Despite a rough game in San Francisco -- like the fumble by LaRod Stephens-Howling -- the Cardinals are confident they will bounce back.
The turnovers and the penalties and mistakes came so often Monday night it became almost comical for the Cardinals, perhaps enough that it would been even easier to move past the disappointing 24-9 loss in San Francisco.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt let out a soft chuckle at the thought, with the understanding nothing was easy about enduring such a game.
But on a short week, the message is the future. The Cards' magic number to clinch the division remains two, and it is realistic to think that number can be shaved to zero this weekend when the Cardinals travel to Detroit and the second-place 49ers are in Philadelphia.
Regardless, the 49ers are no longer on the schedule. The Cards have the Lions, Rams and Packers left in the regular season, and the future is the only concern.
"Everything is still in front of us," coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday.
"The last time I did the math, if we win two more it doesn't really matter what else happens, right?" Whisenhunt added later. "If we take care of what's in front of us then (losing two to San Francisco) doesn't make a difference."
The 49ers praised themselves for a physical, dominating game, and after forcing seven turnovers, it's difficult to begrudge such a stance. But the Cardinals clearly felt they gave the same away rather than feeling they were beat, a natural reaction that also should aid them as they return to work Wednesday.
"I don't think they outplayed us, I think we lost the game ourselves," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "I'm not going to take (away) credit, they played well. But at the end of the day, that product we put on the field, we won't beat nobody."
Said Whisenhunt, "I don't think it was as much them as it was us."
The issue nagging at the Cards was the idea they still haven't found the consistency they seek.
"Even if you don't have your 'A' game," quarterback Kurt Warner said, "you'd like to think you'd come out and not give games away."
Whisenhunt and Warner, however, both said the Cards have proven – many times – they are good in responding to such situations the week after.
Whisenhunt added he believed his team is more like the squad that handled Minnesota than the recent seven-turnover version. His players didn't seem to have any other idea, although they understood they didn't show it against the Niners.
"We can still wrap it up but we have to play hard to do it," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "Ain't nobody going to lay down and let us walk in there. It's a challenge, but I think we're up for it."
FITZ'S MRI SHOWS KNEE IS "STABLE"
The Cardinals seemingly averted disaster when Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald ended up with a right knee sprain but nothing worse in the 49ers game.
"I'm sore but I'm straight," Fitzgerald said on his Twitter account Tuesday.
The team released a statement Tuesday afternoon: "He had an MRI today that revealed a bone contusion and right knee sprain. However the knee is stable and there isn't any more significant damage. He'll be evaluated as the week progresses."
The news also looked better for reserve safety Matt Ware Tuesday, after the Cards thought he had torn knee ligaments in San Francisco. Whisenhunt said the follow-up showed that Ware didn't have torn ligaments, and now the hope is Ware can avoid surgery and return this season. Ware does figure to be out for now, however, and that's also a possibility for kicker Neil Rackers, hampered by a bad right groin injury. The Cards may have to sign a short-term replacement later this week.
The status of left tackle Mike Gandy (pelvis) remains uncertain after he had to leave a game early for the second time in two tries. And Whisenhunt said cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came up with a case of turf toe in San Francisco.
ABOUT THOSE FUMBLES
Whisenhunt said the team has always worked on various exercises to prevent fumbling, like strip drills or gauntlet drills, and ball security always is a main theme. But three of the teams four running backs lost the ball in San Francisco, and it remains a big issue with top backs Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells.
"It wasn't because, I felt in the situations with the backs, that guys were waving around the ball or weren't trying to hold on to it," Whisenhunt said. "That being said, that's his job. That's the ball carrier's job. We didn't get that job done."
Whisenhunt did remain steadfast in his belief in Hightower, who suffered a crucial early fumble for a second straight game.
"I have great confidence in Tim being able to overcome this," Whisenhunt said. "He is a physical football player. He is a consummate pro and works at his game. I am very confident Tim will be able to continue going forward."
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