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Coaching miscues, lack of execution haunting Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals don’t know how to run out the clock.
They can’t run a screen pass, either.

Both issues have cost them this season.

Whatever the reason for the latest loss, fans make it a
point to find someone to blame. It was the defense in Week
2, the offense in Week 3 and, it would seem, the coaching
staff in Week 4.

But anyone looking for significant changes is going to be
sorely disappointed.

“I look at it that it’s a growing process that we’re going
through with this team,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt
said Monday. “We’re close. We’re better than we were last
week. We’ve got to stay the course and continue to work
that way.”

Pick the loss, pick the season, and pick the press
conference: Ken Whisenhunt has said those words many,
many, times. Right about now fans are tired of hearing it,
just as it’s likely the coach is sick of saying it.

But that doesn’t give the coaching staff a, for lack of a
better word, pass.

Especially for calling a screen when the team was trying
to mount one final drive to regain the lead and win the
game. Not surprisingly, as has been the case this season,
the play fell apart and ended with QB Kevin Kolb taking a
critical sack on the play.

“The timing was a little bit off,” Kolb said of the play.
“It’s pretty well documented that our screen game needs to
get better and that was a perfect example of it.”

So why run it in such a crucial situation?

“It was set up, it was ready to go,” Whisenhunt said. “We
didn’t execute it perfectly, but in that situation you
have to get the ball out. If it goes it’s a big play.”

But it didn’t go for a big play, at least, not in the
Cardinals’ favor, and Arizona, instead of maybe talking
about a thrilling come-from-behind win, was left trying to
explain how they let another game slip away.

The common themes in each loss have been defensive
meltdowns, shaky play-calling and an inability to complete
passes when the team needed it most.

Those issues would be enough to cost a coach his job,
especially if the 1-3 record turns into 1-4, 1-5 and 1-6,
but that’s not going to happen in Arizona.

Ken Whisenhunt is not going to get fired, no matter how
much some fans may want to see a change, Ray Horton will
be given time to implement his defense, the offensive line
will not see a new coach anytime soon and Kevin Kolb won’t
transform into a veteran signal-caller overnight.

Instead the hope seems to be that time will, if not heal
all wounds, cure their ills. Even a tired excuse can have
some legitimacy, and this Cardinals team is still
relatively new.

Pointing to the lack of an offseason as reason for being a
little behind, the team has shown enough glimpses,
according to Whisenhunt, to make everyone believe they can
turn this thing around.

“I think that we played better defensively, except for the
last part of the game this week, going against a very good
offense,” he said. “We shut down the run game and we ran
the ball very well, we’ve improved the run game.”

Then again, convincing others the team is improving may be
a tough sell, especially as the team has lost its last
three, so sooner or later the team will simply need to
start winning, as close losses just don’t do anything for
anyone.

“I feel for our players, I feel for our fans because we’re
not where we want to be,” Whisenhunt said. “After last
year that’s very frustrating, but the thing that I’ll say
is yes, you have to have patience because if you look at
our games there’s no question in my mind that we’re
close, and that’s the way that we look at it.”

As the cliché goes, close only counts in horseshoes and
hand grenades, and there is no column in the standings for
“almost won.” Thus, it’s about time for the Cardinals to
go from a team finding its way into one that has
discovered how to win.

“I’m not going to tell you it’s a work in progress because
I’m tired of saying it,” Kolb said. “Just ready to get it
done and win some games.”