NFL Preview - Arizona (1-0) at New England (1-0)|
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Despite little time to prepare and a bit of a sting
lingering from being named the backup quarterback, Kevin Kolb was still able
to come off the bench and lead the Arizona Cardinals to a Week 1 victory.
He figures to have a tougher task ahead of him on Sunday, when he leads the
Cardinals into Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots, who have yet to
lose a home opener at Gillette Stadium.
Arizona paid a steep price to acquire Kolb from Philadelphia in July of 2011,
dealing cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to
the Eagles in exchange for the quarterback.
Injuries limited Kolb to nine games in 2011 and he was beaten out for the
starting job during the preseason by John Skelton, a 2010 fifth-round pick who
started the other seven games for Arizona a season ago.
Skelton kept Arizona in last Sunday's meeting with Seattle, but the Seahawks
led by three points with time winding down in the fourth quarter when he was
forced out of the game due to an ankle injury.
Kolb came off the bench and finished off the drive that Skelton started, going
6-for-8 passing for 66 yards while capping the march with a six-yard touchdown
pass to Andre Roberts with 4:59 remaining.
Seattle drove to the Arizona four-yard line with under 30 seconds to play, but
quarterback Russell Wilson's pass attempt was dropped in the end zone by wide
receiver Braylon Edwards.
Kolb was the big story after the game, drawing praise from his teammates and
head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who pointed out that his quarterback was prepared
and ready to play.
Strong safety Adrian Wilson agreed.
"I want to talk about Kevin Kolb. Let's talk about how poetic that was,"
Wilson said following the game. "The guy didn't get any reps in practice
really, John (Skelton) got all the reps, and he came in there and led the
game-winning drive. Defensively we just went out there and did our job. Kevin
is really the one that should be talked about right now."
Whisenhunt said on Monday that Skelton suffered a less-serious low ankle
sprain as opposed to the dreaded high ankle variety and didn't even rule
Skelton out for this contest. However, Kolb seems the likely starter as
Arizona tries to open a season with two straight wins for the first time since
"I've always said you can't get too high or too low in this game," Kolb noted
on Monday. "Everybody wants to pat you on the back after something like
(Sunday) and everyone wants to kick you when you're down. We'll have to go out
and work just as hard this week and even harder to beat a team like the
Skelton will not practice this week and rookie Ryan Lindley would back up Kolb
if he is inactive.
Arizona is 8-2 over its last 10 games dating back to last season, while the
Patriots are 9-1 in that same span, not including the playoffs. They won their
ninth straight season opener last Sunday, besting the Tennessee Titans by a
Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, one each to
tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and running back Steven Ridley
helped New England control the ball with his first career 100-yard rushing
"You always want to start out with a win, that's always a great way to start
and the Tennessee Titans are a good team -- it was a good, hard-fought battle
out there," said Gronkowski.
New England hopes to improve to 11-0 all-time at Gillette Stadium in home
openers since the facility opened in 2002. The Pats have won 15 of their past
17 home openers overall.
Series tied, 6-6
Streak: Patriots have won last five meetings
Last Meeting: Patriots 47, Cardinals 7 (Dec. 21, 2008 at New England)
Cardinals HC Ken Whisenhunt vs. Patriots: 0-1
Patriots HC Bill Belichick vs. Cardinals: 3-0 overall, 2-0 with New England
Whisenhunt vs. Belichick Head-to-Head: Belichick leads, 1-0
Notes: Cardinals haven't beaten the Patriots since a 24-10 decision at Tempe's
Sun Devil Stadium on Sept. 29, 1991 and are 0-2 in New England since a 33-10
victory on Dec. 2, 1984, when the franchise was still based in St. Louis.
