Last week: 23 (+1)
I’ve watched a lot of football, but I saw two things I’ve never seen before in the Falcons/Cardinals game this week. First, Matt Ryan won despite throwing 5 interceptions and no touchdowns, the first time that’s happened since the merger (Bart Starr did it last). Second, the Cardinals benched John Skelton despite a 13-0 lead. I don’t have any facts on that, but I’m willing to bet that doesn’t happen very often and certainly never that I’ve seen. This was also the first time since the 1993 Eagles that a team went 4-0 to start the year and then lost 6 straight (they finished 8-8).
It might have been the right move though. Skelton’s play had absolutely nothing to do with their lead, as he was 2 of 7 for 6 yards at the time of his benching. He’s been horrific this year, completing 54.7% of his passes for an average of 5.9 YPA and 2 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. There were a lot of people who thought he was a potential franchise quarterback over Kevin Kolb in the preseason (including Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who made him his week 1 starter), but that looks ridiculous now. Even Kolb has noticeably outplayed him.
Actually, looking back at last year, even though Skelton was 6-2 to Kolb’s 2-6, he was still not the better quarterback. Skelton had the luxury of playing most of his games supported by better defensive play. In Skelton’s 8 games, the Cardinals allowed 19.0 points per game and in Kolb’s they allowed 24.5. Skelton was actually the inferior of the two quarterbacks last season. He led 100 drives last season and the Cardinals scored 16 touchdowns and 11 field goals (129 points, 1.29 points per drive) on those 100 drives. Kolb led 91 drives, leading to 20 touchdowns and 6 field goals (138 points, 1.52 points per drive).
The man he was benched for is probably not much better. Ryan Lindley is actually an eerily similar quarterback to Skelton, he’s big, tall, looks the part, and can make all the throws, but he comes from a small school, has major accuracy issues, and generally deserved to be drafted where he was drafted (Skelton in the 4th, Lindley in the 6th).
Lindley was 9 of 20 for just 64 yards in his debut. The only reason they were competitive was their defense and running game. In 4 years at San Diego State, despite not playing the toughest competition, he never exceeded 60% completion in a single season (57.7% was his career high). He had some awful games against tougher competition, including a horrible game against TCU last year where he was just all over the place with the ball. If he couldn’t complete 60% of his passes in college at San Diego State, how is he going to do so in the NFL and generally you need to do so to be a successful starting quarterback. He was worth a shot in the 6th round and the Cardinals might as well give him a shot, but he should show why he went in the 6th round.
As for the future of their quarterback position, Lindley and Skelton aren’t it. Kolb might be. I know he’s owed a lot of money (11 million), but this isn’t a good offseason to need a quarterback. The draft is weak. Free agency is weak. The trade market is weak. They put a lot of resources into him and he was decent this year despite a horrific offensively line. It might not be the worst idea to focus on the offensive line this offseason, forego adding another quarterback, and see if with a better offensive line, Kolb can be the quarterback they thought he’d be. I don’t think it’s been ruled out yet.
RB La’Rod Stephens-Howling: Rushed for 127 yards (57 after contact) and a touchdown on 22 attempts, 4 broken tackles, caught 2 passes for 6 yards on 3 attempts, allowed 1 quarterback hurry on 5 pass block snaps
RG Adam Snyder: Did not allow a pressure on 32 pass block snaps, run blocked for 98 yards on 4 attempts
LG Daryn Colledge: Did not allow a pressure on 32 pass block snaps, run blocked for 9 yards on 3 attempts
MLB Daryl Washington: 10 solo tackles, 2 assists, 4 stops, 1 penalty, 1 quarterback hurry on 15 blitzes, allowed 4 catches for 35 yards on 7 attempts, 1 interception
MLB Paris Lenon: 8 solo tackles, 6 stops, 2 missed tackles, 4 quarterback hurries on 20 blitzes, allowed 3 catches for 27 yards on 4 attempts
QB Ryan Lindley: 9 of 20 for 64 yards, 1 throw away, 54.0 adjusted QB rating, pressured on 5 of 23 drop backs (3 sacks, 0 of 2)
LT Nate Potter: Allowed 2 sacks and 1 quarterback hit on 32 pass block snaps
WR Larry Fitzgerald: Caught 1 pass for 11 yards on 7 attempts on 32 pass snaps, 7.0 YAC per catch
WR Andre Roberts: Caught 1 pass for 7 yards on 5 attempts on 30 pass snaps, 4.0 YAC per catch
TE Rob Housler: Was not thrown to on 20 pass snaps, 1 penalty