Arizona unbeaten on road, struggling at home
The Arizona Cardinals used to venture out of the desert virtually assured to come home a loser. For years, they were NFL road kill, flattened in stadiums across the country. Now, in a stunning role reversal, Arizona is 4-0 away from home after beating the Bears in Chicago 41-21 on Sunday. "After 2 1/2 years of being here and just getting killed for not being any good on the road, it's certainly nice to play better on the road," coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Monday. "Now, we have to play better at home. If we can do that, maybe we are on to something." Inexplicably, the Cardinals are 1-3 at University of Phoenix Stadium heading into next Sunday's home game against Seattle. That's one more home loss than Arizona had last season en route to the NFC championship. And the Cardinals needed a three-play goal-line stand at the finish in the one home game they did win this season, 28-21 over Houston. So this week, the theme at Arizona's practices will be transforming whatever has led to that road success into a win at home. "That is our focus," Whisenhunt said. "Our players are starting to understand that now." The coach gave his players Monday off after Arizona scored more points in a road game than it had in a decade. The victory left the Cardinals 5-3 halfway through the season, with a two-game lead in the NFC West. "Inconsistency is the thing that I probably dislike the most at this point," Whisenhunt said. "We have a number of games where if we don't make mistakes, we could be in a better position than we are in right now." The Cardinals last won four straight on the road in 1982, six years before the franchise moved from St. Louis to Arizona. If you count last season's playoff victory at Carolina, it's five straight. The Cardinals haven't accomplished that since 1975. The road wins - at Jacksonville, Seattle, the New York Giants and Chicago - have come by an average margin of 16.3 points. To add some perspective on the historical nature of these events, the team entered this season 41-127 in road games since moving to Arizona in 1988. That victory at Carolina in the second round of last year's playoffs was the turning point. "Now we have a good routine when we travel. We know what we expect to do, and we know what our focus must be," Whisenhunt said. "Our team comes with an 'us-against-the-world' mentality, and it seems we play better when we have that mentality." The coach liked the performance against Chicago in all three phases of the game. The Cardinals scored on their first six possessions, something the franchise never has done, at least dating to the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. They had touchdowns on the first four, something the Cardinals hadn't done since 1980. Arizona even got its moribund running game in gear, gaining 182 yards rushing, the most its had in five years. "We were popping some runs out, getting 5 and 6 yards a carry," center Lyle Sendlein said after the game. "It gave us room on second down to be able to go deep. That really opens up our offense." Kurt Warner tied a career high with five touchdown passes. Whisenhunt believes the players want to carry that kind of performance over to the noisy home folks, who booed them loudly in a 31-21 loss to Carolina a little over a week ago. He said he can't single out one thing that is leading to the home woes. But for some reason, the Cardinals make more mistakes there. "Whatever it is, why ever we make those mistakes at home," he said, "that's something that we have to make our focus this week on eliminating."