Bertrand Berry (92) and the Cardinals find themselves in first place in the NFC West at the season's midway point.
Halfway through the schedule, the Cardinals have a 5-3 record and lead the race in the NFC West by two games.
But even with that on the résumé -- along with Sunday's 41-21 pounding of the Bears in Chicago to bolster the road record to 4-0 – the first thought coach Ken Whisenhunt had Monday when asked to assess his team was "inconsistency."
"At 5-3, obviously we want better," Whisenhunt said. "We have a number of games where, if we don't make mistakes, we could be in a better position then we're in right now."
The way the Colts played when they came to Arizona – even with an early Tim Hightower fumble – it's hard to argue the Cardinals could have changed that outcome. But the players had long bemoaned their play in the season-opening 20-16 loss to San Francisco, and repeating all the self-inflicted wounds of the 34-21 loss to Carolina almost isn't worth it.
Those are the blemishes on the record that maybe shouldn't be. Yet there is a self-awareness from players of where they are and what is left ahead, evidenced by the many mentions of the upcoming Seattle home game given the Cardinals' struggles at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Recent history suggests the Cards could have a bump at home coming off the impressive Chicago win but Whisenhunt is hoping a maturation process is underway.
So much has been made of the Cards' home woes -- -- "We have to find a way to bottle what we're doing on the road," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said – it's hard to believe the players aren't taking a division game as a challenge.
"We play better when our backs are against the wall, but that's something we have to change," safety Antrel Rolle said.
Whisenhunt still had plenty of praise to dole out after eight games. He said he was happy with an improving run game (the Cards rushed for 182 yards Sunday, the most in a game in five years), starts on offense (the Cards have scored touchdowns on their opening possession in five of eight games) and the flashes of what could be a good defense.
Special teams also earned a mention for every phase.
The Cardinals have steered clear of any major injuries at the halfway point as well, although it is an injury that left the team with its biggest issue of the weekend. The sore ankle of wide receiver Anquan Boldin was the reason Whisenhunt chose to sit Boldin for the Chicago game, a decision that left Boldin angry.
Whisenhunt, however, defused any problem quickly, saying Boldin's postgame complaint "doesn't concern me at all."
"The fact he was upset that he didn't play is what you would expect," Whisenhunt said.
Boldin, who said he already felt better Sunday than he had in weeks, should be much closer to healed for the Seattle game. After the Seahawks comes a four-road-games-in-five-week stretch, but as the Cardinals have already shown, the road doesn't intimidate them – and every game (St. Louis, Tennessee, San Francisco, Detroit) is against a team with a losing record.
Clean up the inconsistencies, and the Cardinals should be in position to have a better second half than first.
"Everybody is too good to leave plays on the field," tackle Mike Gandy said. "We've been doing that in the past."
Whisenhunt said there were no significant injuries to report, although he noted tight end Ben Patrick "tweaked" his knee during the game but returned to play. …
Whisenhunt said the coaching staff was not worried about quarterback Matt Leinart suffering a setback despite a brief appearance that saw him throw an interception on his lone official pass attempt. "When he doesn't have the fortune or have it go the way he wants it to, it obviously bothers him," Whisenhunt said. "I think it is part of Matt growing up and becoming the better player." …
Asked if Early Doucet, who took Boldin's place on the active roster, had become the team's fourth receiver, Whisenhunt said "we take that on a week-to-week basis." Whisenhunt praised Doucet's play, but when Boldin returns, it will still likely come down to Doucet or Jerheme Urban, and Urban remains more important on special teams.
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