Rookie running back Hightower earns trust of Cardinals coaches

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Cardinals gave the ball to rookie Tim Hightower in two of the most critical situations in their season opener.

It was proof of how much the coaching staff believes in the youngster from Richmond, and so far he's succeeded in what's been asked of him.

Hightower backs up Edgerrin James and gained only 13 yards in eight carries.

But two of his attempts came on fourth down and were among the biggest plays in Sunday's 23-13 season-opening victory at San Francisco.

First, there was his 2-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches, a score that put Arizona up 20-10 with 4:03 left in the third quarter.

Then when coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to go for it on fourth-and-one at the San Francisco 27, Hightower got the ball again and ran two yards for a first down.

That allowed the Cardinals to run out another 3 1/2 minutes of an 18-play drive that used up 10:08 and culminated in Neil Rackers' game-clinching 30-yard field goal with 1:57 to play.