Patrick Peterson (21) and Justin Bethel celebrate the field-goal miss of Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) Sunday in New England.
Ken Whisenhunt was talking about his team's plane ride home from New England following the Cardinals' victory against the Patriots and noted, "it wasn't like we'd just won the Super Bowl or something like that."
If there was any point the head coach wanted to hammer home it was that. The win in Foxborough was significant, but the last thing the Cards want is to turn it into the end-all – because the end is nowhere in sight.
"We have a lot of games left," Whisenhunt said Monday, the day after the emotional 20-18 win. "We still have a story to tell as far as who this team is going to be."
The chapters outlining the details of each game are still to come, and the way the Cardinals are playing – in their last 18 games, 15 have been decided by a touchdown or less and both games this season have been decided in the last 20 seconds – no one would want to predict the future.
The underlying theme of 2012 seems to be settling in, though. The offense is going to be patient and cut out mistakes. The defense is going to make sure the offense can follow through on that plan.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was thrilled with his unit's execution Sunday against the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady. A lot went into the plan that basically had the Cardinals refraining from the blitz and kept the Cards' nickel packages on the field, so much so that rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming played 80 of 82 defensive snaps while nose tackles Dan Williams and David Carter played a total of 10 snaps combined.
"Coach Horton was waiting all offseason for this game," said defensive end Calais Campbell, who had 10 tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. "Even in training camp, he kept talking about Tom. We did what we had to do."
Horton challenged his defensive front four – which mostly included Campbell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett along with linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield – to provide the pressure and allow the Cards to work with seven in coverage. It worked.
"We've got to stay humble, got to keep working," Dockett said. "The biggest thing is not give up the big plays. Do the small things. Trust your teammates. It's going to be hard to move the ball against a defense that's as athletic as we are, with all the weapons we have. If you do small things, you'll win the ball game."
The Cardinals want to do more things, big and small, on offense. The Cardinals did enough on Sunday to win, but it left the defense a razor-thin margin with which to work. In particular, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, were the first two drives that stalled and led to field goals.
"It wasn't by any stretch of the imagination a good day for us," said Fitzgerald, who had just one catch. "We have to do a better job of scoring seven points when we have our opportunities."
Whisenhunt said "we are close to becoming a pretty good offense" if the Cardinals can eliminate some mistakes. In particular, he pointed out a couple of missed throws by quarterback Kevin Kolb that should have picked up significant yards. Whisenhunt also said there were some "footwork issues" with the running backs as far as hitting the right hole.
"Real close?" Fitzgerald said. "That's not good enough right now."
Whisenhunt said he wasn't worried about his team being overconfident, although the narrative around the team will now change given its first two wins. Practice this week will tell more, Whisenhunt added.
"The most important thing is we are 2-0," Kolb said. "It's like a marathon, there's a whole group of us right now. It's who can outlast this thing, not get too high or low and then, Week 10 or 12, see where you are at."