The Hawks were never going to repeat last year's dream start to the season when they won their opening eight games.
But only one win from their opening four matches in 2002 - and that a scratchy 10-point victory over Fremantle - was well below expectations.
Since then the Hawks have scored convincing wins over Richmond and the Kangaroos to get the win-loss ledger back to a respectable three-three.
``We always thought we would have a slow start to the year, although not as bad as we did,'' McCabe said.
``We need now to win the next couple of games to get back on an even keel and to where we thought we should be.
``We're working really hard on the track, the intensity has gone up.
``We've got a few blokes with some games under their belt which has helped them.
``We've worked on a few things which have helped our structure and ball movement.
``It's gradually improved our form and we've got some confidence out of that.''
The return from injury of key players like Jonathan Hay, Nick Holland and John Barker has probably been the most important reason for the turnaround.
As Essendon is now discovering, even the very best teams are vulnerable when their elite players get hurt.
On that basis, the Hawks will miss ruckman-forward Nathan Thompson (shin) who has been replaced by the struggling Shaun Rehn for today's clash with Geelong at the MCG.
That should give Cats ruckman Steven King a clear ascendancy.
The young Geelong side has been impressive this season, winning three matches.
Last week's 57-point loss to Brisbane was a reality check, although it's a long time since anyone returned from the Gabba with the four points.
Geelong has brought back Cat-turned-Hawk-turned Cat Aaron Lord, who missed last week with a rolled ankle.
``It was a shock to the system to be delisted at the end of last year,'' said Lord, who played 21 of 22 home and away matches for the Hawks before being dropped for the finals.