Personnel report: Cardinals find balance

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals were a fascinating team to watch during their blowout victory over the Rams in Week 9.

The unannounced switch from Edgerrin James to Tim Hightower at running back produced the desired results. The Cardinals showed balance in amassing more than 500 yards, but they also missed numerous opportunities. This could have been a 600-yard game.

Arizona dropped passes and committed penalties that wiped out big plays. The Cardinals also missed a few blocks that might have sprung Hightower for additional yardage. Overall, however, this was still a very impressive performance. A few things I noticed while breaking down the Cardinals' offensive personnel use:

  • Newly signed tight end Stephen Spach gave the Cardinals far more than I ever would have expected from a last-minute roster addition. By my count, he played 30 of the 40 snaps when Arizona used at least one tight end, not counting a couple of kneel-down plays at the end. Spach sealed Victor Adeyanju during an 18-yard run. He flattened Rams safety Corey Chavous on another run. His block on Pisa Tinoisamoa helped spring a 23-yard run. Spach messed up a couple times, too, but overall he was a nuisance to the Rams in the run game.

  • The Cardinals ran the ball effectively with tight ends on the field, minus that ill-fated goal-line series early in the game. Arizona ran the ball 14 times in 20 snaps with two backs, two receivers and a tight end. The Cardinals averaged 8.6 yards per carry with five first downs on these 14 runs. They averaged 11.8 yards per pass on six attempts from this group. More Hightower can mean less Steve Breaston if the Cardinals are going to attack from this personnel group.

  • Arizona ran the ball on all four plays with one back, two receivers and two tight ends. The Cardinals averaged 6.8 yards per carry with two first downs from this group.

  • Hightower's 30-yard touchdown run featured strong play from just about everyone on offense. Right guard Deuce Lutui pulled and helped left guard Reggie Wells clear out Rams linebacker Chris Draft. Spach turned Rams defensive end Chris Long to the inside. Right tackle Levi Brown drove Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon across the formation and past Hightower. Center Lyle Sendlein blocked Adam Carriker, buckling the Rams' defensive tackle. Left tackle Mike Gandy cleared out La'Roi Glover.

For the full breakdown, download the usual file breaking down the Cardinals' production across personnel groups against the Rams.

This file features a second sheet with play-by-play information sortable by quarter, drive number, personnel, play type, ball carrier, yards gained and more.