Nearly since the beginning of time, it seems the Detroit Lions have struggled to run the ball against the Arizona Cardinals on the road. That theme has proven true whether the year is 2007 or 2013.
This season, if Detroit wants to take a major step forward in the NFC race and be thought of as a team capable of making noise in the playoffs, history will have to change in a big way, making Joique Bell’s upcoming chess match with the Cardinals’ defensive line significant.
The challenge only gets stiffer for Bell. This season, the Cardinals rank third overall in the league in run defense, allowing a gaudy 78.6 yards per-game. Worse for the opposition? They only allow 3.4 yards a carry, and have been scored on only five total times all year. There’s only two defenses better in football, and one of them currently resides in Detroit.
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Last year, Detroit’s running game hit the skids in Arizona when Reggie Bush went down during the game with an injury. Bell couldn’t supplement Bush’s tough running, and only ground out 30 total yards on eight carries. Without a running game, the Lions couldn’t grind out a win with Calvin Johnson getting locked down after exploding early.
Bush might not be able to play again depending on his status, so the pressure will fall squarely on Bell to deliver. Sunday, he may not have scored a touchdown or busted a long run, but Bell’s tough, punishing running sent a message to the Miami defense, especially when he planted multiple players on several different runs.
Bell’s tough, punishing running sent a message to the Miami defense, especially when he planted multiple players on several different runs.
Detroit didn’t get much on the ground, but what they did get came in chunks at important times. If Bell is able to provide the offense something along with Theo Riddick, it would be a significant boost to the passing game, which has already enjoyed the return of Johnson immensely.
Should Detroit run the ball effectively, they would use that success to better set up the pass, and could make a massive statement in the desert. Bell has yet to have a big game this season, but that could merely indicate that he’s overdue to make a significant impact on a game.
With Frostee Rucker, Dan Williams and Calasis Campbell, Arizona has several fearsome space eaters up front. In the second level, Bell will meet toughness from Larry Foote and Sam Acho. These aren’t the kind of guys that are easily run over or away from, making Bell’s job all the more challenging.
There are plenty of other variables that will help determine a winner in this matchup, but considering history, a significant day on the ground from Bell could go a long way towards helping the Lions overcome their usual demons in the desert.