’s back to full strength.

“I’m there,” Palmer said. “I’m there right now, and I’m actually able to lift in my upper body, which I wasn’t able to lift for, I think, five weeks, is what it was. Definitely had a lot of atrophies. Starting to get some strength back and starting to put on a little extra weight up top, which is good.

“You get sick of going into the weight room and not being able to do things. It was a month of that. It’s good to be back doing that stuff.”

Heading into Sunday’s game against Philadelphia, Palmer’s right shoulder is as close to its pre-injury state as it’s been since he suffered the injury on “Monday Night Football” in Week 1.

“It’s improved,” receiver John Brown said. “Seemed like the old Carson when we first started camp and everything. Carson’s looking real good.”

Brown, who spent time with Palmer in California this summer, knew Palmer was back when the quarterback sent the rookie on a deep route a couple weeks ago. Palmer let it fly about 50 to 60 yards, Brown said, and hit the speedster in stride.

To get his timing back with his receivers, Palmer put in extra time with them, receiver Michael Floyd said. It was “pretty tough” but they’re “making it work,” he added.

The past two weeks have been about getting back to a normal rhythm for Palmer.

“It’s just nice to practice and be able to study the night before and know what you’re putting in and then go out and test it in practice and kind of have some trial and error of different coverages, different plays,” Palmer said. “It’s nice to be psychologically prepared because you know you’ve done it in practice and you know you’ve repped those plays and had those looks.”

At this point, with the injury seven weeks old and his return about to be three games old, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians feels Arizona and Palmer can put the shoulder injury behind him.

“Knock on wood,” Arians said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to talk about that one anymore.”
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Anyone looking for a good, old-fashioned running battle won’t have to look further than University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.

The Arizona Cardinals' top-ranked rushing defense will have its hands full trying to corral Philadelphia Eagles running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Can Arizona retain that No. 1 ranking after just a week?

Though the focus will be on the ground games, the matchup of 5-1 teams might be decided in the air. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles' penchant for interceptions will be countered by Arizona’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

Then there is the battle for the end zone. Arizona is allowing 19.8 points per game, and the Eagles are scoring 30.5 points per game, the third-highest clip in the league.

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan discuss Sunday’s game.

Weinfuss: The start to Foles' season is dramatically different than a year ago. What is the biggest reason he has been prone to so many interceptions? How does he fix it?

Sheridan: This is the single most puzzling aspect of the Eagles' season so far. We all kind of suspected Foles wouldn’t throw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions again, as he did while leading the NFL in passer rating last season. I thought there was plenty of room for him to come back toward earth without crash landing too hard.

For Foles to have seven interceptions, and 10 turnovers altogether, is surprising. Even more stunning, he has done all that while going 5-1. It doesn’t seem possible, and it’s widely assumed Foles can’t keep this up. Sooner or later, those turnovers are going to lead to losses, so he has to find a way to turn it around.

There are several possible reasons for all this. The most disturbing for Eagles fans would be this is just the real Nick Foles. During his six-game stint as a starter in 2012, rookie Foles threw six touchdown passes and five picks. So 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions might just be a typical season, with 27 and two as the outlier.

But there are other variables. Foles’ quarterbacks coach last season, Bill Lazor, left to become offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins. That could be part of it, especially when you watch Foles’ throwing mechanics on some of those interceptions. There is also the offensive line situation. Though he hasn’t been sacked much, Foles has had to deal with pressure and a not completely secure pocket because of injuries along the line.

Ultimately, Foles has to get himself out of this. The interceptions have mostly resulted from the kind of ill-conceived throws that he never made last season. If he started making them, he can stop. At least that is what Eagles fans hope.

Asked about the Cardinals’ 31st-ranked pass defense, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said it was misleading. The Cards rank first against the run and are 5-1. That means teams are usually trailing late in games and forced to pile up empty passing yards against the Cards. Is that how it looks when you’re watching the team every week?

Weinfuss: That is exactly how it looks to me. It seems like Arizona’s defense swarms offenses in the second half, especially the fourth quarter, forcing them to abandon the run and start passing the ball more than they did in the first half. But that is actually not the case. Arizona is allowing eight fewer passing yards per game in the second half than in the first, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Teams are attempting more passes in the second half (115) than the first (110) with more than half of those coming in the fourth quarter. Arizona’s run defense has locked teams down in the fourth quarter, allowing just 16.5 yards per game, which is forcing teams to pass to catch up. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 60 attempts against Arizona in the fourth quarter this season. Arizona is allowing just 10.5 dropbacks in the fourth quarter, compared to 11.5 in the second. As games go on, teams seem to start with the run in the first quarter and turn to the pass in the second quarter, and then the Cardinals’ defense begins to eliminate the running game in the second half, forcing teams to keep passing.

