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Cardinals depending on James

By Rick Gosselin

The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — Edgerrin James doesn’t go three consecutive games without rushing for 100 yards very often. He did it the final three games of 2005. But his Indianapolis Colts were already playoff-bound and limiting his carries in those meaningless games. He also did it the final three games of 2004. Again, the Colts were limiting his workload to keep him fresh for the postseason.

Never in his seven-year career had James gone three games to start a season without posting a 100-yard day. But then, James had never played for the Arizona Cardinals.

James has failed to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three games as a member of the Cardinals. If the Atlanta Falcons hold James under 100 on Sunday, it will be his longest 100-yard drought since the final six games of the 2002 season, when he was still trying to recover from a knee injury.

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James, a two-time NFL rushing champion, is usually automatic yardage on the ground. That’s why the Cardinals shelled out $33 million for four years last off-season to lure him from the Colts in free agency. But James is finding out what Emmitt Smith learned before him: There is nothing automatic on the ground in Arizona.

Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, gained 106 yards for the Cardinals against Seattle on Oct. 24, 2004. It was the 78th and final 100-yard game of his brilliant career.

It also was the last 100-yard game by an Arizona runner. The Cardinals have gone 29 games without a 100-yard rusher. Sixteen times during that stretch, Arizona’s leading rusher didn’t even crack 50 yards.

Of course, this is a franchise that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 1998 and hasn’t had a Pro Bowl tailback since 1990. Little wonder the Cardinals have gone to the playoffs once in their 18 seasons in Arizona.

If you cannot run the ball, you cannot win. The Cardinals tried with an aging Smith in the early 2000s. They are trying harder now with James.

"Emmitt was not in his prime," Cardinals coach Dennis Green said. "He was not 28 years old. Edgerrin is 28 years old. We have one of the best passing attacks going. For us to be a good team, we have to have one of the better running games, too."

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