Cardinals, Whisenhunt Focus On Big Picture

Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)

In three years as head coach, Ken Whisenhunt has proven to have a good feel for the mood of his team. He's been a disciplinarian when he's needed to be, such as last season when he put the team through padded practices at Christmas time. And he's backed off at the right time, such as this season when he gave his team an extra day off over the holidays...

But if the Cardinals don't play well in the first round against Green Bay, Ken Whisenhunt is going to be second-guessed. He treated the season finale against the Packers as an exhibition game, pulling many of his starters after a quarter.

The results were ugly. The Packers won 33-7, and had little trouble moving the ball or stopping the Cardinals.

Whisenhunt's goal was to rest his players and reduce the risk of injury. And he didn't want to give the Packers any hints about how the Cardinals might attack them this weekend.

"I'm not going to say we didn't trying to win," nose tackle Bryan Robinson said, "but we are looking at the big picture."

The small picture -- the team's two games against the Packers -- isn't pretty. The Packers beat them in the preseason by a touchdown but led by 28 points at halftime, when the starters were still playing.

In the season finale, they led 26-0 at halftime. The Cardinals' starting offense did nothing in two series against the Packers.

The Cardinals have thrived in similar circumstances. They haven't lost two consecutive games this season and responded last season after some late-season blowouts.

Whisenhunt denied the loss to the Packers was a part of some grand plan. But he doesn't dislike the situation his is in.

"Our team has shown to react to those situations pretty well," he said. "It would be easy for me to say, 'Yeah, I'm kind of glad it worked out that way because we seem to respond to it well.' But if we don't play well (in the playoffs), it won't look good."

TRENDING: The Cardinals can't have a lot of faith that there won't be significant drop-off if Matt Leinart ever takes over for Kurt Warner. Leinart hasn't wowed anyone in appearances this season, although he played decently in Tennessee in his only start. He struggled against the Packers, however, throwing two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Leinart has been erratic and tends to miss high, which either causes his receivers to take hits or results in interceptions -- or sometimes both.

LINEUP WATCH: The club has been missing two big pieces of its running game the past two weeks: starting tight end Ben Patrick and fullback Dan Kreider. The Cardinals have not run the ball as efficiently in those games. Patrick has been out with a concussion while Kreider has a neck injury. Neither is expected to miss the playoff game against the Packers, and both probably could have played in the season finale if necessary. Patrick is the club's best tight end and does a nice job of sealing the edge on run plays. Kreider is a decent lead blocker.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--K Neil Rackers returned after missing two games with a torn groin muscle. Rackers didn't get much work, kicking off twice and converting a PAT.

--WR Anquan Boldin finished with 1,024 yards receiving, the fifth time in his seven years he's reached the 1,000-yard mark. That's a franchise record. Boldin suffered left ankle and knee sprains against the Packers but is expected to play in the first round.

--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a left kneecap contusion on the third play of the game. Rodgers-Cromartie thinks he will be able to play this week.

--DE Calais Campbell suffered an injury to his left thumb and will undergo tests this week. He was wearing a cast after the game. If he can't start, Alan Branch will replace him. There is a significant drop in talent.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald finished the season with 13 touchdown receptions, a personal record.

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