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On Cards' QB issues and benching Skelton

11/18/2012

There is still a chance Kevin Kolb will return to the Arizona Cardinals' lineup and finish the 2012 season strong.

If that happens, the Cardinals will be able to feel better about their quarterback situation.

In the meantime, they're unsettled behind center.

John Skelton completed 2 of 7 attempts for six yards before coach Ken Whisenhunt benched him Sunday. Rookie Ryan Lindley completed 9 of 20 attempts for 64 yards in relief.

The lack of production explains how the Cardinals could suffer a 23-19 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons even while picking off Matt Ryan five times. Ryan passed for 301 yards.

Skelton and Lindley combined to complete 2 of 13 attempts on passes traveling more than five yards past the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals' 15.4 percent completion rate on those throws was the lowest for an NFL team since Joe Flacco matched those numbers for Baltimore in Week 16 last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This game marked the third time all season an NFL team has failed to complete more than two attempts on such passes. Alex Smith completed 2 of 8 against Seattle in Week 7. Christian Ponder completed 2 of 7 in Week 9, also against Seattle.

Meanwhile, Ryan joins a short list of quarterbacks to win games while throwing five or more picks. His Total QBR score of 31.2 was well below average, but it was still much better than the scores for Lindley (4.7) and Skelton (0.8). That is what it has come to for the Cardinals. They would have been better off Sunday with the quarterback who threw five picks.

Some have asked how coach Ken Whisenhunt could turn over the offense to Lindley, a rookie sixth-round choice, while holding a 13-3 lead in the first half. This is a fair question.

Lindley had never played in a regular-season game. Skelton had played his best game of the season against Green Bay in the Cardinals' most recent game. Skelton has also been known to follow slow starts with faster finishes. Didn't he give the Cardinals their best chance to win? He might have.

On the other hand, Arizona had lost five in a row. Skelton had missed a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone. The coaching staff loved what it had seen from Lindley during the training camp and exhibition season. And even though Skelton had played his best game of the season against the Packers, he still wasn't all that good. His best is mediocre.

I didn't have a problem with Whisenhunt making the change because I'm looking at the bigger picture, and because it's debatable whether Lindley was any worse than Skelton would have been. Whisenhunt had promised to make changes when players messed up. He did that Sunday and was willing to endure the consequences.