Larry Fitzgerald crashes to the turf after he can't corral a Kurt Warner pass during the Cardinals' 47-7 loss to the Patriots Sunday.
FOXBORO, Mass. – This was the moment everyone had been asking me about.
You work in newspapers for your whole career before going to work as a reporter for the team website, and it's a natural question, one I have fielded many times: What do you write when the team struggles? What can you write?
Those were the thoughts that came to me Sunday afternoon, as the Cardinals
were beat up by the Patriots, 47-7.
The Cardinals just had a 7-3 record, right? They were enthused after beating the Seahawks in Seattle, their huge home game with the Giants still to come. Even after that game, a close loss, the Cards looked like a team that could do damage in the playoffs.
Now, with one game left in the regular season? "Put a couple performances together like we have the last couple of weeks, you definitely don't feel invincible, that's for sure," quarterback Kurt Warner said.
Losses to the Eagles, Vikings and now Patriots have pierced that confidence. Huge early deficits – the combined halftime score of those games was 83-7 – changed the way the Cards could play those games, and changed the way many feel about the Cardinals.
The NFC West-clinching win over the Rams (a much-needed blowout) was mixed in, but for a team that could basically count on the postseason after whacking the Seahawks, that seems little consolation right now.
And to think, the Seahawks are also the Cards' final opponent before the playoffs, next week at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"Seattle is not going to just let us steamroll them, and if we don't (win) we end up 8-8 just like last year," fullback Terrelle Smith said. "And we can't be 8-8."
Warner has long been arguing that nothing less than a Super Bowl should be the Cardinals' goal, so it wasn't any surprise he looked hacked off after Sunday's game. Someone asked him if the past two weeks of flat play could be attributed to clinching the division so early, and the look on Warner's face said everything.
"Maybe, but come on," he said, exasperated. "If that's it, get over it. We haven't done anything yet. I don't know if you can say it has contributed to it, but if it has, we have to get past that.
"If we are happy about winning the division, I guess that's all we'll do this year."
The snow was brought up as an issue, but that too was shot down. Normally, it would make sense – except the players all realized, after their showings against Philadelphia and Minnesota, that what happened in New England wasn't an isolated incident.
Smith was on one of the pregame buses that was forced to take a detour to get to the stadium, and he noted there were distractions, like it "took 20 million hours to get here taking the scenic route, we saw wolves and all kinds of animals, with snow everywhere."
Still, Smith bottom-lined, the Cardinals can't come out playing like they did.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team was embarrassed and needed to "continue to grow up." He lamented a penalty on Smith that cost the Cards their first first down, -- Smith said it seemed like the Cards, down only a touchdown, "unraveled" after that – but at the same time was frustrated a single incident could hurt his team so much.
"If we have adversity early in the game, it seems we can't recover from that," Whisenhunt said. "I thought that after the Jets game this year maybe we turned the corner with that but it appears right now we still have a lot of work to do in that area."
Yet time is running short.
The Cardinals could be playing a postseason game as soon as Jan. 3 – as of today, the turned-around Atlanta Falcons would be visiting Glendale – and they won't be on the hot streak heading into the game like they wanted to be.
I, like many people, wondered what I would say if the team hit a bad patch.
It probably wouldn't be much different than what those on the team already are saying.
"We're making too many mistakes," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "In two weeks, if we make those mistakes, those mistakes will get our (expletive) sent home."
Added Warner, "We have to find a way to play good football again, because we're not doing it right now."
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 12/21/08.
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