To show that, here’s a quick stat: Last weekend against Oakland, Arizona allowed just four rushing yards in the final 23:49.

How do you explain the Eagles' seven return touchdowns? Is it luck? An improved special-teams unit?

Sheridan: Probably a mixture. The Eagles did put some focus on signing good special-teams players in free agency. There weren’t any marquee acquisitions, but they did add Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman and Nolan Carroll. Those guys have been part of the improvement. So was the trade that brought Sproles from New Orleans.

And the Eagles' defense has been a work in progress since new coordinator Bill Davis switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base last season. That group has started making some big plays -- sacks, pressures that lead to turnovers, interceptions returned for touchdowns and so forth. Between the defense and special teams, the Eagles are getting plenty of big plays and even touchdowns from returns.

The Eagles beat the Cardinals last season when Arizona running back Andre Ellington didn’t play. How much of a difference-maker is Ellington, and is he likely to be active and effective with his sore ribs?

Weinfuss: First, I’ll address his ribs. They seem to be fine. There wasn’t structural damage to them after the Oakland game, and he returned to practice in a limited manner Wednesday.

As for how much of a difference-maker he is, he's a major reason the Cardinals are 5-1 -- maybe the biggest reason. He is dynamic out of the backfield as both a runner and a receiver. He is quick enough to break free for 80 yards but smart enough to get out of bounds or get down before taking a huge hit. But it’s his versatility that coach Bruce Arians loves. During the offseason, Arians said he wanted to give Ellington 25 to 30 touches per game -- a bit ambitious if you ask me -- but Ellington had exactly 30 on Sunday (24 carries and 6 catches) and was the workhorse for the offense. When Ellington is playing as well as he has been recently, despite a foot injury, he is the difference between wins and losses for Arizona.

How is this Eagles team still scoring 30 points a game and sitting at 5-1 when it has given the ball away 14 times?

Sheridan: The answer is twofold. Those return touchdowns have a lot to do with it. In San Francisco, the Eagles lost 26-21 without scoring a single point on offense. They had three return touchdowns. They got two more in their win against St. Louis the next week.

But the other part of the equation is Kelly's offensive approach. The Eagles are third in the NFL in offensive plays run per game. They would be even higher if they could avoid turnovers and sustain more long drives. But Kelly's up-tempo offense is all about creating as many opportunities to score as possible. So even when they have a few turnovers or fizzle in the red zone a bit, they still score some points. Add the offensive production to all the return touchdowns and you get a deceptively high number on the scoreboard.

The Cardinals are sitting atop perhaps (on paper) the toughest division in the NFL this season. Is that just a temporary aberration, or are they capable of fending off Seattle and San Francisco?

Weinfuss: This is a tough question. It might look like an aberration -- or a typo, for that matter -- but I think the Cardinals can give Seattle and San Francisco fits this season. When they beat the 49ers in Week 3, San Francisco was reeling and missing a few key players because of injuries. One would expect Seattle and San Francisco to figure out their woes and get healthy for the meetings in the second half of the season, but the same could be said about the Cardinals. When this team puts together a total offensive game, it can be among the most potent in the league. It has already showed on occasion this season how tough it is to be slowed down. But the key to winning the West comes on defense. Against the run Arizona is fine, but making sure the secondary doesn’t give up big yardage to receivers could be the difference between another disappointing January and keeping the season going.

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tyrann Mathieu was counting in his head.

Did the Arizona Cardinals allow the Philadelphia Eagles' tight ends to catch two touchdowns last season? Or three? At first he was sure of two because he allowed them in the Eagles’ 24-21 win in Week 13 last season. Then he settled on three.

[+] EnlargeBrent Celek
AP Photo/Michael PerezThe Cardinals say they are better prepared to stop Brent Celek and Philadelphia's tight ends this season.
The way Arizona defended tight ends last season, a higher guess was always the safer guess.

That’s not the case this season.

