Quarterback Kevin Kolb acknolwedges the crowd after the Cardinals beat the Seahawks Sunday, 20-16, in the regular-season opener.
The defense had just come up with an emotional defensive stop inside their own 5-yard line to win the regular season opener, and yet Adrian Wilson didn't think twice about what his first comments would be.
"I want to talk about Kevin Kolb," the veteran safety said after the Cards' dramatic 20-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. "I want to talk about how poetic that was."
The sellout crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium certainly got a chance to see a storybook finish when it came to the embattled quarterback. Kolb lost the starting job to John Skelton, watched Skelton go down with a right ankle injury as the offense was sputtering, and then came in for the Hollywood ending touchdown drive.
The Cardinals (1-0) still needed the defense's dramatics –three straight end-zone incompletions by Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson with less than 30 seconds left – to preserve the uplifting final scene, but it was good enough.
"This was pretty special," Kolb said. "I'm not gonna lie."
Skelton will be reevaluated, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said in a statement after the game Skelton appears to have a sprain. "Preliminary tests indicate there is no fracture and it appears to be a sprain. We will have a better idea on severity and potential time loss in the next day or so."
After leading the Cards to a 13-3 lead, Skelton had gone cold in the third quarter. His injury came after a 17-yard completion midway through the fourth quarter that provided the Cardinals' first first down of the second half. The crowd was already unhappy. The offense was struggling and the Seahawks (0-1) by then had snared a 16-13 lead, so when Kolb came on the field – with his history -- there was a smattering of boos.
They didn't last. Kolb threw eight passes on the drive, completing six. His throws, save for an !initial overthrow of Larry Fitzgerald on his first play, had both zip and accuracy. The dormant Arizona offense came alive, and as if to punctuate his return to being in control, his six-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts came as Whisenhunt desperately tried to call timeout. The officials didn't see Whisenhunt. "Thank God for small favors, right?" Whisenhunt quipped.
The non-timeout call may have been a small favor, but the big one was Kolb's return. At one point, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett interrupted himself to go off the subject of the defense to talk quarterback.
"I'm so proud of Kevin Kolb to come in and really do something a lot of people probably didn't think he could do," Dockett said.
Kolb smiled when he heard about Dockett's and Wilson's comments. "I just got chills," he said. "That means a lot, especially when defensive guys say something."
Kolb, who ended up with 66 yards passing on the single drive and a passer rating of 138.5, promised when Skelton was named starter that he'd be ready. Whisenhunt noted at the time he expected Kolb to play at some point this season. He just didn't expect it to be so soon.
Skelton certainly looked the part in the first half. He was steady and smart. He probably should have thrown a pair of touchdown passes – one shovel pass to wide-open running back Ryan Williams in the end zone went well over Williams' head, forcing a field goal – but he completed 11-of-17 passes for 124 yards.
"He looked like a starting quarterback in the NFL," Whisenhunt said.
The third-quarter troubles – the Cards gained just 14 yards on five possessions, in addition to a Skelton interception – made things a lot more difficult. The absent running game all game didn't help, with Williams gaining just nine yards on eight carries and Beanie Wells getting 14 on seven.
There was always a feeling the Cards were going to lean on their defense anyways. So when the Seahawks, behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, got close, the Cards usually turned them away. Seattle's lone touchdown of the game came only after Leon Washington had an 83-yard kickoff return back to the Arizona 24.
"We've emphasized all week, emphasized all camp, no matter what, it's 'Keep them out of the end zone,' " Dockett said.
That was underscored on the final drive. The Seahawks used 18 exhausting plays to go from their own 20 to the Arizona 4 before Patrick Peterson and Michael Adams broke up end zone passes and the final try on fourth down was incomplete. It was the second straight year the Cards won the opener after a defensive stop inside their own 5.
"It just means we like to make it interesting," Adams said.
Nothing was going to be more interesting than the Kolb storyline. Throughout the process Kolb has handled the questions and criticism well, knowing it was coming. Even Sunday, in reaction to the boos, he got it. "It's a 'What can you do for me now' league, and I understand that," Kolb said.
Whatever Skelton's injury is, Kolb figures to start in New England next week.
"We really wouldn't expect anything different from him," said receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who finished with four catches for 63 yards. "He's dealt with some adversity in his time here, but he's still a great teammate and he's committed to his time with us."
Sunday, that translated into a victory for the Cardinals.
"To go through what (Kevin) has been through and to have his opportunity and his chance to step up," Adrian Wilson said, "he did a hell of a job."