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AP: c653afa9-ff3a-4755-93cc-e4a5589e31b2
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) and inside linebacker Stewart Bradley (52) in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
And they're back.

The sloppy, mistake-ridden Cardinals fans have become used to watching on Sundays have returned.

The team that racked up two straight wins seemed to be M.I.A. Sunday against the 49ers.

The Cardinals had five turnovers, allowed 431 yards of offense, only had the ball for just over 15 minutes the whole game and even benched John Skelton for Richard Bartel in the 23-7 loss to San Francisco.

Most would see the performance as a step in the wrong direction, however, head coach Ken Whisenhunt believes a part of his team is actually improving.

"We put the defense in a difficult position yesterday, but I really believe they played well," Whisenhunt said. "They did a great job in the first half of responding to tough situations and keeping the points down, so I believe the defense is improving, it's a good sign."

The defense did hold the Niners to only three field goals in the first half, leaving the offense with just a 9-0 hole to dig out of. Whisenhunt believed they didn't climb out because of the lopsided time of possession.

"They had it a long time, well five turnovers will contribute to that," Whisenhunt said. "Obviously our defense did a nice job early in the game, but when you put them out there on the field that long they'll get worn down and that what enables the other team to even have longer drives."

Whisenhunt attributes the improvement to the players having more time in defensive coordinator Ray Horton's system.

"There's no question they're more comfortable with the scheme," Whisenhunt said. "I think the communication is much better as far as making sure everybody is in the right gap, adjusting to the front there's no question the players are getting a little chemistry with each other and some of our younger players are starting to get it."

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