And things went really well for Conner and the Cardinals against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, October 3.
Arizona rushed for 216 yards on 40 carries — both season-highs — in its 37-20 road win over the Rams, getting 120 yards from Chase Edmonds, 50 yards and two touchdowns from Conner, and another 39 yards from quarterback Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals improved to 4-0 with the victory and handed the Rams their first loss.
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Following Conner’s first TD of the day, a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter, he took a page from James’ playbook for his end zone celebration.
Conner, the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back who signed a free-agent deal with Arizona in the offseason, had another 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 34-13.
No ‘Air Raid’ for Arizona in the 4th
In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals relied on the running game to close out the victory with a 12-play, 94-yard drive, capped by a chip-shot field goal for kicker Matt Prater to push Arizona’s lead to 37-13 with less than four minutes to play.
The Cardinals ran the ball 11 times on the drive to set up the 23-yard field goal, milking nearly eight and a half minutes off the clock in the process.
“That was a big-time drive to finish the game,” Kingsbury said.
Arizona started the impressive drive at its own 1-yard line and faced third-and-7 from the 4 when Edmonds broke free for a career-long 54-yard run to move the ball across midfield.
After the game, both Murray and center Rodney Hudson said they saw potential for a big play when they noticed the way the Rams were lined up defensively.
“It was third-and-7, not traditionally a run down,” Hudson explained after the game. “They were in their third-down package. It was a helluva play call, and Chase hit it. We blocked it up, but Chase hit it right where it was supposed to hit.”
“I knew it was going to hit,” Murray added.
Edmonds said he and Conner were aware it would be up to them to run the ball effectively in the fourth quarter to seal the victory over their NFC West rivals.
“One thing me and James and the O-line just talked about is we’ve got to get rid of this ‘air raid’ kind of terminology and really just find a way to win in the fourth quarter,” Edmonds told reporters after the game. “When you’re playing tremendous opponents like the Rams, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
The More Carries the Merrier
Kingsbury’s background as a player and coach in Texas Tech’s “air-raid” attack have a lot to do with the label, and he’s incorporated elements of the shotgun-heavy, up-tempo style into the Cardinals’ offense.
But the third-year NFL coach also likes to run the ball, citing statistics that say the Cardinals are a better team when they run at least 25 times per game. Arizona is 16-6 under Kingsbury when they have 25 or more rushing attempts, and 1-12-1 when they don’t. The Cardinals are even better (16-3) when they rush 28 times in a game.
“Anytime we rush 25-plus times, we feel good about our chances,” Kingsbury told Cardinals sideline reporter Paul Calvisi after the game.
The win over the Rams marked the sixth time the Cardinals have rushed for 200-plus yards in a game under Kingsbury, and they’re 6-0 in those games. The feat was even more impressive in Los Angeles because Arizona was playing with a revamped offensive line due to injury.
The Cardinals moved guard Josh Jones to right tackle in place of Kelvin Beachum, who missed his second consecutive game with a rib injury, and Max Garcia made his first start in Jones’ normal right guard spot.
The Rams also had been good against the run in their previous three games, limiting teams to 92.7 yards per game. In their Week 3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams allowed just 35 yards on the ground.
“Our offensive line blocked their a**** off today,” Murray said.