Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald expresses disbelief after he and quarterback Derek Anderson can't hook up during Sunday's win against Oakland.
The win, as it turned out, was mostly "relief."
That's how coach Ken Whisenhunt saw Sunday's 24-23 victory over the Raiders the day after. A collective wipe of the brow from the Cardinals, knowing they escaped disaster.
If on Sundays nothing really matters by the result, the rest of the week – starting Monday – is about assessing how it came about and what needs to be fixed. Ugly becomes an issue preparing for the next week.
"I told Beanie (Wells) and the rest of the guys, being 2-1 feels a lot better than 1-2," running back Tim Hightower said. "I can't imagine being 1-2, where mentally you are looking for answers, scratching for a win just to be 2-2.
"I think our team needed this win. I don't care how ugly it was, how it came, we needed a win."
The Cardinals are still looking for the same answers they would have been had Sebastian Janikowski's 32-yard field goal been good instead of fading left. Whisenhunt likes the idea of searching under the umbrella of victory.
"Last week it was depressing because everybody was embarrassed and they were hurt by the way we played (in Atlanta)," Whisenhunt said. "This week, it's a little easier to put that behind us, yet still keep our focus where it needs to be."
The focus will still be on the offense. Again Monday, one of the big topics was quarterback Derek Anderson, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes against the Raiders.
Whisenhunt continues to back his QB, although he lamented the big plays the Cards are missing – plays the offense can't afford to miss. The coach noted the one pass to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald down the middle when Raiders linebacker Kameron Wimbley was desperately trying to cover him.
A little air under the ball, and Anderson likely would have hit Fitzgerald. Instead, the ball was more on a line and sailed over Fitzgerald's head.
"We just have to just get more consistent play out of Derek and that is something I think is a process we have to go through," Whisenhunt said. "That is finding things he feels comfortable with and integrating those with things we have done for a number of years.
"Some of that is growing pains. The short answer is … he has got to play better."
Anderson said he and the receivers "are putting the work in."
"That's not to say that (the passing game) is good," Anderson added. "But it's just been three weeks. I played a quarter-and-a-half with the starting offense in the preseason. It's kind of a work in progress."
Maybe the Cardinals will lean more on the run now than Wells is back healthy. Hightower said as much, saying the running game will be the Cards' identity for the time being as the passing game sorts itself out.
"We are taking that personally," Hightower said. "We have to take over the game running the ball. We have to eat the clock up, string some drives together, keep the defense off the field and open up the passing game."
Keeping the defense off the field is crucial for a unit that has been on the field far too much of the time in three games. That's led to the defense's own inconsistencies – Whisenhunt's biggest concern team-wide – although the overall effort continues to please the coach.
"The fact we haven't played anywhere near out best and after three games we are sitting here at 2-1 to me is a sign – a good sign," Whisenhunt added. "We are scrappers. (I like) we are a team that will hang in there."
Scrappy sure hasn't been pretty.
"You can't win 76-0 every week," center Lyle Sendlein said. "We'd love to, but …
"Perfection is what we strive for but we have yet to get there. It was an ugly win, but it was a win. … You have to have a short memory."
It can only be so short, Hightower said. Sunday is over. The rest of the week is about getting things fixed.
"Sometimes, it is about how you are winning," Hightower said. "Yeah you are finding a way to win, but that stuff will catch up to you. You are winning and that's all good and well, and you'll beat the teams you are supposed to beat, but against those teams that are sound, that stuff catches up to you."
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