Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been frustrated with his team's errors on Sundays and hopes for improvement.
It's been a week of soul-searching for the Cardinals.
Coach Bruce Arians was direct on Monday, publicly questioning the physicality and selflessness of some players after reviewing Sunday's loss to the Falcons. The criticism hung in the air throughout the week, bothersome enough that a players-only meeting was held to address any lingering issues.
Losses and tension tend to sprout together, and the team will look to combat both with a turnaround performance on Sunday against Washington. The Cardinals have never lost three straight under Arians, and badly need to get back on track after a fruitless two-game road swing to Minnesota and Atlanta.
A 5-0 finish may be the only way the Cardinals (4-6-1) can make a third straight postseason appearance, but the focus has now zoomed. After so much turbulence, the team is desperate for a single victory to bring about some good vibes after season-long frustration.
"We just need one to get the ball rolling," linebacker Kevin Minter said.
The issues which have sidetracked the Cardinals in past weeks are still present. The offensive line is a huge question mark because of injuries to Jared Veldheer and Evan Mathis, although there were signs of growth last week.
The wide receiver corps has yet to show any consistency this year, and John Brown's lingering sickle cell trait complications make him questionable for Sunday.
The defense has been excellent statistically, but was dominated by the Falcons last week and may not have the services of safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is doubtful with soreness in his injured shoulder.
As the issues compound, it makes the able-bodied Cardinals try hard to make up for it, but that might be the biggest concern of them all.
"We don't need one guy to be greater than the other," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "This is not basketball. There's no LeBron, there's no Michael Jordans out there. You cannot take over the game, bro. It's not going to happen. It's got to be 11 guys on the same page every play."
The Cardinals get a tough test in Washington, which has one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL and is led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Month. He won't have star tight end Jordan Reed (shoulder) to throw to, but DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder are a talented trio of receivers.
Washington sits atop a muddled pack of wild card contenders with a tenuous hold on the No. 6 seed. The Cardinals need a win to pull within a game of Washington.
"The last five weeks of the NFL season always tell the tale," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "You want to be in a position where you're not relying on everybody else. Fortunately, we're in a position we don't have to worry about people losing. If we take care of our business, we'll get in. That's where you like to be."
That's a scenario the Cardinals have been used to in the past, but it's not the case in 2016. An undefeated finish doesn't even guarantee them a wild card berth, and any slip-up the rest of the way could signal the end. That's why the standings mean little to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
"What we do in Miami (next week) doesn't even matter if we don't take care of business against the Redskins," he said.
It's been an uncommon week for a team in uncommon territory. In the previous three years under Arians, the Cardinals had never been less than three games over .500 through 11 games, but this group never found its fast start.
Arians was asked a variety of questions about how his team will respond to this adversity, and his general response has been the same: We'll see on Sunday.
Thousands of fans will slide into their seats before kickoff, angling to see if the Cardinals have a final push left in them. Their coach on the sideline will be wondering the same.
Images of key players for the Cardinals' Week 13 opponent