The Cardinals fell in Carolina to add a 10th loss to a "painful" season.
With the season winding down and the analysis more difficult – or simply repetitive – it was a few simple words from coach Ken Whisenhunt that encapsulated 2010.
"It's been a very painful year for all of us," Whisenhunt said.
That was underscored in Sunday's loss in Carolina to a team that had previously just won one game. The Cards now have a short week to prepare for a Christmas night game against Dallas trying to find whatever positives it can.
How easy that is remains debatable. Whisenhunt harped on the mistakes his team continues to make, sabotaging its effort, and the message must ring true for his players to bring up the same topics when asked.
"We don't have to always climb uphill," exasperated wide receiver Steve Breaston said.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald lamented the Cards' 4-10 record after the game, saying it's was the worst record he's ever been a part of after 14 games. He wasn't quite on the mark – Dennis Green's final two teams in 2005 and 2006 were also 4-10 after 14 games – although Fitzgerald has never had a season in which the Cards won fewer than five games.
That begs the question of whether the Cardinals can win one of their final two, either against the streaking Cowboys (winners of four of six after a 1-7 start) or in San Francisco. That final game could be very interesting, because if the 49ers win in St. Louis this weekend and the Seahawks lose in Tampa Bay, the Niners will win the NFC West (at 7-9) by beating the Cardinals.
It could make for a thrilling way to end the season, to dash a rival's hopes. Or face watching their rival celebrate in front of them.
That's still a couple weeks away, however. First the Cards have to find out who they will have Saturday. Whisenhunt said linebacker Joey Porter suffered a triceps injury that could be serious; Porter was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday. If Porter is out, rookie O'Brien Schofield is in line to make his first NFL start.
Injuries, though, aren't what are derailing the Cards right now. Whisenhunt continued to say Monday he believes the effort is there, and also the talent – putting the struggles the Cards have had at the feet of "mistakes."
Mistakes are rookie quarterback John Skelton making the wrong reads at times, or defenders failing in their gaps – like on the first play of the game, allowing Jonathan Stewart a long run on the very first play of the game.
"Those kinds of mistakes, if you make those and you continue to make them, it hurts your psyche, it hurts your confidence," Whisenhunt said.
Unfortunately, the mistakes keep coming and aren't limited just to the young players the Cards are trying to break in. Fleshing out the problems will be the first step in figuring out offseason changes, in an attempt to make this year's pain mean something positive down the road.
"The one thing you hope out of this," Whisenhunt said, "is that (young players) are getting experience that's going to make us better next year."
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