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Protecting The Nest

Cards anxious to show home remains their turf

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The Cardinals are trying to get back to the success they have had at home the past two seasons when they play Seattle Sunday.
 
 
When the Cardinals defeated Carolina in the playoffs a season ago and then watched the Eagles upset the Giants the same weekend – assuring the NFC Championship would be at University of Phoenix Stadium – confidence swelled.

The Cards had been beaten up by the Eagles earlier in the season, but the chance to play Philadelphia in their own stadium was enough, the Cardinals felt. Glendale was the place no one in the NFL wanted to visit.

This season, that success has been difficult to repeat. But with half their home schedule gone in 2009 – and a 1-3 record to this point – safety Adrian Wilson insisted "we still feel like" it was in 2008.

"It's just that we kind of let things slip a little bit this year for whatever reason," Wilson added. "We still feel confident at home. It's about us getting that urgency we have on the road now, getting that same energy and same focus to our home games. It's not nothing that can't be corrected."

The Seahawks visit Sunday to begin the back half of the home schedule, which includes a Dec. 6 game with powerful Minnesota (a game that could still be "flexed" to a night game on national TV) and then two home games to close out the regular season – Dec. 27 against the Rams and Jan. 3 against the Packers.

With the Cardinals' stunning success on the road – 4-0, with trips to St. Louis, Tennessee, San Francisco and Detroit remaining – the home stumbles have not meant as much.

Eventually, though, the Cardinals want to have a good vibe at home. If they win the NFC West, the Cardinals will at the least open the playoffs at University of Phoenix Stadium in a Wild Card game.

"You play to hopefully get to the playoffs and have home games," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "If you don't play as well at home, it's not as enticing."

The Cardinals may have had their watershed moment two weeks ago against a struggling Carolina team. The Panthers came in and controlled the game. Up to that point, the Cards could look at their home games through a different prism.

A loss to San Francisco in the regular-season opener hurt, but it isn't a surprise to see a good team lose in the feeling-out process of the first outing. A loss to Indianapolis could be traced to mistakes and an outstanding performance by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. And the Cards hung on to beat Houston.

But then came the loss to Carolina, after which defensive end Calais Campbell said coach Ken Whisenhunt made clear "we can't lose any more games at home."

"There's a little bit more emphasis on playing better at home," Whisenhunt said.

That's the backdrop within which the Seahawks arrive. The Cardinals have not lost to Seattle since moving into University of Phoenix Stadium in 2006. If the home issues and a winning streak aren't enough for the Cards, they also know the 49ers won Thursday night, making a Cards' win crucial to keep a cushion in their NFC West lead.

The Seahawks would like to balance the scales after the Cards thumped them, 27-3, earlier this season in Seattle. And realistically, any hope the Seahawks have of the postseason would be lost with a loss.

"There is some significance there but we're not going to oversell that," Mora said. "We are trying to get better. We are trying to build consistency.

"I don't usually use the term 'Must-win.' Our players are well aware of the ramifications of this game."

So too are the Cardinals, who want to prove something to themselves and the fans, who have sold the building out again – the 39th time in a row.

"Compared to any other stadium that I have played in so far, I still feel we have the best stadium and the best fan support," Wilson said. "For us, it's important for us to keep that. Because it'd be easy for our fans to kind of turn against us when we aren't playing as well at home. We just have to get back to who we were when we were dominant at home."

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