Good luck explaining Kolb and 4-0 Cards
September, 30, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Paul ConnorsKevin Kolb helped the Cardinals stage an unlikely comeback against Miami. Arizona is an improbable 4-0 on the season.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb took eight sacks and threw a killer interception in the fourth quarter Sunday.
He faced fourth-and-10 with 29 seconds left in regulation, his team trailing by seven points. Nothing less than a 15-yard touchdown pass would suffice.
Kolb was staring at what looked like another career crossroads. The crossroads had to like their chances, except for one thing. Kolb and the Cardinals had the Miami Dolphins right where they wanted them: at University of Phoenix Stadium, where anything is possible for the home team.
"I think we've seen so many miracles happen in this stadium that we just don't ever give up hope," Kolb said.
Kolb's touchdown pass to Andre Roberts, the pair's second scoring connection of the fourth quarter, forced overtime. Safety Kerry Rhodes' overtime interception, enabled by Paris Lenon's hit on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, set up Jay Feely's winning 46-yard field goal.
The Cardinals' 24-21 victory was one of historic proportions. It moved them to 4-0 for the first time since 1974. It kept them one game ahead of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. It gave them their fifth overtime victory in what is now an eight-game home winning streak. And it demanded an investigation into how a team can so flagrantly violate the well-established law of averages.
"It's not luck, I'll tell you that," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It can't be luck with as many times as we've been successful with that. Do I want a lot more of those? Heck, no. They're about to kill me. But if you asked me this last week or two weeks ago, I don't care. I'll take a win anywhere we can get it."
This one broke a 47-game franchise losing streak when trailing by 13 or more points at halftime. The Cardinals had been 4-76 in such games since moving to Arizona for the 1988 season and 9-214-1 in them since 1920.
The longer the odds, the more the Cardinals like their chances.
They lost their starting left tackle, Levi Brown, and their swing tackle, Jeremy Bridges, to season-ending injuries before the opener. They watched Kolb and John Skelton stage a summer quarterback competition to forget. And when Whisenhunt ultimately did name Skelton the starter, the previously durable quarterback lasted only three-plus quarters before an ankle injury knocked him out.
There is more. The Cardinals recently lost 1,000-yard rusher Beanie Wells for two months to a turf-toe injury. Wells' replacement in the lineup, Ryan Williams, suffered critical fumbles in each of the Cardinals' first two games. The team is averaging 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. Injuries have sidelined key contributors Darnell Dockett and Todd Heap. Adrian Wilson has missed time, too.
Even before most of these setbacks, handicappers had placed 90-to-1 odds on the Cardinals winning their first four games, according to Bovada, an online sports book. Arizona defied what Bovada said were 650-to-1 odds while going 3-0 without allowing a single opponent to reach 20 points.
The odds continued to mount against Arizona when Kolb, having rallied the Cardinals into a 14-13 lead with a 46-yard strike to Roberts, inexplicably forced a pass to Larry Fitzgerald on second-and-goal from the 2.
Patrick Peterson had just returned a Dolphins fumble 61 yards with 8:05 remaining. Even a field goal in that situation might have been enough for Arizona. Instead, Kolb threw the ball where only Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith could catch it. The quarterback let the ball go without realizing Smith had pushed Fitzgerald out of bounds.
What happened next -- Tannehill to Brian Hartline for an 80-yard touchdown -- was the sort of reversal that can unravel a season.
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinCardinals linebacker Paris Lenon hits Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill in overtime, leading to a key interception.
"If we would have been in that situation in the past, we would have seen guys hanging their heads," Fitzgerald said. "The atmosphere on the sideline would have been different. But now there's not a guy on the sideline who didn't believe we could go out there and win this ballgame."
For good reason.
Seven or fewer points have separated the Cardinals from their opponents in 16 of Arizona's past 20 games. The Cardinals are 11-5 in those 16 close games. Twelve of their past 13 victories have come by the following margins: one point (once), two points (twice), three points (four times), four points (twice), six points (twice) and seven points (once).
This one was unusual even by Arizona's whacked-out standards. Tannehill set a Dolphins rookie record with 431 yards passing. Hartline caught 12 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown. Davone Bess caught seven passes for 123 yards. With Roberts catching six balls for 118, this game featured three 100-yard receivers, but none named Fitzgerald.
And then there was Kolb.
The quarterback seems at his best only after really bad things happen.
That was the case when Kolb was with Philadelphia, where his best work came only after Michael Vick beat him out. This season, the game-winning drive Kolb led in the Cardinals' opener followed Whisenhunt's decision to go with Skelton as the starter heading into the season. The pattern held even in the preseason, with Kolb following a pick-six with a 13-play drive that made Whisenhunt's decision a little tougher.
The tying touchdown pass to Roberts on Sunday fit the profile.
"It's probably the most special in my career," Kolb said. "Now, the one before that was probably the worst in my career. It was a terrible decision and a terrible throw and a great play by No. 24 (Smith)."
The finish punctuated an unforgettable week for Kolb and his family. Kolb's wife, Whitney, delivered the couple's third daughter Thursday. Delivering their child took priority over delivering a pregame pep talk, but Whitney Kolb did manage to send a text message to her husband before kickoff Sunday.
"Don't let up," it read.
She was referring to this latest opportunity for her husband.
"And so I've told myself this time I ain't letting up," he explained. "I'm going to keep the pedal down. That is what my wife texted me today, because I've been in this situation before and I just want to keep it rolling."