Quarterback John Skelton delivers a pass during Sunday's 21-19 win over the 49ers.
John Skelton may have uttered the word "prepared" more often than any player in the NFL this season.
The Cardinals' No. 2 quarterback mentioned it every interview he did during the weeks when he was starting and Kevin Kolb was constantly questionable because of toe and foot injuries. Then Sunday, it meant something – after Kolb was drilled in the head on the Cards' third offensive play, ending his day and forcing Skelton into the lineup against San Francisco.
"That's the role of a backup quarterback," Skelton said. "You never know when or where or how."
Given how poorly Skelton played the first time he faced the 49ers, there were questions about how Skelton would respond.
But he was prepared, and on the other end of a 21-19 win – in which Skelton threw three touchdown passes and finished with a career-high passing rating of 106.5 – earned deserved praise.
"It's nice to see him, especially after the way he played against San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, bounce back and play well," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We have to eliminate those interceptions. That was more decision-making than anything, but he is doing a nice job of staying in the pocket and moving when there's pressure. All those things are very good, and he made some very good throws as well."
Suffering from concussion-like symptoms, there are a few tests Kolb must pass before being cleared to play. Whisenhunt said Monday he didn't have a timetable for Kolb's return. Given that, Skelton will be readied this week for the Browns, too.
Whisenhunt said that the Cards stuck with their game plan Sunday attacking the 49ers rather than adjust to Skelton after Kolb went out, creating matchup issues with sub-packages. There was a hope to spread the stout San Francisco defense out.
"I think you have an expectation that John has been in there enough and has been around it enough that he can run what you have called," Whisenhunt said.
That Skelton finished with a career-best 67.9 completion percentage for the game – 19 for 28 – was impressive given he started 1-for-4 with a pair of three-and-outs in his first two possessions. After the 49ers took a 19-7 lead with 12:24 left in the third quarter, Skelton completed 13 of his final 16 passes for 190 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, with a passing rating of 129.7.
"John came in after getting no reps in practice and was able to manage the game and make some plays with his feet," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "It was great. John is just a hard worker and he was ready for the moment."
Skelton acknowledged he was forcing throws – both interceptions could be qualified that way – and staring down receivers, and once he was willing to take what was available the completions followed.
Technically, Skelton won't get "credit" for the win, since he didn't start, although the Cards are now 4-1 in the games in which he has appeared.
More importantly, he was able to keep alive the Cardinals' winning streak after Kolb was sent to the sideline.
"They just told me, 'Be ready, be ready,' " Skelton said. "He went in the locker room and they told me, 'We don't know what it is or how long, so just be prepared.' "
Which, as Skelton has often pointed out, has always been the plan.