The NFL is a quarterbacks' league. We saw that on the opening night of the season with Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees airing it out in Green Bay. Here in Arizona last season we missed having a quarterback who could get anything done. By all accounts Kevin Kolb has solved that problem.
Kolb was the first to admit that he needs to improve and said, "We're lucky to win a game like that." By that he means getting deep into the red zone twice in the first half and not coming away with any points.
After a very impressive 54-yard scoring possession to open the game, the offense twice failed to covert after long drives. Early in the second quarter, Kolb moved the ball down to the Carolina four yard line and had exactly the right play called, a pitch to Beanie Wells who was going to run around the left side and straight into the end zone.
"It was a bad pitch. I think he'd probably say he took his eyes off of it, I'd tell you it was a bad pitch," Kolb said about the turnover that killed the drive. On the plus side, it was the only Cardinals turnover of the game.
On the very next drive, Kolb moved the team 58 yards in nine plays and was within five yards of scoring before WR Andre Roberts was flagged for an illegal crackback block that cost 15 yards. To make matters worse, the normally reliable Jay Feely missed a 36-yard field that could have proved very painful in this close game.
Overall, Kolb had a very good first game. He went 18-27 for 309 yards through air with no interceptions and two touchdown passes. His passer rating was 130.
"I like the fact that versus pressure he hit some plays and made some big throws. I think the one there at the end of the game where he threw it to Larry (Fitzgerald) on the fade on the third down, that may have been the best throw I've seen him make and he's made some good throws," Ken Whisenhunt said about his new quarterback.
Both of Kolb's touchdown passes -- a 48-yard pass to TE Jeff King and a 70-yard completion to WR Early Doucet -- both came against blitz pressure. Kolb said he recognized where the blitz was coming from and in both cases was able to find the open man.
"I'm not sure we would have won that game last year so I was proud of the way our team responded and answered. We've got a lot of things we've got to clean up," Whisenhunt said about the Cardinals performance.
Defensively, there's a lot to question for the Cardinals. Whisenhunt pointed out that this is what can happen to young cornerbacks but at the same time, he (appropriately) gave credit to Cam Newton and the Carolina receivers.
The Panthers put up a lot of numbers (477 total yards) but several of the big plays came against the blitz and can't be blamed entirely on the defensivebacks left on an island. If you are going to bring that kind of pressure, you have to get to the quarterback fast enough to disrupt his throw.
Newton pointed out that there wasn't anything the Cardinals threw at him that he wasn't ready for, "The Cardinals did an excellent job of disguising, but throughout the week, coach (Rob) Chudzinski and coach (Mike) Shula) just simplified everything for me. Everything that we saw on film, they pretty much did."
The Cardinals did sack Newton four times for 19 yards and they held him to just 18 yards running.
The defense looked most effective when they were able to get pressure from the edges while rushing only four guys. Without having seen the film yet, it seems that O'Brien Schofield was effective in that role.
The Cardinals gave up a lot of yards and let Newton set a record for rookie QB passing, but holding an opponent to 21 points in today's NFL isn't horrible. The Cardinals got a big interception and had three fewer penalties than their opponent and recorded two more sacks. Take away the fumble and missed field goal, and this is a very different game.
The Panthers came extremely close to tying the game late but in the end, Patrick Peterson's punt return for a touchdown was enough to give Arizona the first win of the season.
For more on this game, visit Revenge of the Birds.