Kolb's redemption the story but not the reason
On Friday I said that I had never had such low expectations for a Ken Whisenhunt coached Arizona Cardinal team (the first year doesn't count of course). Did the Cardinals opening win over Seattle put me in a revisionist mood?
No. Not yet.
Were this a trial, and I was the jury, an argument based around the redemption of Kevin Kolb wouldn't sway me to change my mind. Nor would the evidence of the improved Cardinals running game. After all, there is no such evidence (Andre Roberts was the Cardinals leading rusher -- one carry for 15 yards….yeesch).
The only spark of hope comes from the seven angry men who make up the Cardinals front seven. Any optimism about 2012 begins and ends with them.
Kolb's salvation, Skelton's injury and the botch job by the refs are the stories that will get all the clicks on all the sites, but let's be clear. The Cardinals defense was the star; the reason for this victory. In many ways this game was a re-rack of nearly every game last year: Hyper attention paid to the quarterback when everybody knows the only reason the Cards plucked an 8-8 season out of thin air was the defense.
On Sunday, Darnell Docket blew up every other play, Daryl Washington had his hands in just about everything on the field, Calais Campbell has become the NFL's version of Dikembe Mutombo, Paris Lenon had two sacks, Dan Williams clogged the middle.
The Seahawks scored 13 second half points. All 13 came on a short field (the Seahawks started drives on the Cardinals 24, 34 and 16) thanks to special teams breakdowns and a mind-numbing pick thrown by Skelton.
The secondary was a bit of a mixed bag. Questionable as they may be, there were a couple of pass interference calls on Patrick Peterson and a couple of P-I calls on the final Seahawks drive. Ultimately, that unit delivered on the final three shots Wilson took at the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Cardinals defense was flying around like they were on a G2. More efforts like this and Ray Horton will need his own private jet for all the head coaching interviews he'll have lined up.
Yes, it came against a rookie quarterback making his debut. That luxury is lost in the next two weeks when they go from Russell Wilson to Tom Brady and Michael Vick. But after that? Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins, Sam Bradford and the Rams, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills, Christian Ponder and the Vikings. There are plenty of chances to impress in the coming weeks.
Besides, if memory serves, a rookie QB making his debut carved up the Cardinals pretty good last year (422 yards, two touchdowns for Cam Newton).
Maybe the low expectations are unfair. Whisenhunt has only one losing season in his tenure as coach. The Cardinals have, dating back to last season, won eight of their last 10 regular season games. But to expect consistent play out of Kolb is the stuff of Fantasyland; the go ahead drive was made for terrific entertainment but he lost the job to Skelton for a reason. Without knowing the specific diagnosis, Skelton is going to be out for a while. Honestly, does anybody know who is going to be the Cardinals starting quarterback in Week four? Week six?
You want to sway the jury and sell optimism? Start with the seven angry men up front.