The Cardinals figured out why tight ends -- including Philadelphia’s Brent Celek and Zach Ertz -- were a prickly thorn in their side all of 2013, and they’ve worked to correct it. Allowing 17 of their 29 passing touchdowns to be caught by tight ends last season would be reason to focus on figuring out a solution. And fast. Losing to Philadelphia a season ago helped keep the Cardinals out of the postseaosn. They don't want the Eagles to bite them again.

“Obviously, that was a point of emphasis throughout the offseason of not letting tight ends kill us,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “That was how we were able to not win those early games early on in the season. Dating back to the Philly game … losing that game probably was the game that kept us out of the playoffs.

“Now, this year, I believe we have tight ends much more under control than we did last year.”

It helped that Arizona drafted 6-foot-1 safety Deone Bucannon in May. His size, speed and length has been one of the reasons the Cardinals have given up just three touchdowns and 414 yards on 35 receptions to tight ends this season, compared to six scores, and 653 yards on 42 catches last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

It also helps that the Cardinals understand where to be on the field this season, Peterson said.

Mathieu, who cited poor technique for why he gave up the two touchdowns in 2013, said Arizona can match up better this season, especially in nickel packages. He added that playing with better fundamentals has been the main difference.

“I think last year guys just weren’t getting to the flat, so a tight end would catch a ball in the flat and run for 30 yards,” Mathieu said. “I think we’re playing better, disciplined football and not trying to do too much.”

Even during presnap alignments, Arizona has been deterring offenses from looking to their tight ends, with the position getting targeted 12 fewer times this season than last. Even when they're being targeted, opposing tight ends have accounted for 23 first downs this year compared to 30 in 2013.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he hasn’t noticed tight ends hurting Arizona this season. It’s because they haven’t.

But Arizona also hasn’t faced the onslaught of talent this year season came along in the first six weeks last season: St. Louis’ Jared Cook in Week 1, Detroit’s Brandon Pettigrew in Week 2, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson in Week 3, Carolina’s Greg Olsen in Week 5, and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis in Week 6.

The Cardinals faced San Diego’s Antonio Gates in this season's opener, the New York Giants’ Larry Donnell in Week 2 and Denver’s Julius Thomas in Week 5. That group pales in comparison to last season's lineup. Arizona was spared another meeting against Davis, who was inactive for Arizona’s Week 3 game against San Francisco.

This week, however, the Cardinals will again face the Celek-Ertz combination, which combined for three touchdowns last season.

Arizona has spent months preparing for a challenge like this and the Cardinals understand the stakes.

“We’re in a standpoint where we just got to be more aware,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “They have a lot more weapons than the tight ends so it’s got to be a cat and mouse game.”

Stepfan Taylor gives the Cardinals boost in red zone

October, 22, 2014
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Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss says running back Stepfan Taylor has provided the team with a threat in the red zone.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- This was the week Larry Foote was supposed to start sitting back and kicking his feet up.

By time the Arizona Cardinals reached their seventh game this season, he was supposed to be more of an assistant coach than an every-down linebacker. But Foote, 34, has been around long enough to know most things in the NFL don’t go as planned.

Foote was signed on May 7 to be the short-term replacement for linebacker Daryl Washington, who the Cardinals were anticipating would face a four-to-six game suspension for pleading guilty in March to assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

Foote
“I was going to be in there and hopefully keep us .500 until he gets back,” Foote said.

About three weeks after Foote signed, Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season.

“He ends up gone for the year, and I’m in there every snap,” Foote said. “But, competitively, I love being out there.

“But, six games I was looking at the money, I said, ‘OK that makes sense.’”

The numbers don't quite work for 16 games. Foote signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals worth $1.020 million, which included a $65,000 signing bonus. His final year in Pittsburgh in 2013 netted $2.5 million.

With Arizona sitting at 5-1 heading into Week 8, Foote’s deal looks like a steal.

The 13-year veteran has played every snap for Arizona this season after missing the final 15 games of 2013 with a biceps injury. He’s tied for second on the team with 35 tackles and has one interception and one sack, which he recorded Sunday in Oakland.

"Larry's kind of the glue over there rihgt now," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "He calls the defense, he sets the defense, he's the cheerleader -- he's everything I knew he would be. He's been that way for a long time. But, he brings a lot of passion to the practice field, too, and the locker room.

"Yeah, he's everything we needed."

Not going through a full season this late in his career has helped Foote.

