Embarrassed Cardinals try to pick up the pieces

Embarrassed on Monday night, the Arizona Cardinals are left to

try to pick up the pieces of a season that once seemed so promising

but now shows signs of a free fall.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who endured a six-game losing streak a

year ago, is not one to panic and said so in his news conference a

day after the Cardinals were manhandled by the San Francisco 49ers


The nationally televised flop was Arizona’s fourth loss in a row

after a 4-0 start.

”My biggest sense is that I feel like I’ve let our fans down,”

Whisenhunt said. ”We’ve let our fans down as a team, and that


Now comes a short week of practice and a trip to Green Bay to

face the Packers on Sunday.

The players had Tuesday off before returning to the practice

field on Wednesday. Whisenhunt will be looking to the team’s

leaders to help emphasize what needs to be done to turn things


”We’ll get on these guys more, and I think one of the things is

we’ll have the players get on the players,” the coach said. ”Peer

pressure plays a part in that. You’ve got to get on your leaders to

do that, but let’s not get into a panic here and start changing

things up. We’re going to continue to do what we do, and we’re

going to do it better.”

It was the same mantra heard from the coach a year ago after the

team’s 1-6 start. The Cardinals won seven of their last nine to

finish 8-8.

Maybe somewhere in this team is the makings of the same kind of

resurgence, although it was hard to see against the 49ers.

The Cardinals have sputtered on offense pretty much all season.

On Monday night, what had been a reliable defense added to the

problems with a slew of missed tackles, mostly in open space,

allowing what might have been short gains to become big plays.

”There’s no question we’ve got a good defense,” Whisenhunt

said. ”We can’t miss tackles. I don’t care what way the game goes,

there’s probably four plays in there where we’re off the field,

especially on third down, they throw a 5-yard pass and it turns

into a big gain or a first down.”

The 49ers’ defense, top-ranked in the NFL, showed how it’s

supposed to be done.

”They made tackles, so that’s why they’re a top defense,”

Whisenhunt said. ”If we aspire to be a top defense, we’ve got to

tackle better. I don’t think other than that there was much wrong

with the way our guys played.

”We got a lot of things done as far as keeping the run game

down, getting pressure on the quarterback, playing physical. We

just gave up too many big plays, not because of balls over our head

or behind us, but because we didn’t tackle.”

The offense, with a running game that managed just 7 yards on

nine attempts, relied on the erratic arm of John Skelton far more

than the Cardinals’ coaches would want. Skelton, in his second

start since Kevin Kolb went down with rib injuries, was 32 of 55

for 290 yards.

Whisenhunt smiled when someone asked about fans now clamoring

for rookie Ryan Lindley to take over.

”I’m sure there are a lot of fans saying a lot of things,” he

said. ”We’re all frustrated with where we are because we feel like

we’re better than what our record indicates right now. … We’re

going to continue to stay the course. The way our quarterback

situation has been going, probably Lindley will get a chance to

play, because it seems like we’ve had some issues there, but right

now we’re staying with John.”

He apparently was talking about injuries, not saying he was

considering pulling the hook on Skelton, who beat out Kolb in the

preseason but went down with a sprained ankle in the opener. Kolb

is a ways away from being able to practice.

Larry Fitzgerald had another frustrating game. One of the NFL’s

best receivers is constantly smothered by defensive coverages. He

was targeted for passes 11 times, catching five for 52 yards,

taking a couple of nasty hits in the process.

Whisenhunt believes it’s time his team delivered more of those


”Times are bad right now,” center Lyle Sendlein said. ”The

only way to get out of that is to win games. You do that by going

to work Monday through Saturday. … Like coach told us after the

game, we have to get tougher and more physical and get after them

that way because at this point we aren’t doing a whole bunch of

things successfully. We just have to start punching people in the


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and


Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx