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Consider The Message Sent

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The Cardinals have played well through two games but tempering enthusiasm has been the theme of the early season.

Ken Whisenhunt listened to his players repeat the same lines over and over after Sunday's win against Miami – all along the clichéd line of "We are taking this one game at a time" – and nodded his head in approval.

The message the Cardinals' coach wants to get across is permeating the locker room.

"It does please me because it means we are maturing as a team," Whisenhunt said Monday, a day after his team moved to 2-0 on the season. "At some point, you have to get used to winning -- 'OK, let's get on to the next thing.' I sensed that a little bit (Sunday).

"It is something we talked about after the game. We are excited, let's not forget about that. But you need focus, and I think we have that."

Whereas the talk last week was the Cards' attempt to reach a 2-0 record for the first time since 1991, the Cards will now hear comments about the chance to reach 3-0 for the first time since 1974. The Cards began that season 7-0.

A difficult two-game road trip awaits. The Cardinals play in Washington – where they lost last season – this weekend, and then will stay on the East Coast for the week before traveling to New Jersey to play the New York Jets.

It could be a daunting task, another reason why Whisenhunt's message is a constant drumbeat to the players.

"It does because that's what it is," safety Adrian Wilson said. "You can't look down the road. I can't tell you who we play two weeks from now. I am focused on playing Washington, going to Washington, getting a win. That's what everyone in the locker room is focused on."

Like his mantra of playing the best players, Whisenhunt's desire to remain back east is centered around his belief it will give the Cardinals their best chance to win each game. The team will leave Friday for Washington and stay in the same hotel for the week. Practices will be at Catholic University before the Cards travel by train the Saturday before the Jets' game.

The benefit is simple: Ten less hours in a plane, and 6,000 less airline miles logged.

"When you travel that much in an airplane, your body suffers the effects," Whisenhunt said. "Last year we had games on the East Coast and, let's face it, we sucked."

Whisenhunt did the stay-for-a-week trip as a player for games in Los Angeles (against the Rams) and San Francisco. He said he thought the Chargers bonded as a team when they stayed in Arizona and practiced at the Cardinals' facility for a week when wildfires forced them away.

"I don't know if it's a perfect time," Whisenhunt said of leaving after starting 2-0, "but I think we are in a good place with our team to do this."

Wilson didn't even want to delve into the week back East, because it comes after the Redskins' game.

"I can't get into details of the road trip and all that," Wilson said. "All I am worried about are (Redskins) Clinton Portis and (Jason) Campbell and Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. That's all I am worried about."

If it wasn't clear to Whisenhunt before that his message has been received, tangible proof is easy to find.

"Anybody should know two wins doesn't make anything," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "I am playing to get into the dance and win a championship. I hope everyone in the locker room has the same mentality.

"I'm not playing to be 9-7 and be one game better than last year. I am playing to win a championship."

EXTRA POINTS

Whisenhunt said the Dolphins made "an obvious attempt" to stop the run Sunday, one of the reasons the Cards were held to 81 yards on 31 carries.

"We had a suspicion of that coming in because of some of their comments last week that 'We are a better run defense than (the first week),' " Whisenhunt said. "So going into the game we were geared to throw the ball more."

Whisenhunt added that he was pleased the run and pass attempts were still balanced (not counting two Matt Leinart kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Cards tried 28 pass plays and 29 run plays). The coach said the Cards used multiple personnel packages and formations through two games to keep defenses off-balance. That, he said may lead to more vanilla defenses and ones that are easier to attack.

"What I hope the league sees," Whisenhunt said, "is we are versatile." …

Whisenhunt had no new news on the injuries to cornerbacks Eric Green (calf) and Rod Hood (neck) and tackle Levi Brown (knee). All three did return to the game after they were hurt, however. An update is expected Wednesday. …

Whisenhunt said Elton Brown replacing Deuce Lutui at right guard in the second half was strictly to get Brown some work in live game action and not a change on the depth chart. …

Defensive end Travis LaBoy missed, by Whisenhunt's estimate, 10 to 15 plays when LaBoy's facemask broke and needed to be fixed.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/15/08.

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