“After the season I didn’t have to ice no injuries,” he said. “I just started working out and [my] body feels good.”

While he was supposed to already be thinking about postseason vacation destinations, the only place Foote has been visiting this year is the training room.

He doesn’t know if he’ll sign another contract to return in 2015 or hang up his cleats for a life of retirement. That decision could’ve been made starting this week, but he’ll have to put it off until December -- or maybe February, if he’s lucky.

“At this point, I’m week to week,” Foote said. “I’ve never been in the training room as much [in] my whole career. I told them guys, ‘This is the last week,’ and last week was supposed to be the last week. They got on me [Monday] morning and I said, ‘Football week don’t start until Wednesday.’

“But I’m having fun. When you winning, I mean, this is what football is about. Winning, having a run, those memories, that’s worth more than money or anything. A lot of guys haven’t been fortunate enough to have those runs.”

The Film Don't Lie: Cardinals

October, 21, 2014
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A weekly look at what the Cardinals must fix:

Sitting very close to the bottom of the league in total sacks with seven -- 12 fewer than at this point last season -- the Arizona Cardinals are still struggling to find a solution to their foundering pass rush. The lack of a presence inside the pocket continued Sunday with just one sack against the Raiders. If nothing changes against Philadelphia this weekend, Arizona may be in for its second loss of the season.

Against the Raiders, the Cardinals didn’t seem to have much of an issue getting off the line of scrimmage and putting some heat on rookie quarterback Derek Carr. It was more that the rush fizzled. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals finished their 24-13 win with 13 hurries but no quarterback hits besides the sack by Larry Foote.

Arizona sent five or more pass-rushers on seven dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

And when the Cardinals did, they either missed Carr or he stepped up in the pocket to avoid any pressure and contact.

A review of the game film showed Carr having room to easily step up. When Arizona sent seven pass-rushers on a third-and-7 in the second quarter, the middle was open for Carr to just move up in the pocket and hit Mychal Rivera for an 18-yard pass.

As they've been all season, the Cardinals seemed to be a half step slow on the pass rush. There were times when Tommy Kelly got through, but Carr released the ball just before he was hit.

Arizona will be able to fix its pass rush by clogging the middle gaps and not allowing quarterbacks to step up and forcing them outside. The also need to be quicker with their hands when offensive linemen are moving them away from the pocket or developing better moves to elude tackles off the edge such as what Sam Acho did when he knocked down a Carr pass in the first quarter when Arizona rushed six.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Darnell Dockett's mocking of Oakland's winless 0-6 record late in Sunday's game went viral quickly after the Cardinals won, 24-13.

But Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arian wasn't a fan of Dockett's antics.

"It won't happen again," Arians said Monday afternoon.

Dockett told ESPN.com he hasn't been fined by the team for the whiteboard message.

Here's a photo of the sign taken by a Cardinals fan in Oakland:



Recapping the rest of Arians' Monday news conference:
  • Arians said there's no structural damage to Andre Ellington's ribs. The running back is "just sore."
  • There's a possibility defensive end Calais Campbell could return to practice this week. He's been out with a strained MCL since suffering the injury against Denver in Week 5.
  • Arians said safety Rashad Johnson is being evaluated for a patellar tendon but it could be severe tendinitis.
  • Rookie tight end Troy Niklas is doubtful for the Eagles game, Arians said.
  • Second-year running back Stepfan Taylor lost weight to get quicker but lost some power at the same time, Arians said.
  • Arians explained how the Cardinals could be 31st about the pass but No. 1 against the run: "They can't run. They're going to throw." When he was asked if Arizona could win with the second-worst pass defense, Arians said "We have so far."
  • Arians said he won't push Ellington to practice on Wednesdays even though it's hindering the timing in Arizona's pass game: "He can't if he can't hardly walk."
  • Arians on the fake punts the St. Louis Rams pulled off against Seattle: "That was some big cojones as Good (offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin) would say."
OAKLAND, Calif. -- When Arizona Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer woke up Sunday morning, he knew his return to the O.co Coliseum wouldn’t be just another game.

“It was kind of nostalgic -- more than I thought would even hit me being back,” the former Raiders third-round draft pick said. “Coming out pregame and running around back on the field, being back in the Coliseum and all the familiar things coming back from the last four years, it’s a lot of emotion.

“I knew it was going to be a special game.”

Leaving Oakland with a 24-13 win made it even more special.

