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Making The Jump

Cardinals travel to Atlanta hoping for natural improvement in Week Two

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Tim Hightower and the Cardinals plan on improving on their performance this week.




ATLANTA – One game in, the Cardinals aren't the team they are going to be.

In a lot of ways, no team is. Not so early in the season.

That was the theme coach Ken Whisenhunt harped on following his team's season-opening victory, a win that brought with it plenty of areas to fix. It's certainly what the Falcons – the team the Cards visit Sunday, and a team that disappointingly scored just nine points in the season opener – are counting on going into Week Two.

"I've always thought the most improvement happens from week one to week two at any level," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said.

The benefit for the Cardinals is that they were able to ponder what needs to be tweaked in the aftermath of a victory. They overcame the fumble issues of running back Tim Hightower and the rough patches quarterback Derek Anderson had with his accuracy.

Both issues were storylines over the last week. Both have been addressed, Whisenhunt said repeatedly. Now the Cards will see if they can be more steady. That's how it seemed to play out last season, when the Cards stumbled in the opener (a loss to San Francisco) and rallied to win in Jacksonville when then-quarterback Kurt Warner set an NFL record for completion percentage in a game.

"You would hope so," Hightower said. "I don't know if that (improvement) is true for every team. Some teams will be 2-0, some teams will be 1-1 and some teams will be 0-2. I think it depends on the team and how quickly the people in those locker rooms understand their roles and start to gel.

"Some teams take a little longer. Some teams they get a rhythm early and shut it down late. Some teams start slow and pick it up. I don't think there is an exact science to it. It's about finding your identity as a team."

The schedule doesn't exactly lend itself as help. The Cards already went through one home opener in St. Louis and now must deal with the same in Atlanta, since the Falcons opened in Pittsburgh.

Atlanta has a solid defense but it was their offensive problems that cost them against the Steelers. Ryan didn't play particularly well – after a somewhat disappointing sophomore NFL season last year. The Falcons didn't get as much production out of star running back Michael Turner as they wanted, and there seemed to be an overreliance on wide receiver Roddy White. White had 13 catches, but Ryan threw his way an astounding 23 times (compared to the three catches and 15 targets Anderson had for Larry Fitzgerald).

The Falcons want to get the bugs out of their system. The Cards want to see if perhaps less means more for Fitzgerald, who could end up playing fewer plays in order to keep him fresher on his still-not-100-percent knee.

"You get a chance to see with what you did and you can maybe gear things to maybe what you think you may be more successful with," Whisenhunt said.

The unknowns remain across the league, Falcons coach Mike Smith said, and that probably won't change until another week or two after this one.

In the middle of the learning curve, the Cardinals would like to win anyway. That would be maximizing the process.

"I have never been 1-0 in the NFL which felt pretty good," Anderson said. "(But) I think we all know after we looked at the tape where we could get better."

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