Healthy Mendenhall finds speed again

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
8:05
PM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Rashard Mendenhall caught a pass from Carson Palmer in the right flat midway through the first quarter Sunday against the Colts, he defied popular belief.

He took off.

Mendenhall
Mendenhall
Mendenhall made two Colts defenders miss after turning on the afterburners down the sideline for a 24-yard gain. For a minute, there was confusion from high above the field: Was that 38 (rookie Andre Ellington) or 28 (Mendenhall) flying past defenders?

It was Mendenhall, who looks revived and refreshed for the first time this season. He's also healthy maybe for the first time all season, after a turf toe injury hampered him since Week 3.

"This is the Rashard Mendenhall I know," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "He was this way in training camp before the injury. The toe is healthy now and the knee is much better so I think what you saw on that flare pass, I've seen many times -- make a guy miss and blot down the sideline with that speed."

The speed Arians mentioned changes the running game for the Cardinals. They no longer have to rely on Mendenhall just for yards in between the tackles and on Ellington to get outside. Both have the ability to take a handoff either direction, providing even more balance than Arizona had during the past four games.

Against Indianapolis, the Colts had 120 yards -- 104 coming from the Mendenhall-Ellington combination.

But as much as those two have changed the complexion of the offense in recent games, they have struggled in the second half. Arizona totaled just 17 yards in the final two quarters against the Colts, a game after running for just 6 yards in the second half against Jacksonville.

Arizona's first-half output on the ground helped it to a 27-3 halftime and the Cards cruised from there. Sunday's was also Arizona's third game of more than 100 rushing yards and its second best outing of the year.

Arians called the Colts game Mendenhall's best of the season, not just on the ground but also in the blocking department.

Mendenhall said he's been feeling good the last few weeks and it's showed.

"Rashard looked like himself," Arians said. "He looked healthy like he did back in training camp. I was really glad to see that, and no better time."

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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