The Cardinals were close to finishing off the Giants and Eli Manning Sunday, but ended up with a third straight loss, by a combined eight points.
The Cardinals are close. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said it before, and he reiterated it again a couple of times Monday in the wake of another loss-that-could-have-been-a-win, this one 31-27 to the Giants the day before.
Close isn't automatically defined positively, however, and that's something the Cards must wrestle with for now in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
"Which way you talking about?" said quarterback Kevin Kolb, after being asked about being "close."
"Like I said the other day, we are close to being 0-and-4," Kolb added. "I like that y'all are a positive group, but we're somewhat realists in here as well. That's the way you have to look at it. You have to check yourself, because a season can slip away from you."
The Cardinals have one game left – a trip Sunday to visit the 0-4 Vikings in Minnesota – before their bye week. No one sounded more exasperated with the current three-game losing streak more than Kolb. He flashed a wistful smile when someone asked if he had ever been through a stretch like this, with wins always attainable but never sealed.
"No," Kolb said. "Not losing like this. No."
It's foreign territory in a lot of ways. Even with the struggles of last season, Whisenhunt has never had a 1-3 record after four games (or even 2-3 after five, for that matter). It sure seemed like it would be avoided once again sporting a 10-point lead with a little more than five minutes left.
Every significant advance the Cards made was muddied by the result, whether it was an offense carried by the running of Beanie Wells or the defense that created turnovers and shut down the run – at until the Giants, too quickly, put up two late touchdowns.
"Whether you want to be conservative or want to be aggressive in a time of the game like that, I don't know," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "You think about those three (losses) ... it's frustrating. You can't give up two touchdowns in a time frame like that."
Five of the Cards' next seven games are on the road. After the Vikings and the bye, there is a home game against Pittsburgh, a road trip to Baltimore, home against the Rams and then three straight away from home – Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis.
If Whisenhunt's theory is correct, his team will improve as the weeks go by. It's imperative, given the competition.
"I feel for our players and I feel for our fans because we are not where we want to be," Whisenhunt said. "After last year, it's very frustrating. But yes, you have to have patience … I believe, and I feel like our team believes, it's going to turn."
Such a turn needs to come quickly. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he believed, as the Cards were driving down for their final touchdown, the Cardinals had the game in their grasp. He was also quick to point out "the margin for winning and losing games in the NFL is very small." The Cards keep ending up on the wrong side of the ledger.
Certainly, if someone would have suggested the Cards would have held the Giants to 54 yards rushing, gotten 138 yards rushing from Beanie Wells and another 102 from Fitzgerald, a win would have been the guess.
"Do you want to lose big or do you want to lose close? That's a tough (question)," guard Daryn Colledge said. "You want to be in every single game, but you want to win games. This team needs to remember what it's like to finish a game and get on a winning streak."
Streaks aren't as important for now as much as just one win.
"I'm not going to tell you it's a work-in-progress because I am tired of saying it," Kolb said. "I'm just ready to get it done and win some games."
Right tackle Brandon Keith was the only injury of note from the game. He had his knee, on which he had surgery last season, give out on him during the game. He had swelling, and his return to the lineup will be based on his recovery, Whisenhunt said. Jeremy Bridges will be his replacement if Keith can't go.