'Embarrassed' Cardinals try to shake off ugly loss
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt is a man of even temperament, at least in public, even after one of the worst losses since he came to the Cardinals.
He watched tape of the 41-7 debacle in Atlanta and on Monday acknowledged the mountain of mistakes his team committed.
''The goods news is they are correctable,'' he insisted.
Only one loss was more one-sided in the coach's three-plus seasons in Arizona, the 47-7 thrashing in the snow of New England in 2008. The Cardinals proceeded to win their next four in an improbable run to the Super Bowl.
''I think our team is embarrassed ... ,'' Whisenhunt said on Monday. ''But a loss is a loss whether it's one point or whether it's 34 points like it was yesterday. I think when you look at the tape and you see what we need to do to correct it and know that we can do that, then you move on.''
Arizona takes a 1-1 record into its home opener Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. The teams have one thing in common. Each has beaten the St. Louis Rams for its only victory.
Running back Beanie Wells has missed both games with what the team says is a bruised right knee. He said he expects to play against Oakland but added that he said the same thing about Atlanta a week ago.
Even without Wells, Arizona has moved the ball on the ground. The defense and the passing game were the biggest problems.
Atlanta was without its top two running backs and still overpowered Arizona for 222 rushing yards, led by Jason Snelling's 129 yards in 24 carries, two of them for touchdowns. Snelling also caught five passes for 57 yards and a score as Atlanta rolled up 444 total yards.
Whisenhunt attributed the defense's problems stopping the run to ''a combination of not playing well as a team and a lot of it was alignment errors and mental mistakes.''
''Those things are correctable,'' he said, ''but that's not an excuse. We should be a better run defense that we have been with the talent that we have on this squad. To me, that is what I am counting on as far as motivating our guys and going forward.''
On offense, Tim Hightower's career-long 80-yard touchdown run provided Arizona's only score.
Derek Anderson completed 17 of 31 for 161 yards and was intercepted twice. He also took some fierce hits for the second week in a row. Behind him, Arizona has just two rookies, Max Hall and John Skelton.
''That position is hard enough,'' Whisenhunt said. ''To take that many shots this early, that is something that we have got to clean up, to be quite honest with you. I think if you ask Derek he would tell you that he missed some throws, but he has made some throws. I think we are going to continue to work with Derek, what his strengths are.''
The Cardinals were 0 for 8 on third down conversions and failed on a fourth down attempt as well. Whisenhunt said there was plenty of blame to spread around.
''I could take every one of those and point out somebody different,'' he said. ''Derek wasn't immune.''
Then there were the penalties. Arizona committed 10 of them for the second week in a row. The most costly was the holding call against Kenny Iwebema that nullified LaRod Stephens-Howling's 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after Atlanta scored on its opening drive.
Safety Kerry Rhodes called the loss ''embarrassing, but it's just one game.''
He recalled he was with the New York Jets when they blew out Arizona 56-35 in the Cardinals' 2008 Super Bowl season.
''It's one game,'' Rhodes said. ''It can be an aberration if you make it that way.''
Rhodes said he didn't expect any further punishment after being ejected late in the game for touching an official. Replays showed Rhodes put his hand on the official's shoulder while complaining about a non-call.
Stephens-Howling knows this was more than just another loss.
''It's not easy to say OK, it was one game,'' he said. ''When you lose like that, you really have to get back into the meeting room and figure out what was going on and make some changes, get this thing back on the right track.''