Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sports

Cards run game sputtering

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals' once robust running game has all but vanished. Now they have to try to rediscover it while facing the Panthers' punishing defense.

In Saturday's 26-20 overtime victory over the Packers in an NFC division round playoff game, the Cardinals ran for 40 yards on 19 attempts, averaging an anemic 2.1 yards per carry.

David Johnson gained 35 yards in 15 tries, 2.3 per attempt. Arizona's longest running play was 8 yards.

"I think they had a good scheme against us from the two weeks before that when we played them. They were ready for us," Johnson said Tuesday after the walk-through practice.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians placed the blame squarely on the offensive line, not on his rookie running back.

"Getting their (behind) kicked up front," Arians said. "It's not anything David is doing. There's just not a lot of holes there and we have to do a better job. It's a tough challenge this week."

In Sunday's NFC Championship Game, the Cardinals will go against a Carolina defense that ranked fourth against the run in the regular season, allowing 88.4 yards per game.

Arians said Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short are the best pair of defensive tackles Arizona has seen all season.

"The linebackers are great," Arians said, "but they (the tackles) help make them great."

Bucs announce hirings

TAMPA — The Bucs confirmed the hiring of four assistant coaches to Dirk Koetter's staff for 2016, continuing an overhaul that started with the hiring of Mike Smith as defensive coordinator.

The hires had all been previously reported: longtime Bengals assistant Jay Hayes to coach the defensive line; former Dolphins assistant Mark Duffner to coach the linebackers; former Gators and Bears assistant Jon Hoke to coach defensive backs; and former Jaguars and Titans assistant Nate Kaczor as special teams coordinator.

Also, four Bucs were chosen for the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team, most in team history and tied with the Seahawks for the most in the NFL. Quarterback Jameis Winston, guard Ali Marpet, tackle Donovan Smith and linebacker Kwon Alexander were selected by the writers.

TWEAKING BRADY: At least one Broncos player isn't too concerned about giving the Patriots bulletin board material ahead of Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

Asked if he thought quarterback Tom Brady was a crybaby, defensive lineman Antonio Smith said, "That would be an accurate statement. I've never seen any quarterback look to the referee right after he gets sacked more than Brady. Every time he gets sacked, he looks at the ref like, 'You see him sack me? Was that supposed to happen? He did it a little hard. Please throw a 15-yard penalty on him. Get him fined.' "

PATS LOSE LB: Linebacker Jerod Mayo was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury he suffered last weekend.

CHARGERS: The team applied to trademark "Los Angeles Chargers" and "LA Chargers" two days after NFL owners approved the Rams' relocation to Los Angeles last week.

EAGLES: Former Lions coach Jim Schwartz was named defensive coordinator. Schwartz was the first assistant brought in by new coach Doug Pederson. He last coached in 2014 as Buffalo's defensive coordinator.

PACKERS: Running backs coach Sam Gash and tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot were fired.

STEELERS: Offensive lineman Chris Hubbard and fullback Roosevelt Nix signed one-year contract extensions.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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