Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)
Since midway through the preseason schedule, the Cardinals have consistently talked about the need to "clean up" the little mistakes they believe are keeping them from playing well. Three weeks into the season, the need for a good cleaning remains. The Cardinals believe failure to execute details has led them to an 1-2 start, with both losses coming at home.
Last week against the Colts, the Cardinals committed two turnovers deep in Colts territory. Kurt Warner barely overthrew Larry Fitzgerald on a long pass that would have been a touchdown. In previous weeks, key blocks were missed that prevented big runs. And defensively, there have been alignment errors and blown coverages.
So the Cardinals enter this bye week with plenty of areas to address. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is trying to balance that need with giving his team some rest.
The Cardinals will go through 75-minute practices Wednesday and Thursday and then take a three-day weekend before resuming workouts and preparing for Houston.
One of the biggest tasks this week will be shoring up pass protection that's been leaky. The 49ers put consistent pressure on Kurt Warner in the opener and didn't have to blitz to do it. Last week, the Colts sacked Warner four times, mostly because left tackle Mike Gandy couldn't handle defensive end Dwight Freeney one-on-one.
Having a bye in the fourth week of the season isn't ideal, and the Cardinals are in relatively good shape. They haven't lost a starter for the season.
Warner is dealing with a sore right shoulder, the result of a stinger suffered in the season opener. Defensive end Darnell Dockett suffered a sprained right ankle last Sunday against the Colts, and likely won't do much in practice this week.
The Cardinals are hopeful of getting reserves such as safety Matt Ware (shoulder) and defensive end Kenny Iwebema (ankle) back after another week of rest.
Most importantly, the Cardinals have to find a sense of urgency in this off-week. After each loss, players have mentioned how the season is young and there is plenty of football left.
But the Cardinals already have lost two home games after going 14-4 at home the previous two seasons. While the NFC West might be only marginally better than last year, the Cardinals margin of error is slim now.
Beating Houston at home on Oct. 11 is imperative.
--The Cardinals were showered with confetti when they beat Philadelphia in the NFC championship game last January at University of Phoenix Stadium. Last week against the Colts, however, half the crowd had departed by the fourth quarter. Some of those who stayed booed the team's performance in the 31-10 loss.
"I'm disappointed because we haven't lived up to our end of the bargain for our fans," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "All I can tell you is we're going to do that. We will get that fixed."
--Cardinals running backs have fumbled three times in the past two games, including two deep in their opponent's territory. The Cardinals recovered Beanie Wells' fumble against Jacksonville, but the Colts recovered Tim Hightower's at the 5.
"That will be addressed and it will be fixed," Hightower said. "I've just got to move forward because the coaches and team are counting on me when we are near the goal-line."
--The Cardinals spent the off-season concentrating on improving their running attack and their pass defense. Yet they are last in the league in rushing average (60.7) and 31st in pass defense (280.3). Those stats are skewed a bit because of the game against the Colts, who built a 21-3 lead. The Cardinals had to abandon the running game to try to get back in the game, but it's no secret coaches want improvement in both areas.
--The Cardinals are struggling to convert on third down, doing so only 27 percent of the time. Last year the Cardinals converted nearly 42 percent of the time on third down.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- That's the number of times Kurt Warner has been sacked in three games. Last year, he was sacked 26 times.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a little bit tougher when the bye week comes this early, as far as what we can work on. This is a chance for us to get healthy, No. 1. And No. 2, work on some of the fundamental things we need to work on, whether it's our pass sets, with our offensive line passing off stunts, working on our coverage responsibilities, working on our alignments and assignments defensively. Some of those things at times we have done very well and at times we look like we are a bush league team." - Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt.