Edge, running behind young line, has best game as Cardinal

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Edgerrin James hasn't looked this good running the football since he left Indianapolis.

Operating behind an exceedingly young line, James had his best day as an Arizona Cardinal on Sunday. He gained 128 yards in 24 carries, including four consecutive rushes that set up the game-winning field goal in the 23-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

In two games, James has gained 220 yards in 50 tries, an average of 4.4 yards. His 17-yard scoring run Sunday was his longest in three seasons.

"A couple of things about Edge," coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. "No. 1, he's running very strong. He's getting a lot of yards after contact, which is very good for any back in the league. The second thing is his vision is very good. Edge is seeing things develop, he's hitting the right holes."

That will come as no surprise to Indianapolis Colts fans, who saw him do just that for seven seasons. But after coming to Arizona as a free agent before the start of last season, the going got tough.

James did manage 1,159 yards last year -- his sixth 1,000-yard season. But he needed a franchise-record 337 carries to do it, a career-low 3.4 yards per attempt. The team, meanwhile, sputtered to a 5-11 record.

It was frustrating, James said, but he kept up his regular work regimen.

"Growing up, I knew what it takes to win," he said. "You just have to weather storms. If you're not able to weather storms and you give up, you don't give yourself a chance. I just know to keep fighting and not get away from what I've done in the past to have success."

He often thought of what Colts coach Tony Dungy had said.

"Coach Dungy used to always preach: "We do what we do and everything else will take care of itself,"' James said. "That's one thing I thought about last year. I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong."

Then came the firing of coach Dennis Green and the arrival of Whisenhunt, who had been offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whisenhunt brought along offensive line coach Russ Grimm. The new coaches wanted a tough team that knew it could run the ball.

"All of a sudden we get Coach Whiz and Coach Grimm," James said, "and everybody in this building that's kind of on the same page that I was on."

The new offense had James usually running behind a fullback, something he hadn't done in the one-back offense of Indianapolis. Any concern about that was wasted, James said.

"When everybody was saying that," he said, "it was just for entertainment purposes."

He had, after all, run behind a fullback in college at Miami and in high school.

The 128 yards James gained Sunday were his most in 27 games, and he did it behind a line that included an undrafted rookie free agent at center in his first NFL start (Lyle Sendlein), a rookie first-round draft pick at right tackle (Levi Brown) and a second-year pro at right guard (Deuce Lutui).

"I don't really buy into that young thing," James said. "Once you get to the NFL, you've got to grow up fast right then and there. In this business, you don't have time to grow. You've got to adjust to things fast. So I wasn't worried about them being young."

It was the 53rd 100-yard game for the 29-year-old running back, eighth-most in NFL history. Two games into his ninth season, his career total stands at 10,605 yards.

"All I'm doing is what I've always been doing," James said. "I was always outworking people, I've always out-studied people and made sure I put myself in position to have success."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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