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Waking Up To Reality

 

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 Safety Adrian Wilson (right) counsels fellow safety Antrel Rolle as cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looks on during Friday night's loss to Green Bay.
 

The question is whether the Cardinals woke up.

That was the message coach Ken Whisenhunt gave after Friday night's loss to the Packers, the one with the close score that hid the trouble behind it. Whisenhunt said he hoped it was a "wake-up call" and he obviously said the same to his players after the game; more than a few parroted the same phrase.

The benefit, of course, is that this all comes in the preseason. Two weeks remain before games that count, so if a team is going to be slapped across its collective face, better now than in October.

"It is a good thing it happened," safety Antrel Rolle said, "because now we know what we can look like if we don't take care of our responsibilities."

That look certainly isn't pretty.

No one was immune to criticism Friday. Whisenhunt made sure to say the issues began with the coaching, but the problems permeated almost everywhere. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis wants to focus on accountability, but even the players weren't feeling good about that progress Friday night.    

"We had some guys that were playing hard and all out, and we had some guys that wasn't," defensive end Darnell Dockett said, adding "I can't say everybody competed, but I can't say everybody didn't compete. But I know everyone wasn't on the same page every play."

Linebacker Karlos Dansby called it a "back to the drawing board" moment. You'd hope it isn't that drastic.

It's a little different on the other side of the ball, but not without concern. Last week, quarterback Kurt Warner seemed unfazed at the starting offense's lack of touchdowns. Warner is fazed now.

Sure, some of the issues Friday Warner could credit to nice defensive plays by the Packers. He said he was just about to throw the ball cornerback Charles Woodson knocked away for a fumble, the one returned for a touchdown. The interception grabbed by Anthony Smith, Warner said, came on a nice play to race back when Warner thought he had Jerheme Urban open deep.

But, Warner added, "there are other things, like the ball hits your hands and you drop it, well, you just have to catch it. You have to make those plays. If we have a 'hot' situation and I have to get the ball out, you have to be ready. There are some things you chalk up to preseason and you're growing. There are other things that you just say, 'We just can't have it and we just can't ever have it.' "

These are the realities to which Whisenhunt hopes his team has now woken.

Plenty of people already wonder about the Cardinals and the year after. In part because of the way their path played out in 2008, in part because of the big picture of teams that come up short on Super Bowl Sunday. "This Super Bowl hangover is as predictable as the tide," is the phrase in ESPN magazine's NFL preview, on the same page predicting a 6-10 record for the Cards.

So the Packers play the role of alarm clock. And who knows, by the time Green Bay comes back to Arizona for the finale the first weekend in January, the Cards can win the one that counts and cap a great regular season.

There is something to be learned from what the Cards went through the other night. After all, who the heck takes the third game of the preseason like it's, uh, you know? You know.

"I have no doubt," Whisenhunt said, "we'll play better from this point."

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