Ball-control offense minus Warner? Not yet

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
3:26
PM ET
Kurt Warner's retirement might still turn the Arizona Cardinals into a ball-control running team.

So far, though, the team has Tim Hightower's 80-yard touchdown run against Atlanta and not much else to show for its ground game. The Cardinals controlled the ball for 27:09 against the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 and for a disastrous 20:47 against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2. The figure against Atlanta was the Cardinals' lowest since their 2008 game at Philadelphia.

The Rams ran 81 offensive plays against Arizona and the Falcons ran 79. The Cardinals haven't had more than two opponents run more than 72 plays against them in a season since it happened three times in 2002. To have it happen twice in the first two games shows the Cardinals need to reduce turnovers and improve on third down. They fumbled seven times in the opener, losing four. They tossed two interceptions against the Falcons while going without a third-down conversion for the first time since 2003.

Only one 2009 Cardinals opponent, Seattle, ran more than 72 plays against Arizona. In 2008, New England was the only Cardinals opponent to run more than 72 against Arizona.

There are a couple of potential mitigating factors.

The team made the switch to Derek Anderson at quarterback late in preseason. There's an adjustment period for any new quarterback. Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells, two of the most important players on offense, haven't been full strength (Wells hasn't even played this season).

Also, the Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins were the only NFL teams to play their first two regular-season games on the road. Each team has struggled to score points. The Cardinals have 24 points in two games. The Ravens and Dolphins have 20 points apiece.

Unlike the Ravens and Dolphins, the Cardinals haven't played very good defense to this point. They held the St. Louis Rams to 13 points in the opener and they could certainly use more help from the offense, but the Falcons shoved around Arizona in Week 2.

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