Make no mistake about it, the Arizona Cardinals are disappointed to enter the bye week with a 1-2 record. They're even more disappointed with how they've played their first three games of the 2009 season. They've lost two home games, after entering the season with the best home winning percentage in the NFC over the past two seasons, the offense has turned the ball over more times than they've punched it into the end zone and the defense has allowed 12 plays of at least 20 yards. Basically through three games the Cardinals are doing everything in their power to prove that their doubters were exactly right. With the bye week staring them in the face and another home game on the horizon, it's quickly becoming "put up or shut up" time for the NFC Champs.
- One month into 2009 season, Steelers and Cardinals not so super - Suddenly, the Super Bowl teams don't look so super anymore. The Pittsburgh Steelers are on a two-game skid. They even found a way to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, a team they'd bullied since 2001, and now face a daunting challenge trying to catch the 3-0 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. The Arizona Cardinals? They're playing much more like the club that stumbled through the final month of the 2008 season rather than the one that caught fire in the playoffs and pushed the Steelers to the brink in Super Bowl XLIII. Finishing 9-7 last year, the Cardinals weren't widely viewed as a favorite to repeat as NFC champions, so maybe their struggles aren't a major surprise. Still, rallying again to win their division, the NFC West, hardly looks impossible.
- Hightower Fumble Changes Game - The Cardinals had a 3-0 lead and it looked like it was going to be more early in the second quarter Sunday night with the offense on the Indianapolis 5-yard line – and then running back Tim Hightower fumbled away the ball. The turnover hurt, but combined with the 95-yard touchdown drive the Colts produced after getting the ball and the sequence became the linchpin of Indianapolis’ 31-10 victory.
- Turning Victory Over To Defeat - Flloating around the Cardinals last week as the popular stat of the moment was this very simple gem: Under coach Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals were 17-0 when winning the turnover margin in a game and only 1-15 when they were on the wrong end. Those cold, indisputable facts – at least, the latter – had a tangible face Sunday night. The Indianapolis Colts came into University of Phoenix Stadium and handled the Cards, 31-10. That was hard enough for a team expecting to make a statement on NBC’s "Sunday Night Football," but the game changed in large part because of two Cardinals turnovers inside the Indy 5-yard line. In the end, the Cardinals weren’t surprised to find their record move to 1-16 when losing the turnover battle.
- Chasing Consistency - He had the chance to look at the tape of Sunday night’s game "a couple of times" and hours to reflect, so Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt remained even-keeled in his tone Monday when talking about his team’s bad loss to the Colts. His message seemed the same too – Whisenhunt wasn’t about to trash his players, but they weren’t going to escape criticism either. Fundamentals are lacking, which seemed obvious in a 31-10 defeat. "Some of those things, at times, we have done very well," Whisenhunt said. "Other times, we look like we are a bush-league team. "We have to get that consistency back."
- Good Bye - Back in April, when the schedule originally was released, coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was "not thrilled" that his team had a bye after just three games. The reality was the reigning conference champions were normally slotted for such an early bye. And frankly, all these months later, the Cardinals look like they are getting a bye at the right time.
Cards: 5 reasons for hope, doubt
With a 1-2 start, the Cardinals again are making fans wonder what they can expect to see week to week. Is it the team that's played poorly in two home losses? Or the one that traveled across country to beat the Jaguars in oppressive humidity? There are reasons for optimism and pessimism.
- Whisenhunt, Cards face bye dilemma - Part of Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt would like to put his players in full pads during this off week and drive them like a cheap rental cars. Then, there's the more pragmatic side, which realizes some of his players need rest and recuperation from the bruises and sprains endured in the first three games. The challenge for Whisenhunt will be finding a balance between the crack of a whip and the pat on the back.
- Cards' loss shows team's weaknesses - The Cardinals had been stripped bare in front of a national television audience and now, in the privacy of their locker room, all they could cover themselves with was cliches. We won’t point fingers. Super Bowls aren’t won in September. It’s a long season. Their voices were monotone, the answers dull and listless. Sort of like their performance in Sunday’s 31-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
- Cardinals' O-line needs work heading into bye week - Costly turnovers on offense. Critical breakdowns on defense. Boos from the home crowd. Sounds like the same old Arizona Cardinals. After a 31-10 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, the defending NFC champions are 1-2 heading into their bye week.
- NFC Whispers - Things could be looking up for Cardinals DL Alan Branch now that the third-year defensive lineman has branched out into valuable duty on the edge, as well as his normal NT role. Said one team insider: "There are some people who think he might be even better-suited as a 3-4 end who can two-gap, especially if he lost 5-10 more pounds."