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The Measure Of A Team

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Kurt Warner (13) and the Cardinals must bounce back quickly from Sunday's loss to the Giants with a game Thursday in Philadelphia.

Everyone watched. Everyone wanted to know.

They wanted to know how the Cardinals measured up to the Super Bowl champs, to this team that many assume will be back in the NFL's ultimate game in February. The New York media was going to be around for the Giants Sunday, but so too was ESPN and ESPN.com, Yahoo.com, USA Today.

Here's the funny thing, though. Once the Giants had pulled out the 37-29 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium, what new was really learned?

The Cardinals knew all along they couldn't make mistakes. That turning the ball

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over would be a problem. That the Giants were not a team that would beat itself.

That was true before kickoff, and true after.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was asked after the game what main thought he was left with afterward, and he bluntly said "that we can play with anyone in the league."

Dockett believed that before though. That was the tone of his comments earlier in the week, in fact.

No, the Cardinals aren't going to be the media darlings they would have been if they had knocked off the Giants. But they are still 7-4, and have a suddenly very winnable road game in Philadelphia coming up. They still have three home games left.

The NFC West division championship is still a foregone conclusion. So too was the Cards' irritation at themselves at the way the Giants' game played out.

The Cardinals made sure to credit the Giants afterward. They are a good team – that was a popular line. Also popular was the sentiment expressed by veteran defensive back Ralph Brown: "I like how we competed but we didn't play sound football today."

They have four days to clean up whatever it is that needs fixing.

Thanksgiving is coming, and the Cardinals are going to be in Philadelphia that night. The turnaround isn't ideal, given the physical nature of Sunday's game. The Cardinals practice Monday night and again Tuesday, while during a normal week they wouldn't see the field again until Wednesday.

"We left a lot of plays out there but we have to overcome it," running back Tim Hightower said. "We have a short week. Whether we won the game or lost the game, we still had to play Thursday."

It's about silver linings. While the Cards would obviously like to run the ball a little more effectively and not turn the ball over and shore up special teams, at least they aren't in the middle of a meltdown like the Eagles. Philadelphia coach Andy Reid wasn't committing to either Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb to start against the Cardinals.

The Cardinals insist they don't care. They don't care who plays quarterback, and they can't care about what happened against the Giants.

 "If we worry about what we could have did or should have did, we're going to look up and be losing to Philly by halftime," Dockett said.

It's hard to believe the Cards won't refocus, however. Their two toughest losses of the season have been against the Jets and the Panthers. The Cards responded with wins each time. Losing to the Giants simply provides more motivation.

The Cardinals aren't going to be considered as good as the Giants, not after Sunday. It goes beyond the final score. No Brandon Jacobs or Plaxico Burress, and if the Cards were to see the Giants again in the playoffs, you'd have to figure both will be back.

The Cards may not be near the top of anyone's power rankings now, which they could have been had they won.

But they will make the postseason. How they fare there is the only way the Cards want to be measured anyway. * * * Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 11/23/08.

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