TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -If the Arizona Cardinals had better starts, those dramatic finishes wouldn't be necessary.
After another close-but-not-quite effort on Sunday at Washington, Arizona first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks his players finally are getting the message.
``The one encouraging thing is I hear a lot of players talking about that,'' Whisenhunt said Monday, ``especially after yesterday's game.''
Arizona trailed 21-6 against the Redskins before rallying, but Neil Rackers' 55-yard attempt for the winning field goal at the finish was a few feet too far left and the Cardinals lost 21-19.
Arizona, 3-4 overall, is 1-3 on the road. Those three losses came by three at San Francisco, three at Baltimore and two at Washington.
In the first quarter through seven games, the Cardinals have not scored a touchdown and have been outscored 30-6. By contrast, Arizona has outscored opponents 71-47 in the fourth quarter.
``We're not starting the games fast enough, obviously,'' Whisenhunt said. ``Some of it may be the calls we're making, or maybe it's just continuing to work on the mental aspect of it.''
On Sunday, Arizona had to overcome Kurt Warner's two early interceptions, both of which led to touchdowns.
``We basically spotted them 14 points,'' Warner said.
But the veteran quarterback went 27-of-41 for 282 yards with two touchdowns despite wearing a bulky brace to protect a torn ligament in his non-throwing elbow. Because of the injury, Whisenhunt said, the game plan was designed for Warner to avoid handing off to his right.
The Cardinals have a bye this week before playing at Tampa Bay on Nov. 4. The extra time should help Warner, who came through his first one-armed effort relatively unscathed.
``It seemed like he felt OK,'' Whisenhunt said. ``I talked to him coming back on the airplane last night and there was no mention of him being uncomfortable, and he certainly took some shots yesterday and came through it well. I think two weeks from now he will obviously be feeling better.''
Arizona also might get linebacker Karlos Dansby back for the Buccaneers game. Dansby missed Sunday's contest with an injured left knee.
The Cardinals lost starting left tackle Mike Gandy to a right calf injury on Sunday. Rookie Levi Brown moved from right tackle to Gandy's left spot. Elton Brown moved in at right tackle. Whisenhunt said he was unsure how long Gandy might be sidelined.
Despite the 3-4 record, the coach was upbeat about his team's chances through the rest of the season.
``We were in a couple of situations where people had written us off, certainly in Baltimore and I know our first half yesterday, especially when it was 21-6,'' Whisenhunt said. ``But our team kept fighting and we had a chance to win both of those games at the end.''
In Sunday's wild finish, the Cardinals put wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the backfield for a direct snap on an attempt for a game-tying 2-point conversion. But Boldin's pass toward Larry Fitzgerald was well short and picked off by LaRon Landry.
Still, Arizona recovered the subsequent onside kick and moved into position for Rackers' field goal try.
Whisenhunt said from the outset he wanted to develop a tough, smart team. He's at least halfway there. The Cardinals committed several costly penalties on Sunday.
``Physically, we're playing tough, we're playing hard,'' Whisenhunt said. ``The hardest thing to do is to eliminate those penalties, to be smarter and play better earlier in the game. But if we can keep the same physical style that we're playing and clean some things up, I think we're going to be a pretty good football team over the last nine games.''
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