Cardinals fans this season have been treated to a completely inept rushing attack. Despite boasting, before injury, two high draft choices in the backfield, as well as an offensive line supposedly suited for mauling in the run game, the Cardinals simply could not run the ball for positive yards. Fast forward to Sunday, the Cardinals backfield consisted of one seventh round draft pick and one undrafted free agent, in Larod Stephens-Howling and William Powell. And yet, against all odds, the Cardinals running game managed to pick up 158 yards at a 5.3 YPC clip, albeit assisted by 67 scramble yards by quarterback Kevin Kolb. Even with this success, the play calling was the Cardinals downfall.
As many of us in the gamethread noticed, the Cardinals had no success running the ball in between the tackles, clamouring for an outside run for what seemed to be the entire first half. Low and behold, when the Cardinals actually called an outside run play, they had excellent success. On the Cardinals 13 inside runs, they gained a thoroughly unimpressive 20 yards, 1.54 YPC. However, when they ran outside the tackles, or more accurately away from the mess of the Cardinals offensive line, they gained 72 yards on only 11 carries, 6.55 YPC. Also, Powell and Stephens-Howling forced four missed tackles, on, you guessed it, outside runs.
Powell and Stephens-Howling are not the prototypical NFC West running backs. They are not cut from the same cloth as the likes of Stephen Jackson, Frank Gore, and Marshawn Lynch. These two gentlemen do well in space, and the playcalling needs to be designed to give them space. Miller has found a recipe for success and then abandoned it, rather than leaning on it and riding the hot hand. The little thing that made the difference was not the the pair of sub six foot running backs, but rather how they were used.