The Arizona Cardinals have won in spite of John Skelton and because of him, often in the same game. The overtime victory they pulled out Sunday provided another case study -- and the basis for a comparison unlikely to catch on outside the desert.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic draws parallels between Skelton and the Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow. Both are second-year quarterbacks with winning records as starters and experience leading their teams from behind in fourth quarters. Bickley: "Both quarterbacks have an uncanny ability to frustrate their coaches, deflate their fans, underwhelm their receivers and somehow play their best in the final 15 minutes. Except Skelton isn't running a gimmick offense. And with a 4-1 record in games he's started this season, the Cardinals quarterback actually has a better winning percentage than Tebow." Noted: Skelton also gets credit for playing all but the first few plays of a 21-19 victory against the San Francisco 49ers last week, another game featuring a double-digit comeback by Arizona. The team has trailed in the second halves of all its games this season, winning half of them. Dramatic improvements on defense have played a leading role. Kevin Kolb could be cleared to return from injury for the Cardinals' next game. Might the team stick with Skelton?
Kent Somers and Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic note that the Cardinals' Patrick Peterson stayed patient Sunday before coming through with a 32-yard punt return in overtime. Noted: Browns coach Pat Shurmur said one of his players mistakenly thought Peterson had signaled for a fair catch. Peterson has shown a willingness to return punts even from his own 1-yard line, so the Browns should have assumed he'd be returning this one as well.
More from Somers: postgame thoughts on a range of Cardinals-related issues. On the quarterback situation: "We won't know until Wednesday, at the earliest, if Kolb will be ready to play against the Bengals on Christmas Eve. I think if Kolb is healthy, the Cardinals will start him. Yes, John Skelton is 4-1 as a starter this season, but the defense's improvement has more to do with that than anything. Skelton, however, has made progress this season. You have to like the way he hangs in the pocket, and the way he creates something positive when a play breaks down."
Bob McManman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are getting good things from Schofield. Daryl Washington: "O'Brien really stepped up and it was great to see him make those two sacks, back to back. It can't get no better than that. I wish we would have scored a touchdown right there, but the defense, man, we're always going to be there for you."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with Larry Fitzgerald for thoughts on how the Pro Bowl receiver got so open on the reception that moved the Cardinals into range for the winning field goal. Fitzgerald: "We had been in that bunch (formation) three times throughout the day and every single time we ran it before, we ran the ‘Toss Crack’ out of it for Beanie (Wells). As soon as I lined up in the formation they were yelling ‘Crack, crack, crack!’ The cornerback kind of settled, and I saw that and went vertical and broke it to the corner."
Also from Urban: "To be a top offense, the Cardinals need to improve on some things themselves. Skelton was 28-for-46 for 313 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But Fitzgerald was held to three catches, and after Schofield’s huge sack to force the fumble -- originally, Wallace was declared down but Whisenhunt challenged the play and it was overturned -- the Cards lost 10 yards after getting the ball on the Cleveland 5-yard line."