GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When right tackle Eric Winston reported for training camp in July, he didn't know his teammates' names.
But during his first practice, he saw a running back with No. 38 on his jersey scamper by and Winston wanted to know who it was.
Everybody learned Andre Ellington's name Sunday.
The rookie running back filled in for starter Rashard Mendenhall, who was out with a toe injury, and ran for 154 yards on 15 carries and single-handedly opened the passing game in the Arizona Cardinals' 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons. It was the fourth-best outing for a Cardinals rookie and was highlighted by an 80-yard run that drew gasps around the stadium.
After bouncing out left with the help of blocks from Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, Ellington turned on the afterburners. He was nearly caught by Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel but Ellington found an extra gear and darted into the end zone.
"He's got a burst to him," Winston said. "And he's got really good vision. I think [rookie running back] Stepfan's [Taylor] got a little something to him, too.
"Ellington's got that home-run ability, and I think he's got a chance to be special if he wants to be special in this league."
Ellington paired with Taylor on Sunday for 29 carries, and the two provided a dimension to the offense the Cardinals had not seen this season. By gaining yards and points on the ground, Arizona forced the Falcons to honor the run, which meant they couldn't send seven or eight guys per play on a pass rush.
That allowed Palmer to throw for 172 yards on an efficient 13-for-18 passing day.
"It makes [the defense] worry about it," Palmer said. "Defensively, you've got to worry about 38 (Ellington) in the game. You've got to worry about screen. You've got to worry about him running inside, him running outside. Toss plays. Then the play-action."
With the running game working, the offense clicked. Ellington said the Falcons didn't know what to expect because the run and pass burned them throughout.
He knew what to expect from himself now that he's fully healthy again. The way Ellington played and how Taylor complemented him leaves Arians in a tough position come Nov. 10 against Houston. Does Ellington remain the starter after kick-starting the offense? Or does Arians hand the keys back to Mendenhall?
"We'll look and evaluate how everything goes and how he responds to the treatment," Arians said. "He'll play when he's 100 percent healthy."
Ellington said his body will feel the grind Monday but he was ready for his coming-out party.
"I try to be the best that I can be," Ellington said. "When my opportunity comes, I just try to make the best of it."