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Monday, November 14, 2011
Around the NFC West: Skelton vs. Kolb

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Before John Skelton led the Arizona Cardinals' winning touchdown drive Sunday, I was prepared to say his mistakes would make it easier for the team to welcome back Kevin Kolb to the starting lineup on the merits.

Skelton did make critical, nearly devastating mistakes against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10. He also tossed three touchdown passes and emerged with his fourth victory in six starts since last season, 21-17 at Lincoln Financial Field. He tossed the tying fourth-quarter touchdown pass in a second consecutive Cardinals victory. He did enough to raise questions about which quarterback is best positioned to help the team win right now, even if Kolb's contract requires the team to play him eventually.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic explored those questions while offering thoughts on the move to acquire Kolb. Bickley: "Surely, some fickle fans will bemoan the acquisition of Kolb, wondering why the team had to make a costly trade with Skelton already on the roster. That's just silly. Had the Cardinals not pursued Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald wouldn't have signed a contract extension, and likely would be wearing a Vikings uniform next season. Think of the $10 million bonus they paid Kolb as a license to keep one of the better wide receivers in football." Noted: Sounds like the Cardinals might need to give Kolb's injured toe another week to recover.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Skelton showed mettle against the Eagles. Somers: "If Skelton was ever going to melt under pressure, it would have come Sunday. He was up and down like a student pilot practicing landings. Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Another Skelton pass sailed into Eagles' hands in the fourth quarter. The resulting field goal gave the Eagles a 17-14 lead." Noted: The focus outside Arizona will center on how bad the Eagles have become. That is a legitimate storyline. That isn't the Cardinals' problem. Kolb is their problem in the short term. They've won two in a row without him after going 1-6 with him in the lineup. The level of opposition has played a role, as has an improving defense. But this season almost cannot be a success for the Cardinals without Kolb showing he was worth Arizona's investment.

Also from Somers: Fitzgerald amazes with another terrific catch.

More from Somers: He predicts Skelton will start against the 49ers. Somers: "My best guess? This victory gives the Cardinals the luxury of not rushing Kolb back on a sore toe. He hasn't practiced in two weeks. And he wasn't playing well when he was practicing. Just a guess, but I bet Skelton starts in San Francisco with Kolb as the backup. Then Kolb makes his return at starter the following week, in St. Louis."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com passes along a telling stat: "The Cardinals had given up 41 plays of 20 or more yards in the first seven games. The last two? Five combined. The Eagles had two today, after notching 45 in their first seven games." Noted: Big plays on offense were once the Eagles' specialty. Not having DeSean Jackson was a factor for them Sunday, but overall, the Cardinals did a good job defensively.

Also from Urban: Coach Ken Whisenhunt sees progress on defense. Whisenhunt: "They are making progress, no question. (The Eagles) are a scary bunch, and our guys did an unbelievable job on them. We had guys all over the place making plays. … They are starting to get it."