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Arizona Cardinals looking for answers during free-fall

Once upon a time, the Arizona Cardinals were the surprise darlings of the NFL.

Their undefeated start seems like decades ago after a 24-3 drubbing Monday night at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.

The victory proves the 49ersremain the class of the NFC West. Now the Cardinals -- losers of four in a row after a 4-0 start -- must find a way to stay afloat with an unforgiving schedule ahead.

They won't have a chance if their offensive line doesn't get better in a hurry. The 49ers didn't have to do anything exotic to get to John Skelton. It was one-sided up front all game, allowing San Francisco to focus on schemes to minimize the impact of Larry Fitzgerald, who never looked quite right after his helmet was driven into the University of Phoenix Stadium turf in the first quarter.

"They're a good defense, don't get me wrong. They're a very talented defense," said Skelton, who was 32-of-52 passing for 290 yards with one interception. "But to only put up three points, that's embarrassing. As an offense, as a team. In front of a national audience, we put three points and lost by 21. It's frustrating and it's humiliating, to be honest."

Skelton never stopped throwing and acknowledged afterward that the Cardinals quit running the ball not because of the growing deficit, but because they knew it was a fruitless endeavor. That's a sobering admission to make, regardless of opponent. Arizona finished with 7 yards on nine carries.

It gets even worse when you factor in one of LaRod Stephens-Howling's runs went for 11 yards. The Cardinals were outclassed at the point of attack.

The Cardinals were outclassed, period. September's darling is October's dud.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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