Running back Tim Hightower salutes the crowd after running in a touchdown Sunday during the Cardinals' 28-21 victory.
Victories change the tone of the aftermath, and if that wasn't already clear it was made so during coach Ken Whisenhunt's day-after press conference Monday.
The Cardinals were coming off a 28-21 win over Houston, but many questions were of the team's balance on offense and lack of run attempts. Yet after a series of running-based queries, Whisenhunt was asked about integrating rookie running back Beanie Wells in the offense.
It's coming, Whisenhunt said, before adding with a smile, "Obviously, if that dumb guy that is calling plays will call more runs then Beanie will get more opportunities for carries."
Whisenhunt, of course, is the one calling the plays. And he was sure to demand responsibility after the second half of the Texans' win played out.
The coach acknowledged his one regret from the game – in which the Cards couldn't hold on to a 21-0 second-half lead in large part because the offense only generated 23 second-half yards after mowing down the Houston defense in the first half – was not calling more straight run plays.
A good chunk of plays called Sunday were run/pass checks, meaning quarterback Kurt Warner had the option – by reading the defense – to switch to a pass play if the Texans were jamming the box to stop the run.
Asked twice about Warner's role in switching or sticking with the run, Whisenhunt quickly defended his quarterback.
"I don't think I put that on Kurt, I think I put that on me," Whisenhunt said. "I have to do a better job of making sure I call those runs. If it means we have to win on third-and-3 or third-and-5, that's what we have to do."
Later, Whisenhunt said "It's not Kurt. Kurt's operating the offense the way he is taught to. It doesn't have anything to do with him. If we give him the option to (change), it's pretty clear-cut. He is going to get yelled at if he runs the ball into an eight-man front. I will take the blame on that."
Warner wasn't available during media availability Monday, but he was admittedly frustrated Sunday at how the Cards finished the game. He also talked then about the chances the Cards had in which they couldn't convert – plays that, had they been made, would have changed the complexion of the ending.
"I like it when they drop an extra guy down in the box so I get to throw it," Warner said. "I welcome those opportunities. We have to make the plays in those situations.
"I expect myself and the receivers on the outside to take advantage of that and keep the chains going. We just didn't take enough advantage of that in the second half."
The argument can be never-ending. Even Whisenhunt bemoaned the passes that should have been completed in the second half, especially when Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin found themselves in one-on-one situations.
But it's hard to get a sense of what the running game could have produced if Whisenhunt had turned more forcefully to the ground game.
"I'm just going to say I'm happy we won the game," running back Tim Hightower said.
That may be the most important factor – the win. Whisenhunt repeated a similar thought a couple of times Monday when talking about improving the balance: "I am glad we can learn from a win this time."
Whisenhunt took the blame Monday for another issue. He said there were still some defensive breakdowns due to communication, in large part because of the crowd noise. Normally, the Cards prepare for such things during Friday practice, when speakers are rolled out to the field and loud crowd noise is blasted during many pre-plays. Whisenhunt decided not to use it Friday before the Houston game.
"I made a mistake," Whisenhunt said. "That's a mistake I won't make again." …
Whisenhunt said he wanted to see better tackling from his team. …
After a quarter of the season, Whisenhunt said his team was improving. "We have played really good football sporadically," he said. "We are 2-2 and you'd like to be better than that. I think we are getting better."
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