The Arizona Cardinals scored 28 points Sunday and defeated the Carolina Panthers 28-21. Surprisingly, Cardinals All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn’t score in the game and actually only caught three passes for 62 yards. The stars of this game weren’t the “usual offensive threats.”
Well, running back Beanie Wells did rush for 90 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Kevin Kolb completed 18 of 27 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. But if you expected tight end Jeff King or receiver Early Doucet to be the difference makers in this game, no one would believe you. Then, to top it off, did anyone expect rookie Patrick Peterson to return a punt for a touchdown in his NFL DEBUT? Didn’t think so.
It all happened in an afternoon that saw not one, but two NFL rookies have spectacular coming out parties. Cam Newton, the Panthers rookie QB, passed for 422 yards, a NFL record for a debut. Not to be outdone, Peterson (the number five overall pick in the draft) took a fourth quarter punt back 89 yards for the winning score.
But let’s talk about how the Cardinals got there. Kolb showed great presence and poise when under a huge rush he found a wide open Jeff King who sprinted 48 yards untouched into the end zone. That made the score 14-14 midway through the third quarter. After Newton gave the Panthers a 21-14 with a short run, Kolb went to work again. This time, he found Early Doucet across the middle. The acrobatic Doucet evaded tacklers and went 70 yards for the equalizing TD.
“I had to move quickly, not get too deep in the route, and that’s what I did,” Doucet said, talking to reporters after the game. “(Kolb) He saw me, and I was surprised I was so wide-open afterward. They had a guy coming but I broke some tackles and the rest was just me running into the end zone.”
Cardinals fans were treated to a roller-coaster ride that had a happy ending. Arizona was far from perfect in this game, blowing two red-zone opportunities with a turnover and missed field goal. But one thing is certain – this is clearly a much different team than 2010.
“I am not exactly sure if we would have won that game last year.” said Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt after the game.
Following the game, Kolb acknowledged the team still has some work to do. “Getting down in the red zone twice coming away with no points, you can’t do that,” he said. “We were lucky to win a game like that. At the same time, we are 1-0. You have to look at the positives, clean up the details and there are plenty to clean up. But again, it’s good to start off with a win.”