First things first, let’s take a look at his longest run of the season that went for 45 yards. I included both views (All-22 and Endzone) to show the coverage and why he broke this run into the secondary.
Situation: 2nd and 19 at SEA 31
Description: (8:43 – 1st) (Shotgun) C.Michael right end to ARZ 24 for 45 yards (R.Johnson)
The main trend I noticed when watching tape on Michael was (1) the Cardinals’ front seven actually did a pretty good job of penetrating into the backfield, but (2) Michael’s backfield elusiveness and ability to shake immediate tackles was evident. In fact, his skill at it was so impressive there was multiple moments where the play should have been a decent loss, but Michael turned it into a 10 yard gain. Here is an example in Play 2.
Situation: 2nd and 4 at ARI 35
Description: (11:56 – 3rd) (Shotgun) C.Michael up the middle to ARZ 23 for 12 yards (C.Campbell)
Here is another example that happened in the 4th quarter with 13:36 left in the game. This time it’s a counter run to the left. #26 Johnson can’t wrap up Michael on the edge, which allows him to work his way back in the opposite direction for an eight yard gain.
Just like in the Browns game, Bevell gave Michael a goal line attempt, but he couldn’t convert. This was due to the penetration of linebacker #51 Minter and safety #26 Johnson. Bryce Brown ended up scoring two plays later on 3rd down.
Overall, what impressed me was the balance between the passing game and the running game against this elite defense. The most common move you will see defenses use to stop a running game is to overload the box with eight or more men similar to how the Seahawks stopped Adrian Peterson in Week 13. Since Wilson has been playing so well – see my breakdowns vs 49ers (Week 11), Steelers (Week 12) and Ravens (Week 14) – the Cardinals couldn’t use this tactic as they didn’t want to risk the deep throws that Wilson is capable of making. This caused them to be more conservative when in two of our previous breakdowns – vs Bengals (Week 11) and Packers (Week 16) – this was not the case.
As I said above and in my previous breakdown vs the Browns, Michael is a natural runner that is very “Point A to Point B”, but what separates him from other similarly-styled backs is his ability to shake tackles in the backfield. Hopefully, he will continue to focus on ball security moving forward, which should allow him to earn more snaps in the future as he is certainly a talented runner.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.