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For Finale, Nothing Changes

Posted Dec 26, 2011

Cardinals don't plan to have looming end of season affect approach

Running back Beanie Wells gets through the line last weekend in Cincinnati.

Ken Whisenhunt didn’t know quite what to do on Christmas.

The Cardinals coach spent time with his family, went and saw a movie (the Sherlock Holmes sequel) and generally felt out of place

“It’s almost like you don’t know how to relax, feeling like there is something you had to do, especially with another game coming up,” Whisenhunt said. “You know Christmas is coming but you don’t really get to experience it a lot of times in this business because you are playing or practicing.

“It’s almost like you don’t know how to act.”

It didn’t help that the Cardinals suffered their first loss in more than a month on Christmas Eve, leaving Whisenhunt to think about the what-ifs. Keeping things on the same schedule has always been important to Whisenhunt, and while there were holiday interests in mind, it’s worth noting the players again had Monday as optional despite the loss, just like they had done every Monday during the winning streak.

Whisenhunt was asked about the injuries to cornerback Patrick Peterson (Achilles) and quarterback Kevin Kolb (concussion) and neither have been ruled out from playing in the season finale Sunday against Seattle. An MRI Monday showed Peterson's tendon didn't tear and he does not need surgery.

What’s more, Whisenhunt emphasized that no decisions would be made based on the fact it was the last game of the season. If Peterson or Kolb are healthy enough to play, they would play. A chance to be .500 – in this season, a meaningful mark – is too important.

“We’re not approaching this like the last week,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s not the way we approach it with our team or how we play. We want to win this game. I think it’s a pretty significant achievement for this team to reach 8-8 after starting 1-6. I think it means a lot. I think back to ’07 when we finished the year 8-8. That gave us some momentum going into the offseason and had a pretty decent year the next year.

“When you start 1-6 and everyone kind of writes you off, to get the opportunity to get back to 8-8, even though we strive for better than that, it’s a pretty significant turnaround.”

With both the Seahawks and Cards losing over the weekend, the only thing at stake Sunday will be that .500 mark – Seattle is also 7-8 – and second place in the NFC West. Considering all the momentum gained by the winning streak and the playoff possibilities, losing to the Bengals could deflate the locker room.

Whisenhunt, however, doesn’t see that, not after the players were able to rally from a six-game losing streak. “That was certainly a lot worse than where we are right now,” the coach said.

“We’ll bounce back,” linebacker Clark Haggans said after working out Monday. “I have said it before to guys, if there is football to be played, even with a regular-season game in April, we are going to show up and play. This team is very strong-willed.”

That was what it felt like in Cincinnati, when the Cards really had no business making a game out of it after stumbling through the first three quarters. The game will be remembered for wide receiver Early Doucet tripping over himself and losing a chance at a game-tying touchdown catch – “It’s one of the things you think about millions of times, especially on the plane ride coming back,” Whisenhunt said – but there were too many other holes in the Cards’ collective game.

They will try and fix those one final time this week, and take on the Seahawks.

“If you say one thing about this team, they fight and they never believe they are out of it,” Whisenhunt said. “I think that attitude will carry us into this game.”

EXTRA POINTS

Whisenhunt said Deuce Lutui was inserted into the lineup at right guard in part because starter Rex Hadnot has been banged up.

“Rex has been fighting some things over the last couple of weeks, with his knee and he had back spasms two weeks ago,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s one of those things where he was starting to wear down a little bit and this was a chance to get Deuce in there. That’s what we did.”

Whisenhunt said Lutui “did alright. He got in there and competed.” …

Whisenhunt said he hasn’t seen the TV replay of the Adrian Wilson roughing-the-passer penalty that wiped out the Peterson interception.

“He did take his head out of there and lead with his shoulder,” Whisenhunt said. “It was eerily similar to the penalty against Carolina this year.”

In that game, Richard Marshall was called for helmet-to-helmet on Cam Newton, negating a Daryl Washington interception. Marshall wasn’t fined, usually a nod from the league saying the penalty shouldn’t have been called in the first place.

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