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Don't let Newton's performance overshadow Kolb's triumph

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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While his counterpart dazzles everyone else, Kevin Kolb gives Arizona fans a reason to believe. (US Presswire)  
While his counterpart dazzles everyone else, Kevin Kolb gives Arizona fans a reason to believe. (US Presswire)  

There was no shortage of superlatives to describe the play of one quarterback in Arizona's come-from-behind defeat of Carolina ... only it wasn't the winning one. Nope, it was rookie Cam Newton, and there are 422 reasons why.

The guy not only set a rookie record for a pro debut, he brought an energy to Carolina's offense that hasn't been seen since ... well, ever. But there was another quarterback in that game, and, hard as it is to imagine, he played equally well.

He didn't break a record. He didn't run through defenders. He didn't make Sunday-night analysts salivate. He didn't even get first mention in stories about the victory ... his victory.

Nevertheless, the Cardinals' Kevin Kolb did what he was supposed to do, which was make big plays, make accurate passes and, yes, win.

"I thought he did really well," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We're still building around him, but he made big throws, and he'll only get better as he gets more comfortable with the system."

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That works for me.

So Kolb didn't throw for 422 yards. He produced the fourth 300-yard effort of his career -- including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Early Doucet to tie the game midway through the fourth period.

Now, look how he got there: With the Cards in an empty backfield, Kolb was forced to make a quick read in the face of a furious pass rush, then find the "hot" receiver before taking a hit.

"He was going to get hit, and he had to get rid of it quickly," Whisenhunt said of his quarterback. "That's not an easy thing to do."

Nevertheless, Kolb succeeded, hitting a wide-open Doucet over the middle.

I'll tell what he also did: play near-perfect football in the fourth quarter, and you can look it up. After one week, guess who leads the NFL in fourth-quarter play? It's not Cam Newton. It's Kolb with a 149.3 passer rating. But keep reading. He's also second to the Saints' Drew Brees in third-down passing, producing an impressive 145.8 figure.

Now if I'm looking for my next starting quarterback, there are a couple of things I want: someone who plays well on third downs and someone who plays well in the fourth quarter when games are on the hook.

Kevin Kolb just passed the first exam. Of course, that's the quarterback Arizona thought it was getting when it acquired him.

I know it's only one game, so I would be cautious about reading too much into it. But I would offer the same advice about Newton, even though it's too late. Yes, he was surprisingly productive. Yes, he proved the stage wasn't too big for him. Yes, he put up gargantuan numbers when it was accuracy and multiple reads that were supposed to be an issue.

But give the guy a chance to breathe. At least with Kolb, you have a résumé, so you have an idea what you have ... with half of his eight starts resulting in 300-yard performances. In his first one, he passed for 391 yards. In his second, he did something Newton did not ... which was win.

I'm not about to suggest that Kevin Kolb has similar talents to Newton -- he doesn't -- but quarterbacking is about more than just ability. And Kolb demonstrated it Sunday by rallying his team to victory.

Afterward, Whisenhunt said he wasn't sure that could've happened a year ago, but he knows it wouldn't. The Cards didn't have the right quarterbacks. That's why they were willing to pay Philadelphia's steep price for Kolb. Without a quarterback, they didn't stand a chance in the NFC West. With one, they could challenge for another title ... and they had one Sunday.

Granted, Kolb missed a couple of checkdowns and sight adjustments, but that happens when you have six weeks with a new team and new system. That's why Newton's performance was so impressive. But so was Kolb's. He put up an NFL-best 11.44 yards per attempt and produced the league's third-best passer rating, yet you wouldn't know it if you lived outside the 602 area code.

Kolb was supposed to fix the Cardinals' biggest weakness, and what I saw Sunday makes me think he has a chance. No question, Newton was marvelous, but he wasn't alone. Kevin Kolb was, too. And it's time someone noticed.

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