A frustrated Derek Anderson lets out a heavy sigh during Sunday's loss in Atlanta.
ATLANTA – Derek Anderson was drilled in the midsection, and after the ball fluttered incomplete, the Cardinals' quarterback couldn't hide his anger.
It was a brutal but clean shot by Falcons defensive back William Moore, and with the outcome long since decided, Anderson demonstratively flashed his feelings, yelling at Moore.
"It was the frustration of the whole day," Anderson said later. "We laid an egg and they were beating us up. It's never good to take a hit and he's running his mouth and you can't say anything."
The Cardinals really couldn't say much of anything. When you lose, 41-7, the initial details become moot. There are things to fix, but in the immediate shadow of the outcome, the reasons sound somewhat hollow.
This franchise has been through such games before, games that hurt but ultimately don't have to cause permanent damage. The Cards sidestepped such landmines last season – the Colts' loss at home was a blowout, but that was more about Peyton Manning's dominance than self-inflicted wounds – but back in 2008, there was the Thanksgiving turkey in Philadelphia. Or the snowy misery in New England.
And everyone knows how that eventually turned out.
Darnell Dockett brought up the Philadelphia game in the locker room Sunday. "We will bounce back," Dockett said. "I know what kind of team we have, I know our coaches. We will be even more strict on people now because we are not where we want to be. This is a humbling situation for us."
Perhaps it was because of those games back in 2008 that the message of coach Ken Whisenhunt penetrated quickly after Sunday's loss. There was a collective irritation, yes, but if the idea was to sell the loss as one brief speed bump in the 16-game season, the Cards insisted they were buyers.
"I am not worried about it," wide receiver Steve Breaston said. "You are frustrated about the loss but you know how it is around here, as soon as we lose, it's 'Aw, it's the Cardinals.'
"Every loss we have, it's always the same, we're not this, we're not that. I'm not worried about that. I know we are a good team. If we correct these mistakes, everything will be OK. I know what this team is."
Unquestionably, there are mistakes to correct. The Cardinals never stopped the Falcons' running game, first with Michael Turner motoring through the defense and then, after Turner got hurt, Jason Snelling. The third-down issues were distressing, with the Cards whiffing on all eight of their attempts.
Then there were the penalties, although the guess is that Whisenhunt is going to watch the video of the game and find even further frustration, since a few of the key calls didn't look at first glance (or replay, for that matter) as anything more concrete than questionable.
The Cards still aren't sure who was holding on the 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by LaRod Stephens-Howling, since it was attributed to Dockett – who wasn't on the field. The pass interference call on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie that kept the Falcons' second touchdown drive alive also could have been called clean.
But as Dockett noted, "we can't blame everything on the penalties."
"I could say this is a wake-up call," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "We have some work to do and I think we all understand that."
It'll make for a long day Monday, when the Cardinals have to go through the video and "see all the plays we left out there, things we have practiced, things we have done out there in training camp," Dockett said. "That's what is going to hurt the most."
If teams take three or four weeks to truly gel into whatever they are going to become, it leaves some room for the improvement the Cards say to a man they expect to make. With Seattle's loss Sunday in Denver, the division doesn't even have a front-runner yet.
The Cards must make sure the trip to Atlanta becomes the learning experience they want it to be and not an example of what's to come.
"I think we are a better football team than what we showed today," Whisenhunt said. "These are some of the growing pains you're going to go through."
Because really, what else was there to say?
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