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At 1-4 Cardinals season not lost

The Arizona Cardinals packed up after practice on
Wednesday and went their separate ways for the rest of the
week.

NFL rules mandate that a team in their bye week must have
four consecutive days off, so the Cardinals will head into
the weekend with a lot of free time and even more to
ponder individually about the rest of the season.

I’m not breaking any news here, but the Cardinals are
nowhere near where they thought or hoped they would be at
1-4. Three of the losses came down to a final possession
with the Cardinals in control of their destiny. They
failed on all three occasions.

The last loss, a 34-10 drubbing at the hands of the
Minnesota Vikings, was probably the worst possible thing
that could have happened to the Cards heading into the
bye. They were never in the game after giving up 28 first
quarter points, and basically spent 45 minutes playing out
the string. The sting of that loss will linger for well
over a week.

There’s been a lot of talk about the season being over.
There’s even been some who’ve mentioned the words Andrew,
Luck and watch in relation to Arizona’s future. That’s
ludicrous, and I won’t expand on that notion more than
that.

But is the season indeed over with eleven games left to
play?

I’m the first to admit that the outlook is grim, but the
answer to that question is ‘no’. Bleak? Yes.
Impossible? No.

Since the 2000 NFL season, 58 teams have started a season
1-4. Of those 58, three teams, the 2002 New York Jets
(finished 9-7), the 2002 Tennessee Titans (11-5) and the
2004 Green Bay Packers (10-6) all bounced back to win
their divisions.

In fact, all three of those teams also leapfrogged over
teams that started their season 4-1. This is relevant
because the Cardinals find themselves looking up at the
San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West standings. Jim
Harbaugh’s team is 4-1 through their first five games.
Arizona still has two head-to-head chances to cut into the
Niners’ lead; November 20th in San Francisco and December
11th in
Glendale.

So you’re reading this glass-half-full look at things and
thinking, “but Vince, what about the other 55 teams who
started out 1-4?” That’s a valid question.

Forty-eight of those teams ended up with a losing record.
Heck, one team (the 2001 Carolina Panthers) never won
again, finishing 1-15.

While the bye week comes after a sound thrashing in
Minnesota, and the Cardinals will stare at a 1-4 record
until October 23rd when they host the defending AFC
Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, there is still optimism–and
it’s not only emanating from me.

“Just as quick as we lost these last four games, we can
win four in a row,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said on
Wednesday. “We believe that. Believe it first and then
we’ll have a chance.”

Belief is a huge part of it, but I’m not saying that the
Cardinals just need to show up for eleven Sundays and
they’ll leave the stadium with wins. There’s a lot of
tangible football corrections that need to be made too.

Kolb needs to take better care of the football. He’s
committed 8 turnovers by himself during the four-game
losing streak. And while he’s at it, he needs to find
Larry Fitzgerald more often. Fitz has been targeted only
42 times this season–tied for 10th most in the NFL, and
only four more times than Kolb has thrown to Early Doucet
thus far.

The offensive line needs to protect their quarterback much
better, and provide him a pocket to throw from. Too many
times in the season’s first five games, Kolb has been hit,
sacked or has had to run for his life.

Defensively, the secondary needs to improve against the
pass and the pass rush, namely the outside linebackers
need to do a much better job of getting to the opposing
quarterback.

If these things happen, the Cardinals can indeed turn
their 2011 season around.

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