Cardinals Growing Pains

The Cardinals think they've matured to the point where they can beat a --good team on the road. They just haven't proven it yet. They blew a prime opportunity last week, making more than enough mistakes to lose to Washington, 24-17. The Cardinals committed two turnovers that led to 10 points. A delay of game nullified a potential touchdown.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn't make a catch in the end zone that he routinely grabs. And on and on.

In short, the Cardinals looked like last year's team in losing to the Redskins. They fell behind early, committed too many penalties and tried to rally late.

"I'm not confident until we do it, I think that's the bottom line," quarterback Kurt Warner said of beating good teams on the road. "I think we're growing in a lot of areas. I think we're getting better. But the bottom line in this business, to be a playoff team you've got to go on the road against good football teams and win and find a way, even when things don't go your direction and even when you don't play your best football."

The Cardinals have another opportunity Sunday against the Jets in the Meadowlands. A victory will give them a 3-1 record after the first month, setting up a couple of critical home games against Buffalo and the Cowboys.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Kurt Warner leads the league in passer rating and has thrown just one interception. Still, he was kicking himself for that one mistake, a pass he left a little short of a wide open Steve Breaston.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald has taken hard coaching well. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley wanted Fitzgerald to improve his blocking and concentrate on gaining more yards after a catch. Fitzgerald appears to have done both, judging by his play in the first three games.

--WR Anquan Boldin wasn't a major part of the offense last week, catching three passes for 25 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals need to make a major effort to get the ball to Boldin, perhaps by using him out of the backfield and on some screens.

--WR Steve Breaston, the No. 3 wideout on the club, has only four catches in three games. The No. 4 receiver, Jerheme Urban has zero.

--RB Edgerrin James gained 93 yards on 18 carries last week but his longest run was only 16 yards. The Cardinals need to get some big runs out of the backfield, but it's doubtful James can provide them. He's had only four runs of more than 20 yards since joining the team in 2006.

--RB Tim Hightower could assume a larger role as the season progresses. Hightower already is the club's short-yardage back but he could begin to take some carries away from Edgerrin James when Hightower starts to pick up the nuances of the game.

--TE Leonard Pope isn't going to catch many passes this year, but at 6-8, he's an inviting target in the red zone.

--TE Ben Patrick is an effective receiver who should get more playing time as the season progresses.

--NT Gabe Watson might be another week away from making his season debut. He suffered a fractured kneecap in the summer. He practiced fully last week for the first time and would like to get another week or two of work in before playing.

--DE/OLB Bertrand Berry recorded a sack in each game this season. Berry left last week's game with a groin strain but returned after a short break. He should be able to play on Sunday.

--FS Antrel Rolle became the third Cardinals defender to play on offense this year. Rolle caught an eight-yard pass against the Redskins, but it was nullified by penalty.


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