A weekly examination of the Cardinals' ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 26 | Last Week: 24 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
Get a running game and climb up the rankings. That’s what this week’s ESPN.com Power Rankings proved.
With the absence of starting running back Rashard Mendenhall, rookie Andre Ellington was given the nod as starter and ran for 154 yards on 15 carries. That’s 10.3 yards per rush. Not bad for a first start. His quickness, mobility and versatility on the outside showed the Cardinals how an effective rushing offense can change the dynamic of the entire offense.
The Falcons, as poorly as they played, had to respect what Ellington was doing with his feet and couldn’t put the type of pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer he has become accustomed to seeing. That, in turn, gave the offensive line more time to protect Palmer, who also was able to make better decisions.
He had only 18 passing attempts, but they were productive. He finished with 172 yards and two touchdowns, but it all started with the run game. Whether the Cardinals can keep climbing up the rankings will depend on whether Ellington, or whoever gets the majority of the carries once Mendenhall returns from his turf toe injury, can continue to take the pressure off the passing game.