GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Kolb lost his job and with it, probably a lot of confidence, too. But if he did, he didn’t show it Sunday when he was pressed into action for the Arizona Cardinals.
John Skelton, who beat out Kolb for the starting quarterback job despite making just $500,000 compared to the $20 million the Cardinals have already invested in Kolb in a little more than a year, injured his right ankle late against the visiting Seattle Seahawks.
After he was carted off the field amid much concern from his teammates, Kolb rolled back into his old role and guided the Cardinals to an improbable 20-16 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Kolb completed six of eight passes for 66 yards and a go-ahead, 6-yard touchdown to Andre Roberts with 4:59 left to play.
“He is a gunslinger and he’s always been like that,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “He came in and was shooting from the hip and did a great job.”
Kolb looked dialed in, as if he had been working with the first-team offense all preseason. Except he hadn’t; he split equal time with Skelton from the first day of camp.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told both quarterbacks early in the offseason that there would be an open competition for the starting job and the Cardinals were the last team in the NFL to name their starter, as Skelton was pronounced the winner a day after the team’s fifth and final preseason game.
“I remember last week when we made the announcement, you guys asked me, ‘Are you going to be a quick hook?’ and I said, ‘The chances of getting through the season with one quarterback aren’t very good,’ ” Whisenhunt said.
“…I was hopeful it wouldn’t happen in the first game that way but we make this point with our team: Part of being a pro in the NFL means you may have to go in and play without getting a lot of reps and the guys that can go in there and do it and be successful are the ones that are going to be in the league for a long time.”
Kolb said he benefited from the team’s decision to go with a no-huddle offense, which Whisenhunt planned to do in that particular series regardless of the quarterback.
As good as Kolb was in his brief but bountiful appearance, it was the Cardinals’ defense that ultimately saved the day. They kept the Seahawks and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson from making a late comeback despite taking two pass-interference penalties deep in their own territory.
“It’s all about having each other’s back,” said cornerback Patrick Peterson, who was flagged for one of the interference calls. “That’s a thing we’ve been preaching since OTA’s — it goes all the way back to May — guys just buying into what we need to do to be a great defense. And at the end of the day, we just have to be each other’s brother’s keepers and go out there and play for each other. Just do your job, win your matchups and we’ll be where we need to be.”
The Cardinals built a 13-3 lead with Skelton running the offense. Jay Feely kicked two field goals and LaRod Stephens-Howling ran for a 1-yard touchdown. Skelton was 14 of 28 for 148 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Wilson, who beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job in Seattle, finished the game going 18 of 34 for 153 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
His touchdown pass was a 10-yarder to Sidney Rice, whom he threw to nine times (four receptions for 36 yards). Wilson also ran eight times for 20 yards.
“I played all right,” he said. “I definitely believe that I can improve and get better. There are areas that we all can work on. That’s the focus now, to just move and learn and study the film and see where we can all get better.”
Notes: The Cardinals did not reveal any updates on the severity or nature of Skelton’s injury, but the fact that he had to be carted off the field and had so many teammates around him before he was taken to the locker room did not look like encouraging news. Whisenhunt said he hopes it’s just a high ankle sprain, but even that isn’t great news. Skelton will have an MRI exam on Monday. … Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who was bothered most of the week by back spasms, started and ran 21 times for 85 yards. He also caught two passes for 12 more yards. … Calais Campbell, Arizona’s 6-foot-8 defensive end, got his hand on a missed 50-yard field goal attempt by Seattle’s Steven Hauschka in the first quarter. It was the sixth career blocked kick for Campbell. … Seattle’s Leon Washington helped set up two scores with an 83-yard kickoff return and a 52-yard punt return.