Veldheer was one of three former Raiders on the field for Arizona. A lot was made last week about quarterback Carson Palmer’s return, but defensive tackle Tommy Kelly played the first nine years of his career with the Raiders.

He said he wanted to get a win for Palmer, who played half of 2011 and all of 2012 with Oakland before a trade landed him in Arizona, but Kelly wanted the win for himself.

“As a football player, I learned a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of love for this city and I wish the team nothing but the best. But on the football field, it’s not anything personal. It’s business. We just wanted to go out there, execute and win.”

While Kelly didn’t talk to any of his former Raiders teammates on the field -- “They kind of leave me alone. They know how I am,” he said -- he discussed playing a former team with his new head coach, Bruce Arians.

“You can see the smiles on their faces all week and [the] energy they brought to practice and meetings,” Arians said. “It was special for them, especially Tommy Kelly.”

Palmer and Kelly left the Raiders in 2013, and Veldheer in 2014. Veldheer, who was drafted by Oakland in 2010, returned with a chip on his shoulder because of how his departure went down.

“It was a big win for both of us,” Veldheer said.

“It meant a ton,” he added.

Palmer, who completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and his first interception of the season, downplayed having a chip on his shoulder. He did, however, make sure to get a box of favorite sandwiches delivered to the locker room after the game. He also talked about seeing his former Oakland teammates still on the roster.

“It was a great environment to play in,” Palmer said. “This place is awesome. It was great to play [here] when you’re wearing silver and black and it’s a fun place to play as an opponent. Great to get a win.”
videoOAKLAND, Calif. -- The way this season has gone for the Arizona Cardinals, coach Bruce Arians didn’t think Andre Ellington was coming back out of that locker room.

Ellington went in early, with a few seconds left in the second quarter to get his bruised ribs examined. It was going to be, in Arians' mind, another injury to add to the Cardinals’ weekly list report that seemingly grows by the day.

Ellington didn’t quell Arians’ concerns when the Cardinals returned to the field for the second half kickoff without him. By then, Arians was rewriting the game plan for Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes to carry Ellington’s load in the second half. But several minutes into the third quarter, Ellington jogged back on to the field, around the Raiderettes, around the end zone, and stood next to Arians.

“Then he tapped me on the back and said he was ready to go,” Arians said. “I said, ‘Oh good. I’m glad you made it.’”

Glad may be the understatement of the month.

Ellington was Arizona’s workhorse in Sunday’s 24-13 victory against winless Oakland, extending the Cardinals’ lead in the NFC West another week. Ellington finished with a career-high 30 touches for 160 total yards, which included a career-high 24 rushes for 88 yards while tying a career-high six receptions for 72 yards.

But more importantly, he led the revival of a running game that’s been weeks in the making.

“We want to come out every week and establish a run game,” Ellington said. “Coach challenged us this week, said we have to run the football better. Last week we didn’t run it well.”

After Ellington returned, Arians gave his featured back one play that first drive of the second half -- a pass from Carson Palmer, which Ellington dropped. But when Arizona took over following a field goal by Oakland to make the game 14-13 midway through the third quarter, Arians gave the ball back to Ellington.

And didn’t stop.

Ellington was responsible for 76 of the 80 yards on Arizona’s next drive -- 40 on the ground, 16 in the air and 20 through a defensive pass interference he drew. After doing all that work, he subbed himself out after getting winded and let Taylor get the glory. Taylor, who had 40 yards on 12 carries -- twice as many as his season total before Oakland -- scored on a four-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game.

“He earned it during the week,” Ellington said. “When I’m sitting resting, he’s out there working. My idea was just to get some fresh legs out there and we got the touchdown.”

Since he injured his left foot the week before the opener, Ellington hasn’t been practicing Wednesdays. It’s caused him to struggle with his wind early in games but he eventually catches his breath. The gauntlet of plays that Arians put Ellington through Sunday had been set since OTAs but Ellington hasn’t had many opportunities to practice them.

Arizona hadn’t cracked 100 yards rushing since Week 2 in New York, but if there was a game to do it, it was against the Raiders' 31st-ranked rushing defense. The Cardinals knew they had specific areas to focus on, and Sunday was an example of what happens when their minor corrections aremade.

