Kurt Warner (Getty)
The Cardinals have proven over the last month that they are a fragile bunch unable to withstand much adversity early in games. If the Cardinals don't start fast, they usually don't recover. In blowout losses against the Jets, Eagles, Vikings and Patriots, the Cardinals fell behind early and never were competitive.
Conversely, if something positive happens early, the team seems to develop a rhythm that makes them competitive.
"When we lose, we lose big, we lose bad and it's ugly," said defensive tackle Bryan Robinson. "It's embarrassing and everybody -- everybody -- shares a little bit of that."
Losing motivation is not an uncommon problem for teams that clinch division titles early, as the Cardinals did earlier this month. The Cardinals haven't been in this position often -- the division title is their first since 1975 -- and they obviously haven't handled it well.
"I ain't saying you're not as hungry," said defensive end Antonio Smith, "but that drive isn't there anymore where you are trying to knock somebody off the pedestal. Now it's everybody trying to come knock you off. It's a whole different mind frame."
The Cardinals have lost their last three games by an average of 30 points. The Eagles, Vikings and Patriots could well be better than the Cardinals, but not 30 points better. The Cardinals haven't fared well against teams competing for their playoff lives. Those teams are desperate and the Cardinals are coasting.
Ironically, the Cardinals have become a desperate team by struggling the past month.
"You can make up a whole bunch of excuses," defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said. "But one thing is for sure: The last couple teams we played were desperate and had to win. And you almost feel like it should be us in that position.
"We will continue to lose like this until we figure out a way to be desperate every week and say, 'This is a must win for us.'"
--OLB Victor Hobson signed a contract through next year on Wednesday, bolstering the team's depth. The Cardinals have suffered injuries that have robbed them of depth at the outside linebacker spots. Clark Haggans is out for the year with a foot injury, and Travis LaBoy missed last week's game with an ankle sprain.
--C Lyle Sendlein has struggled for most of this season, and the club likely will seek an upgrade in the offseason. In fairness to Sendlein, he has been playing through a painful back condition for most of the year.
--WR Anquan Boldin has returned to practice since suffering a shoulder sprain against the Vikings more than a week ago. Boldin missed last week's game against the Patriots but coaches are hopeful he can participate in practice by the end of the week. He likely will be questionable for this weekend.
--TE Stephen Spach has a sprained ankle and might not be able to play this Sunday. Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick could fill that position.
--RB Edgerrin James is frustrated at his lack of playing time but it doesn't look as if that situation is going to change this year. Tim Hightower will remain the starter.
--RB J.J. Arrington practiced this week after missing last week's game against the Patriots with a knee injury. Arrington is the team's main running back in the spread formation.