Kurt Warner (Getty)
The Cardinals (1-2) would prefer to have their off-week closer to midseason, but there is a positive side to having the bye this week. Quarterback Kurt Warner has been dealing with a sore shoulder since suffering a stinger in the first game of the season. Warner has been able to play effectively despite the pain, but a week off should do wonders for his strength.
More important, the week off will give coaches a chance to figure just how to fix what's wrong with this club.
The most perplexing thing is that the team's two losses have come at home. In the previous two years under Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals were 14-4 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
This season, however, the Cardinals have played poorly in losses to the 49ers and the Colts. The offense hasn't performed consistently and the defense has given up some long drives in key situations.
"I'm disappointed because we haven't lived up to our end of the bargain for our fans," Whisenhunt said. "They've done a great job in coming out and supporting us. All I can tell you is that we're going to do that. We will get that fixed."
Fixing it will require the repair of numerous problems. One of the biggest is shoring up pass protection that's been porous in the first two games.
Left tackle Mike Gandy and right tackle Levi Brown have struggled to win individual battles, and that's a critical failure in the Cardinals passing attack.
Brown was beaten consistently by the 49ers' Parys Haralson in the season opener. Gandy struggled mightily to slow down the Colts' Dwight Freeney, who had two sacks in the Colts' 31-10 win Sunday.
Last year, Warner was sacked 26 times in 16 games. He's already been sacked seven times in three games this season.
One of the Cardinals' biggest problems, Whisenhunt said, is that they're falling behind early in games. When the Cardinals made their playoff run last season, they stayed in games early and often had leads.
"That's how you can keep pressure off your quarterback," he said.
Defensively, the problem is consistency. The Cardinals played well at times against San Francisco, but gave up a long drive in the fourth quarter. They shut down the Colts in the first quarter Sunday but gave up a 95-yard touchdown drive early in the second.
"We have to look back at the times last year in the playoffs and see what we did as a team, how we practiced," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "We have to look back at the good times so we can find ourselves as a team and move from there."
LINEUP WATCH: The Cardinals will play one more game without suspended tight end Ben Patrick, who could make an impact when he returns to play against Seattle on Oct. 18. The play at tight end has been spotty through the first few weeks. Stephen Spach and Anthony Becht haven't been much of a part of the passing game, though Becht has been a good blocker. Patrick is probably the team's best all-around tight end and played well in the preseason. He's a solid receiver who is a threat in the red zone.
He made a difficult touchdown catch in the Super Bowl last February. Patrick was suspended for the first four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
UNDER THE RADAR: Alan Branch is finally becoming an impact player after two disappointing seasons. The Cardinals traded a fourth-round pick to move up to select Branch in the second round of the 2007 draft. But he was overweight in his first two seasons and rarely was active on game day. This year, however, he's dropped weight and he's playing both nose tackle and end. His versatility has provided a nice boost for a club that's short on defensive linemen.
-- QB Kurt Warner will use the week off to rest his right shoulder, which has troubled him since he suffered a stinger in the season opener.
-- S Matt Ware missed his second consecutive game with a shoulder stinger. Ware is improving but his absence changes the team's dime defense. Cornerback Ralph Brown moves to the nickel corner, and safety Antrel Rolle stays at safety, rather than move to corner.
-- RB Beanie Wells had to carry a football around the facility all last week after fumbling twice against Jacksonville. Teammates tried to knock the ball loose and Wells had to pay $200 to charity for every ball he lost. He held on to it all week.
-- DL Alan Branch is finally giving the team productive minutes in his third season in the league. Branch is playing snaps at both nose tackle and end and has become a valuable backup at both spots.
-- DE Darnell Dockett suffered a sprained right ankle in the first quarter and missed some snaps. He returned to the game, however, but likely will miss some practice time in this bye week.