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Coasting To A Road Win

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Cornerback Rod Hood (left) and fullback Terrelle Smith head into a hotel during the Cardinals' East coast trip earlier this season.

The numbers were stark in their statement as they flashed up on ESPN last week.

West coast teams were 0-10 playing games on the East coast with a 1 p.m. eastern start – or 10 a.m. in the West. The record was 5-50 since 2005, Since 2000, the winning percentage in such games for West coast teams was a dismal 24 percent.

In this case, the Cardinals are considered West coast, and their pair of losses earlier this season in Washington and New York factored in.

The Cards are 4-2 and happy heading into their bye weekend. But after the bye, a

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road trip to Carolina (considered East coast) is up next, one of three road trips remaining across the country for the Cards.

"You have to ignore numbers like that when you faced with five East coast trips like we are this year because you don't want to start behind the eight-ball from that perspective," said coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose team also must visit Philadelphia and New England. "I think it is something, when numbers are that far out of proportion, that I'm sure will be studied by the competition committee as far as if it is an issue.

"I know from personal experience it is tough. A 1 o'clock game, it feels like you are getting up at 5 in the morning to play. I know in our short time here it feels like we have been sluggish to start in East coast games. I would be for anything that would make those numbers more equitable."

The Cardinals, of course, tried to stave off such a problem when they stayed in Virginia after the Redskins game and before they played the Jets. Despite the ugly first half in New York – in which the Cards fell behind 34-0 before losing, 56-35 – Whisenhunt said staying East "I know helped us."

"I think we came out of (the time away) a mentally tougher team," Whisenhunt said.

The Patriots just spent the week between games in San Francisco and San Diego practicing in San Jose, trying to avoid travel issues. It didn't show up on the scoreboard in the Chargers' 30-10 win.

There has been talk about switching kickoff times from the 1 p.m. TV window to the 4 p.m. window, but the networks mostly don't want that and nor do the home teams, who want the earlier kickoff times for their home fans.

Whisenhunt has had his share, as both player and coach, of traveling from the East coast to the West coast. That too isn't easy, he acknowledged. But that hurts mainly after a game – Whisenhunt said there were many times where his team played a night game on the West coast and didn't get back until 6 a.m.

Going West to East is more difficult, Whisenhunt said.

"You always felt before the game you were rested enough (going East to West)," Whisenhunt said. "Even if you got up at 4 or 5 in the morning, which was like 7 or 8 o'clock, you could always go back to sleep. Going the other way … when you are trying to catch up, you just can't seem to do it."

While travel plans have not been finalized, the Cardinals are expected to leave on Friday for the Carolina and New England games to give the players a little extra time to prepare (The Eagles' game is on Thanksgiving night).

Massachusetts will be only two hours ahead by December, but the Cards tried last season to leave on Saturday for a cross-country journey to Tampa and the Cards seemed to remain sluggish the entire game.

Whisenhunt has said many times the Cardinals must find ways to win on the road to become the playoff team they want to be. The way the rest of the schedule breaks down, it also means the Cardinals must find a way to beat the West-to-East trend in the NFL.

ARRINGTON'S IMPACT

While Steve Breaston has defied predictions – even from his own offensive coordinator – that he would be able to become a consistently productive NFL wide receiver, his emergence isn't the only one on offense for the Cards.

Lost in Breaston's huge three-game stretch (24 catches for 301 yards) is fourth-year running back J.J. Arrington. Arrington was inactive through the first four games and was brought in against Buffalo two weeks ago not just because he could be an effective weapon against the Bills but also because he could return kickoffs while Breaston filled in for an injured Anquan Boldin as the No. 2 wide receiver.

Arrington shined as a back in the spread offense against Buffalo, and then made a crucial 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Cowboys. As good as Breaston is on punt returns, Arrington looks like he is better on kickoff returns.

"He's not a guy you hand it to 20 times a game, but make sure you get it to him 10 times a game, in different ways," quarterback Kurt Warner said.

Whisenhunt insists having Arrington inactive and backup fullback Tim Castille playing wasn't a bad thing. Arrington kept working, the coach said, and was ready when called.

"I don't regret not having him up earlier in the season because I think now J.J. is in a position to help us," Whisenhunt said. "It's showing on the field."

SOME NUMBERS

Warner has completed at least 70 percent of his passes three games in a row and in four of six games this season.

The Cards' defense, which has sacks in 29 straight games, has at least two in eight straight games.

The Cardinals have scored at least 30 points in five straight home games.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/14/08. Updated 10/16/08.

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