The plays were a microcosm of the Cardinals’ season. They needed 1 yard on the Washington 28-yard line Sunday, and had two downs to get it. And they couldn’t.
It wasn’t even surprising that, on third down, the Cards passed the ball — the play lost a yard — or that on fourthand-2 a J.J. Arrington run only picked up 1 yard, ending Arizona’s hopes in a 17-13 loss.
To twist a phrase, the Cards can’t run to save their football lives, and with three games left, they are on the precipice of one of the worst rushing seasons over the past 36 NFL seasons.
"It does (bother you), especially as a running back," Marcel Shipp said Monday. "We take pride in what we do and it makes things hard, but we are professionals and you have to come back week in and week out and try to improve on Sundays."
The Cardinals certainly can pass, leading the NFL in that department. But even coach Dennis Green said Monday "you have to have a run to go with it."
According to Green, a solid team should average 225 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. If a team does both, it should make the playoffs.
Not only have the Cards not averaged close to 100 yards a game, they haven’t run for 100 yards in any game this season, averaging 68.8 yards. They have averaged a mere 21.8 rushing attempts per game, compared to 42.5 passes.
It has made it increasingly difficult to pass.
"We have to keep (opponents) off balance," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "It is tough when a team comes in and says, ‘That is what we have to stop,’ and they gear everything to stop that."
The Cardinals have two rushing touchdowns, which would tie 10 other teams for the second-worst season in NFL history. Arizona would also be the first team with so few since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978.
The Cardinals could improve their numbers this week in Houston, going against the NFL’s worst rushing defense. They will be helped by continuity on the offensive line.
After Green said rookie guard Elton Brown, who has been out with a knee injury, will finally be available this week, he also said Fred Wakefield and Adam Haayer will remain the starting guards.
"We feel like we are getting better (as a line)," Wakefield said. "I think it showed (Sunday), some of those inside runs we were getting, 4, 5 yards a pop."
The Cards have also been excited about the progress being made by Arrington, but the rookie struggled against the Redskins, gaining 26 yards on nine carries and coming up short on that final carry.
For a second straight day Monday, Green was asked if Arrington could have done more to try to fight for the first down. For a second straight day, Green avoided specifics.
"You know, I don’t go into that," Green said. "I think that we made two (play) calls, we didn’t get it. . . ."
At that point, Green abruptly stopped. He seemed like he was going to say more but instead waited for the next question.
Besides, there aren’t many answers these days for Arizona’s running game.
EXTRA POINTS: Green said the Cardinals’ kickoff coverage was the worst it’s been all year during Antonio Brown’s 91-yard touchdown runback Sunday. The Cards have given up three kickoff returns for touchdowns this year, as well as a punt return for a score. . . .
The Cards "will find a role" for Brown, Green said, while Jeremy Bridges — inactive Sunday — might be in danger of being cut for a third time this season. . . .
Green said there were no injuries to report, although defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was wearing a boot on his sprained left ankle. Dockett hurt himself early in Sunday’s game but returned to play, and he said he will be fine. . . .
Green wouldn’t commit to what role cornerback Antrel Rolle will have this week, although there is a chance he will finally return to the starting lineup.