Patriots have outscored Arizona by an 88-7 margin in the last two games
between the teams held in Foxborough. Belichick's first win over the Cardinals
took place while at the helm of Cleveland in 1994.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
Arizona: 30th overall (253.0 ypg), 28th rushing (43.0 ypg), 22nd passing
(210.0 ypg), 21st scoring (20.0 ppg)
New England: tied 8th overall (390.0 ypg), 3rd rushing (162.0 ypg), 20th
passing (228.0 ypg), 6th scoring (34.0 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
Arizona: 4th overall (254.0 ypg), 20th rushing (115.0 ypg), 3rd passing (139.0
ypg), tied 6th scoring (16.0 ppg)
New England: tied 9th overall (284.0 ypg), 2nd rushing (20.0 ypg), 18th
passing (264.0 ypg), tied 3rd scoring (13.0 ppg)
Arizona: 0 (2 takeaways, 2 giveaways)
New England: +2 (2 takeaways, 0 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
Arizona: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 14th overall
New England: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 14th overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
Arizona: 25.0 percent (4 possessions, 1 TD, 2 FG) -- 7th overall
New England: 0.0 percent (2 possessions, 0 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 1st overall
WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL
Skelton was 14-of-28 passing for 149 yards with an interception before his
injury, attempting to guide an offense that was getting little on the ground
against Seattle. Though running back LaRod Stephens-Howling punched in a one-
yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Arizona managed just 43 yards on 20
carries in the game. Beanie Wells had 14 yards on seven carries, while Ryan
Williams carried the ball eight times for nine yards and had a fumble that led
to a Seattle field goal. Roberts led the Cardinals with five receptions that
totaled 54 yards, and he was one of nine receivers who had a pass fired in his
direction. The bulk went to wideout Larry Fitzgerald, who had 11 targets and
made four receptions for 63 yards. He is three catches shy of becoming the
youngest player to reach 700 in his career and had a personal-best 78-yard
scoring catch in the Cardinals' last meeting with New England. New England
will have its eye on Fitzgerald, so contributors like wide receiver Early
Doucet and tight ends Jeff King and Todd Heap will need to step up.
Kolb may see plenty of action if New England shuts down the run game like it
did versus Tennessee. The Patriots limited the Titans to just 20 yards on the
ground on 16 carries, with former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson logging
just four yards on 11 attempts. Playing with a lead helped the defense, as did
some hard hits from rookie safety Tavon Wilson and linebacker Jerod Mayo. The
Patriots also saw the rookie tandem of defensive end Chandler Jones and
linebacker Dont'a Hightower hook up for a score after the former forced a
fumble that Hightower returned six yards for a touchdown. Jones and fellow end
Jermaine Cunningham came up with sacks in the win, while Tavon Wilson picked
off Titans quarterback Jake Locker. Mayo, meanwhile, led the way with 13
tackles and cornerback Devin McCourty had seven. The latter will look to
contain Fitzgerald this weekend with help from safeties Wilson, Steve Gregory
and Patrick Chung.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
New England didn't need big numbers out of Brady thanks to a 21-3 lead at
halftime, and the former league MVP ended with 236 passing yards on 23-of-31
throwing. Continuing last season's theme, Brady targeted the duo of Gronkowski
and Hernandez a combined 13 times, with the two making 12 catches for 119
yards with the two scores. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd also had a solid came
in his Pats debut, with the free-agent pickup making five catches for 69 yards
to help Brady become the 14th player in NFL history to reach 40,000 career
passing yards. Wide receiver Wes Welker also matched Troy Brown's club record
of 557 career receptions in the win, but did so on just three catches for 14
yards. Though Welker is usually one to rack up the receptions, offensive
coordinator Josh McDaniels said that the use of some three tight end sets as
well as some other personnel groupings limited his slot receiver's chances and
that Welker's role remains the same, not diminished. Ridley, though, picked up
a big role by running for 125 yards on 21 carries. He also scored from a yard
out in the third quarter.
Arizona was able to make some plays on the defensive side of things last week,
logging three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery versus Seattle. The
Cardinals recorded their seventh straight game with multiple sacks, getting
two from linebacker Paris Lenon and one by inside counterpart Daryl
Washington, while Adrian Wilson added a pick to his two tackles. It was an
impressive effort from the unit, which allowed a touchdown and three field
goals on four drives that all began in Arizona territory. Washington and Lenon
also combined to make 19 stops and cornerback William Gay had seven tackles.
Defensive end Calais Campbell blocked the sixth field goal attempt of his
career as well, giving Arizona a league-high 13 since the 2008 season. The
Cardinals hope to pressure Brady this weekend and have youthful speed on the
outside in linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield, while second-year
corner Patrick Peterson figures to be put to the test.
Arizona has to feeling good having survived its meeting against Seattle with
a win, but the fun times are likely to come to an end in New England. After
allowing a team with a rookie quarterback to put itself in position for a
victory, Brady figures to have a field day with the Cardinals' secondary. The
Patriots offensive line did a decent job keeping Brady upright, though he did
suffer a minor nose injury versus the Titans, and the Pats showed their
willingness to go to the run at times to balance things out. While Skelton
could return as the starter at some point, Kolb will get a chance to make it a
quarterback race once again. However, a possible shootout in Foxborough could
lead to a long day of happy feet for the signal-caller.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 34, Cardinals 16
09/13 17:39:35 ET