Wes Welker; Gerald Hayes (Getty)
The Cardinals seem helpless to pull themselves out of a tailspin that has convinced almost everyone that their success this season is due to the weak NFC West. The Cardinals have lost four of five and their last three losses have been by an average margin of almost 30 points. It's not just one area of the team that's failing, it's several. That's an indication that motivation is lacking.
In their last three losses, the Cardinals have gotten off to terrible starts. They've trailed at halftime by a cumulative score of 83-7, and coaches don't know how to correct it.
"I can't explain it," said coach Ken Whisenhunt. "I don't understand it. It's disappointing and it's not acceptable. This time of year you're supposed to be playing better football than that. We've got to find that team that can play with anybody in the league."
That team hasn't been seen in more than a month.
The offense has been one dimensional all year, and teams seemed to be getting a good handle on how to stop it. They are taking many chances with blitzes on quarterback Kurt Warner. IF they do blitz, it's the linebackers doing it.
Defenses now are keeping both safeties back in coverage, a luxury they can afford because the Cardinals can't run the ball.
The Cardinals are fragile in too many areas. They have tried to run the ball in recent weeks, but seem to lose confidence after a mistake or two.
The defense seems to take its cue from the offense, especially on the road. If the offense commits a turnover, the defense has done a poor job of stemming the bleeding.
This defense has talked a good game throughout the season, but it's performed well only intermittently. In three of the last four weeks, it has been punished on the ground. And the 34 passing touchdowns it has allowed is the most in the NFL.
The pass rush is inconsistent and it's not going to get better now that outside linebackers Travis LaBoy is struggling with an ankle injury and outside linebacker Clark Haggans, a key backup, is on injured reserve.
Maybe it's not too late for the Cardinals to re-claim a little momentum. They desperately need a victory over the Seahawks in the season finale, but Seattle will be motivated too. It's Mike Holmgren's final game as their coach.
"I think that we have to continue to grow up," Whisenhunt said. "I think that's the biggest thing because if we have adversity early in the game, it seems we can't recover from that."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When we lose, we lose big, we lose bad and it's ugly. It's embarrassing and everybody -- everybody -- shares a little bit of that." --DT Bryan Robinson.
LINEUP WATCH: The Cardinals need something to inject some life in their running game and it might just be 30-year-old running back Edgerrin James. He was benched earlier this season for rookie Tim Hightower, who is faster and more powerful.
But Hightower is struggling now to find holes, and James might be the better option. He still has great vision and agility. The Cardinals might be better off with a back who can get them 4 yards rather than hoping Hightower can break a 40-yarder. That's not happening.
--OLB/DE Travis LaBoy is one of a handful of players trying to get healthy for the postseason. LaBoy had dealt with several injuries this season, most recently a sprained ankle. He hasn't had a sack since Oct. 5.
--WR Anquan Boldin might not play this week against Seattle as he tries to get healthy for the playoffs. Boldin suffered a shoulder injury against the Vikings two weeks ago and missed the Patriots game. Boldin likely will want to play, especially given the team's poor performance against the Patriots.
--RB J.J. Arrington is nursing a knee injury and didn't play against the Patriots. The club could hold him out of this Sunday's game against the Seahawks to try and get him healthy for the playoffs. Arrington is a key part of the team's multi-receiver formations.
--TE Stephen Spach has emerged as the team's starter, even though he signed in late October. Spach is a solid blocker, which gives him the edge over Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick.
--OLB Clark Haggans was placed on injured reserve because of a sprain to the LisFranc joint of his left foot. There isn't much depth left at outside linebacker now. Starter Travis LaBoy is nursing an ankle injury, and Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry are playing the majority of the time.