What it means: Two consecutive road games to open the season put the Cardinals in a difficult spot. They needed to get a split, and they did. The Falcons are better than the Cardinals even on a neutral site. However, the nature of this 41-7 defeat will fuel questions. Can quarterback Derek Anderson become efficient enough? Can Anderson hold up physically to the weekly poundings he is taking? Are the Cardinals going to be vulnerable on defense this season, just as they were when injuries dragged them down late last season?
Injurie(s) of note: Beanie Wells' knee injury prevented him from playing. The Cardinals briefly lost receiver Steve Breaston, one of their most important players, during the game. Breaston was able to return, but his absence, however brief, had to scare Arizona. Breaston served as the No. 2 receiver and top punt returner in this game. The Cardinals lack sufficient depth at receiver with Early Doucet already sidelined by hernia surgery. The Cardinals were already thin at inside linebacker before veteran Paris Lenon went to the sideline briefly in the second half. Arizona needs good news on the injury front at receiver, linebacker and even quarterback, given the punishment Anderson took.
Critical Call: This game was lost on the field, by the players, but coach Ken Whisenhunt invited criticism by opting for a 54-yard field-goal try right before halftime. The Cardinals trailed, 24-7, and they had moved 40 yards to the Atlanta 36. It was fourth-and-3. The field-goal decision made sense on one level. The Cardinals needed points and they had not converted once to that point on third down. They probably weren't going to make it on fourth down, either. But a missed or blocked field goal was going to put the Falcons in scoring position before halftime. I'm not sure the three-point payoff was worth that risk.
Tomorrow's Talker: The quarterback situation will remain a hot topic until Anderson and the offense show more consistency. Anderson looks like a strong leader. He's tough. But the production was not there Sunday, with the Cardinals failing to convert even once on third down. Will the Cardinals consider giving Max Hall a chance? I think it's early for that, but it's not too early to make this a talker. Anderson struggled and took considerable punishment, including a couple shots that probably should have drawn penalties.
What's next: The Cardinals face the Oakland Raiders in their 2010 home opener. They should be in strong position to get to 2-1 before a potentially very difficult stretch featuring games against San Diego and New Orleans.