Tuesday's roundup: Cards look for run game to test tough Panthers

Associated Press

Tempe, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals’ once robust running game has all but vanished in recent weeks. Now the team has to try to rediscover it while facing the punishing defense of the Carolina Panthers.

In last Saturday’s 26-20 overtime victory over Green Bay, the Cardinals managed just 40 yards rushing in 19 attempts, an anemic average of 2.1 yards per carry.

David Johnson gained 35 yards in 15 tries, an average of 2.3 per attempt. Arizona’s longest running play of the game was eight 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 Cardinals’ walk-through practice.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians placed the blame squarely on the offensive line and 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.”

When the Cardinals face Carolina in the NFC championship game on Sunday, they will go against a defense that ranked fourth against the run in the regular season, allowing 88.4 yards per game.

Watching the kickers

The Broncos and the Patriots know the AFC championship may not be decided by the golden arms of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning when they square off for the 17th — and likely final — time Sunday in Denver.

Maybe it’ll come down to two of the greatest toes on turf instead, especially with Denver sporting the league’s stingiest defense and Manning reduced to managing the Broncos’ no-longer-explosive offense.

New England’s Stephen Gostkowski was the NFL’s top kicker in 2015, winning his second All-Pro honor after leading the league with 151 points.

Denver’s Brandon McManus tied an NFL record by nailing all five of his kicks in tricky crosswinds in Denver’s 23-16 win over Pittsburgh in the divisional round.

Randle El regrets

Ten years after he threw one of the most celebrated passes in Steelers history, Antwaan Randle El has trouble walking down stairs.

“I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day,” Randle El, 36, said. “Going up is easier actually than coming down.”

Randle El was an electric athlete, versatile enough to run a route on one play and throw a beautiful spiral on the next, as he did in Super Bowl XL when he found Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown on a wide receiver reverse pass.

Randle El can feel his mind slipping, too.

“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’” he said. “I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that.”

Randle El didn’t hesitate when asked if he regrets playing football.

“If I could go back, I wouldn’t,” he said. “I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn’t play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball.”

Rice coaches conduct

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is serving as an assistant coach this week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Rice has not played in the NFL since being suspended at the start of the 2014 season for domestic violence.

Rice is working with Mike Martz of the National Team, and Mike Holmgren is in charge of the American Team.

The game will be Saturday in Carson, California.

The Collegiate Bowl is for draft-eligible college players and run by the NFL Players Association.

Rice  is expected to give players insight on how to act on and off the field.

Conference Championships

Sunday’s games


New England at Denver, 3:05 p.m. (CBS)


Arizona at Carolina, 6:40 p.m. (FOX)