“It’s something that we always knew we had,” said fullback Robert Hughes. “We were there the few past games but it’s always one block here, one block there. Today, we seemed to be able to get in more of a rhythm in the run game, but we got to definitely continue to work on it some more cause there’s big plays there we need to get out and get those toes big plays.”
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals' 24-13 victory against the Oakland Raiders:

Veldheer reminisces: Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer said returning to Oakland on Sunday was “kind of nostalgic” for him. He was drafted by the Raiders in 2010 and returning for the first time after spending four years in Oakland was harder on him than he expected it to be.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
No scoreboard watching for Fitz: After the Cardinals' game, when wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was told that Seattle had lost to St. Louis during the early games Sunday, he was legitimately surprised. He didn’t know the score of the game before Arizona took the field in Oakland.

Sack dance honors Bay Area: After Larry Foote’s sack in the second quarter, the veteran linebacker broke out into a sack dance that he named the “Tupac Dance.”
OAKLAND, Calif. -- If there’s one thing Darnell Dockett knows how to do well -- even when injured -- it’s trash talk.

It doesn’t matter if it’s on Twitter or in the Black Hole in Oakland, Dockett comes with his best stuff. Late in the Arizona Cardinals' 24-13 victory against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Dockett responded to taunting from Raiders fans with a message on a whiteboard that had to sting: “Worst team in the NFL” it read, with a big “0-6” under it.

The kicker was that Dockett wrote a smiley face in the zero.

Dockett told ESPN.com the Raiders fans behind Arizona’s bench were throwing coins and ice and talking their own smack during the game, specifically referencing mothers. It lasted all game, in addition to trash talking leading up to the game.

After he held up the sign, which was captured by fans with Dockett smiling and has since gone viral on Twitter, Dockett said more stuff was thrown.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

October, 19, 2014
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 24-13 win at O.co Coliseum.

What it means: No matter how much the Cardinals tried to deny it or downplay it, Sunday in Oakland was a trap game. The winless Raiders were feeling positive under a new coach with a new philosophy. It was the perfect recipe to upset the Cardinals, the first-place team in the NFC West. Even as the Raiders cut their deficit to just one point, Arizona showed enough resiliency to hold off Oakland and improve to 5-1. But it’s how the Cardinals were able to do it despite an offense that did not put together a complete game and threw its first interception of the season. The Cardinals converted their third downs -- 9-for-15 on Sunday -- while holding the Raiders to 56 rushing yards. They showed they had what it takes to win in a game that lacked emotion.

Stock watch: Ted Ginn was signed to relieve Patrick Peterson of his return duties while adding a dynamic punt and kick returner. With the exception of one return for a touchdown against the New York Giants, Ginn hasn’t lived up to the hype or expectations, and that continued Sunday. He fielded six punts and returned just two of them -- opting for fair catches or field catches. In his defense, most were not returnable. But the one punt he had room to return came at the end of the third quarter, and he opted for the fair catch instead of trying to gain a few extra yards. When he did return punts, they went for 7 yards.

Less penalized, but needs work: Arizona followed up its 14-penalty performance against Washington with six against Oakland -- a lower number, but more than any team wants. It’s Arizona’s third-most this season.

Game ball: Andre Ellington single-handedly extended Arizona’s lead in the third quarter. He finished with 88 yards and 24 carries, and 72 receiving yards on six receptions.

What’s next: The Cardinals host the Philadelphia Eagles at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
TEMPE, Ariz. – The Arizona Cardinals will be without defensive end Calais Campbell and Troy Niklas for a second straight game Sunday in Oakland.

Campbell continues to recover from a strained MCL he suffered in Week 5 against Denver. Niklas is out with a sprained ankle sustained in the same game.

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Campbell
Arizona is expected to have everyone else healthy and available against the Raiders.

Tight end John Carlson (knee) is almost back to 100 percent after hurting a knee on the first play Sunday against Washington. He practiced better Friday after returning to the field Thursday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

“He’s real close,” Arians said. “I really didn’t notice anything today. He was a little bit tentative yesterday, but today he really let it go.”

Linebacker Glenn Carson (ankle), defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (calf) and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu (illness) – who returned to practice Friday – were all listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

Quarterback Carson Palmer (shoulder) and cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle) were both upgraded to full Friday and are probable.

The bruised nerve in Palmer’s right shoulder has improved daily, Arians said.

“It’s still not 100 percent, but it’s getting better,” he said.

Probable for Sunday: WR John Brown (hamstring), RB Andre Ellington (foot), WR Michael Floyd (groin) and LB Alex Okafor (quad).

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