How better run game helps Cards situationally

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Ken Whisenhunt's latest conversation with Cardinals flagship station KTAR 620 featured thoughts on what an improved ground game could mean for Arizona.

Whisenhunt pointed specifically to the benefits associated with second-and-short situations. Edgerrin James converted all seven second-and-1 rushes with Arizona last season, but Whisenhunt focused on the big-play opportunities Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and the other receivers enjoy following a productive first-down run (or pass).

Whisenhunt: "The running game puts you in situations where you can get second-and-shorts and still take shots down the field with the idea, if you don't make it, then you have a convertible third down to keep drives going. It just really helps you move the chains and it give syou opportunities for big plays."

Boldin was the big-play threat for the Cardinals when the team passed on second-and-2 or shorter. The chart shows the extent of the damage, with Boldin accounting for 115 of the team's 153 yards passing in those situations from Week 1 through the Super Bowl.

Boldin caught passes for 45, 27, 18 and 16 yards on second-and-2 or shorter. Steve Breaston (19 yards) and Fitzgerald (15 yards) also caught passes gaining significantly more than Arizona needed to convert in those situations. Boldin's second-and-short success transcended personnel groups; the team lined up with 2-4 wide receivers and o-2 tight ends in those situations.