Dream big: It’s coming together for Cardinals
GLENDALE, Ariz. — We really should throw up a caution flag and tell you to slow down.
We should point out that on Sunday alone, the Titans beat the Lions, the Vikings beat the 49ers, the Chiefs beat the Saints and the Raiders beat the Steelers.
We should use those results to remind you that even though the Cardinals’ next four games — against Miami, St. Louis, Buffalo and Minnesota — all appear winnable, there are no givens in the parity-rich NFL.
But what’s the use? The red Kool-Aid has already been served. Every Cardinals fan is punch-drunk on possibilities.
Sunday’s 27-6 win over the previously unbeaten Eagles wasn’t just another victory. It was a statement. The defense stated its case as one of the league’s elite units by sacking Michael Vick five times, holding him without a touchdown (rushing or passing) and holding the Eagles’ top-ranked offense to 308 yards.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Kevin Kolb sent a clear message to his old team and his new one that he is starting-quarterback material despite the potentially ingenious motivational tactics of his head coach. Kolb completed 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards and two TDs, finishing with a passer rating of 127.4. He also found receiver Larry Fitzgerald (nine catches, 114 yards, TD) with regularity after a Week 2 lapse of reason.
“He looks more and more comfortable,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said of his QB, whom he has declined to declare the starter the past two weeks despite John Skelton’s ankle injury. “Everybody’s talked about the quarterback competition. One thing I’ve always been a proponent of is that it makes players better. I think that’s what we’re seeing.”
When the Cardinals released the pregame inactives list to the media, also included on that sheet were two lineup changes. Safety Rashad Johnson was inserted for injured starter Adrian Wilson and Kolb replaced John Skelton, who is still listed as the official starter.
Can we end the ruse already? If Skelton returns to health next week and reclaims his job, we’ll declare Whisenhunt legally insane. There is no way you make a change at quarterback now with the team off to its first 3-0 start since 1974 and riding a growing wave of momentum.
This was what the Cardinals envisioned when they traded Sunday’s house guest, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and a second-round pick to the Eagles acquire Kolb. This was the waking dream fans and the franchise imagined possible if this club could just get solid quarterback play to accompany its superlative defense and special teams.
“I’m going to put it in words in the offseason,” Kolb said of beating his former team and solidifying his grip on the starting role. “Hopefully, that comes with a ring and a lot of wins, but I don’t even want to think about it right now. I just want to stay focused, because I’ve done that in the past, tried to foresee the future, and every time, it comes up and knocks my legs out from under me.”
Momentum is a fickle thing in the NFL.
“This league can sneak up and you can lose three in a row just as fast as you win three or four in a row,” Kolb said.
So why would Whisenhunt mess with the chemistry of something that feels so right — at least right now?
It was clear in the way the defense beat up Vick, including free safety Kerry Rhodes’ sack and forced fumble just before the half that James Sanders returned 93 yards for the knockout TD.
It was clear when long snapper Mike Leach recovered a fumble on a Philadelphia punt return.
And it was clear when Kolb found Larry Fitzgerald on a 37-yard TD pass — or “money ball” as Fitz likes to call it — that gave Arizona a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Experience tells you the Cardinals will not be 7-0 when the hated 49ers come to town for “Monday Night Football” on Oct. 29. But even if the Cards split their next four, they’ll still be 5-2 heading into that game.
After two seasons of failed Kurt Warner hangover tonics that included Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson and Max Hall, the Cardinals are relevant again because they’re getting solid quarterback play to accompany their dominant defense. Who knows where this crazy train will wind up, but everyone is finally on board, and that was the goal, wasn’t it?
“This is exactly where we wanted to be,” Fitzgerald said. “We want to just keep rolling.”