TEMPE, AZ - Embattled Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb took one hit too many, and it's uncertain whether he will be able to return to lead the Cardinals against the Vikings at Minnesota next Sunday, or will turn the job over to John Skelton.
Kolb injured his ribs while being sacked for the fifth time in Sunday's wild 19-16 overtime loss to Buffalo. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said X-rays were negative for anything broken.
"We are getting an MRI done on him today just to make sure there's not something that we're missing," Whisenhunt said Monday. "He was pretty sore this morning, which you would expect, but he was moving around."
Kolb was moving around a whole lot -- in a hurry -- on Sunday, as Arizona's sieve of an offensive line again had Kolb running for his football life. His unscripted scampers provided some of the Cardinals' best offense of the day. Kolb gained 66 yards in 5 carries.
"He got sacked eight times (actually nine) last week," Arizona left guard Daryn Colledge said, "so I think he learned he had to run."
Of course, when a quarterback takes off running, bad things can happen, too.
With the Cardinals down 16-13 and time wasting away, a holding penalty on tackle D'Anthony Batiste made it 1st and 20 from the Arizona 19. Again, Kolb was under duress, but he broke free for a 22-yard run that gave the Cardinals (4-2) a first down at the Arizona 41.
The next play, Kolb checked off at the line of scrimmage and called a draw play. Running back William Powell didn't realize it and Kolb was left alone with the football. He didn't quite make it to the line of scrimmage for what was ruled Buffalo's fifth sack. He was slammed to the turf with the football painfully pinned between his ribs and the ground.
Finally, Kolb got to his feet and came to the sidelines.
Skelton, active for the first time since spraining his left ankle in the season opener, came on and threw three straight incompletions. But on fourth and 10, Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald over the middle to the Buffalo 43. Three more incomplete passes followed.
Jay Feely lined up and, with room to spare, nailed a franchise-record 61-yard field goal to tie the game 16-16 with 1:09 to play. Those football gremlins at University of Phoenix Stadium seemed to be working their magic again. After all, Arizona had won eight in a row at home, five in overtime, the rest with other forms of hair-raising finishes.
A short punt and a 28-yard pass from Skelton to Fitzgerald to the Buffalo 20 set up Feely's 38-yard field goal attempt-- a cinch it would seem after he booted two from 49 yards and the 61-yarder. But Buffalo's mountainous Alex Carrington got his hand on the kick, the ball bounced off the upright and overtime followed.
The Cardinals took a punt at their 20 and Skelton's pass over the middle was intercepted by Jarius Byrd to set up Rian Lindell's game-winning 25-yard chip shot.
Coincidentally, Kolb's only interception of the day came on that very same play, by the very same player.
Skelton, who beat out Kolb for the starting job in the preseason, was understandably rusty, completing 2 of 10 for 45 yards. The two completions, though, could have been enough to win this one.
"The fourth-down throw to Larry was a big-time throw, and the throw to Larry on the slant that put us down to the 20 was another good throw," Whisenhunt said. "But the interception was not. That's one of those where you can't make that throw. John did well enough in there to give us a chance to win in regulation, and had we made that kick we would have felt very good about everything."
Whisenhunt said it's far too early to talk about whether Kolb could play at Minnesota, the first of a challenging series of games over the next month. Arizona is home for a Monday night game against San Francisco on Oct. 29, followed by a trip to Green Bay, a bye, and a visit to Atlanta, currently the league's only unbeaten team.
As bad as the Cardinals have looked, particularly on offense, the team is counting on its stout defense -- which has allowed no more than 21 points in any game -- to keep a season that started so surprisingly well from crumbling to pieces, regardless of who is the quarterback. That player, however, must be kept upright. The five sacks Arizona allowed makes it 22 in three games.
"We know we're going to be in the game at the end of it. We've got a great defense," Colledge said. "They've given us an opportunity every single week to be in a game. `'