In The Books

At times it was pretty, at times unwatchable. The stadium was gorgeous, the football wasn't, but what exactly did the NFL expect with two teams that combined for a 8-24 record last year?

The Cardinals need to get off to a good start if they're going to be a playoff team. For the first time since moving to Arizona in 1988, the team plays two of its first three and four of its first six at home.
The Cardinals have been doomed by slow starts during their history in Arizona. Only three times have they had a winning record after six games. And with a poor track record, winning early is needed to build confidence.
"There's no question in my mind that for us to be the team we want to be, we have to play well early and convince ourselves of how good we are," said quarterback Kurt Warner.
Running back Edgerrin James often seems bemused when people bring up the team's losing history. To him, getting off to a fast start is no more important to the Cardinals than it is to other teams. Playing at home or away, to James it doesn't matter.
"They sent this team to Mexico last year," he said. "If this is where we're at, this is where we're going to play well at."
It's doubtful the Cardinals gained much confidence with their victory last week over the 49ers, even though it was their first win on opening day since 1999.
They couldn't put the 49ers away, despite leading 21-7 in the first quarter. Last year, the Cardinals scored a total of 27 points in the first quarter, all by field goals.
Last Sunday, the running game was inconsistent and the defense gave up too many big plays, problems that were apparent last year.
"If you got a team down, you got to put your foot on their neck and kill them," defensive end Bertrand Berry said. "You can't let them hang around because teams in the NFL are too talented. Luckily they just ran out of time today. Otherwise it would have been a whole different situation in this locker room."
The Cardinals run defense remains suspect. The 49ers' Frank Gore gained 87 yards on 16 carries last week, and things will be tougher this Sunday in Seattle.
Last year, Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander gained 313 yards and scored six touchdowns in two games against the Cardinals.
The Cardinals will have to play much better to survive against the Seahawks.
"I didn't think we played very well defensively," Green said. "I don't think you could find one player on defense that said so."

The Edgerrin James era began last Sunday when the running back averaging 2.8 yards a carry. James carried 26 times for 73 yards, but grew more effective as the game went on.
It was an indication that the offensive line hasn't developed into a solid unit yet. James didn't find much room to run, but the Cardinals were able to stick with it because they had the lead.
Receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 133 yards, but he also dropped two passes. Three different receivers caught touchdowns passes, an indication of the diversity of the weapons quarterback Kurt Warner has at his disposal.
"Find the guy with the best matchup up and get him the ball," Warner said of the team's philosophy."

--WR Larry Fitzgerald continues to be Kurt Warner's favorite target. He caught nine passes for 133 yards last Sunday.
--TE Leonard Pope, a rookie, didn't play as much as expected last week. Tight end Adam Bergen saw more action, especially in passing situations and caught a touchdown pass.
--WR Bryant Johnson could develop into the club's deep threat. He made a handful of big plays last week, mostly on deeper crossing routes.
--CB David Macklin was replaced after the first series by Eric Green. Macklin dropped an interception and missed a tackle on that opening series.
--CB Eric Green likely will become the starter at right cornerback, replacing David Macklin, who didn't play well early against the 49ers.
--OT Oliver Ross likely will miss at least one more game because of a knee suffered in training camp. Chris Liwienski, who joined the Cardinals a week before the season started, has replaced Ross. Liwienski played for Cardinals coach Dennis Green in Minnesota, so he knows the system.
--OLB Karlos Dansby is expected to begin practice soon after missing all of the preseason and the first game because of a toe injury. His absence has been a source of consternation for coaches and the front office, who think he needs to learn to play through some pain.


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