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Expectations Weigh Heavy On Cards

After season-opening loss, trip to Jacksonville gains importance


The Cardinals have a key game in Jacksonville Sunday.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Disappointment – and concern – came quickly after the Cardinals' first game of the season.

One loss shouldn't have created such a scenario. But maybe it shouldn't be a surprise.

"The great thing about that is we set an expectation," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "We expect to live up to it and we have to expect to live up to it and when we don't, people get disappointed. That's what we tried to build here so we can't get mad at that."

Expectations produces pressure, however, especially heading into Sunday's game against the Jaguars on the road. If there was disappointment after one loss, two might create panic.

Reality says 15 games remain on the schedule, a point some players brought up after the San Francisco loss. But the Cards and coach Ken Whisenhunt bemoaned missed opportunities throughout the 49ers game, on in the bigger picture, that's what the opener will forever be marked.

"At the end of the season, when you get to games 12 and 13, you start looking back at those games you should've won that could've put you in first place or locked up a playoff spot," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "Those games you can't get back. So yeah, every game is a must-win."

Three teams did rebound after 0-2 starts last season to make the playoffs: the Chargers, the Vikings and the Dolphins. But it's a dangerous path to attempt, with only 22 of the 160 0-2 teams since 1990 eventually getting to the postseason.

"There are only so many games," Whisenhunt said. "I think our team understands the sense of urgency we need to have this week. And that's a byproduct of having been successful. We understand what we have to do and really, we'll see if we are up to the challenge."

The Jaguars are in the same spot, having lost their opener to Indianapolis, lamenting falling two points short of a winnable game.

"We don't take anything as moral victories," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "We lost."

The Jaguars flipped the script, playing on the road in the first game and now coming home to avoid the 0-2 start. That will make it more difficult for the Cards, even though Whisenhunt acknowledged that given all the past problems his team has had on East coast trips "it was nice to get that monkey off our backs" when the Cards won in Carolina during the playoffs.

The Cardinals will see a team similar to the one they just played. Like the 49ers, the Jaguars rely on a star running back – Jones-Drew – and the defense to keep them in games. Quarterback David Garrard is more accomplished than Shaun Hill, but he is also being protected by two rookie tackles. The defense will be hampered with the loss of defensive end Reggie Hayward to a broken leg.
That's the backdrop with which the Cards will face their expectations again this week.

"All these games are important," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "Last week is last week, but we're damn sure we wished we would have gotten that one."


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