Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton led his struggling club to its first win streak this season while filling in for an injured Kevin Kolb. A miserable performance from Skelton, however, helped bring that run to an end last week.
If Kolb is unavailable again, Skelton will likely get the chance to bounce back while helping the Cardinals top the St. Louis Rams for the second time this month Sunday.
Skelton was elevated to the starting role when Kolb developed turf toe in his right foot following Arizona's loss Oct. 30 in Baltimore. The second-year quarterback from Fordham made his initial appearance in place of Kolb on Nov. 6 against St. Louis and threw the tying touchdown pass with 4:51 left in the fourth quarter.
Patrick Peterson ended the Cardinals' lengthy skid by with a 99-yard punt return in overtime. Following that 19-13 win, Skelton had a career-high 315 yards and three TD passes in a 21-17 victory at Philadelphia, Kolb's former team.
Skelton, though, couldn't keep that momentum going last week in San Francisco, where he went 6 of 19 for 99 yards and was benched following a third interception late in the third quarter. Arizona (3-7) turned the ball over a season-worst five times in the 23-7 defeat.
"John played like a rookie," coach Ken Whisenhunt told the team's website. "He's a young football player, and he's going to have his ups and downs."
Despite Skelton's struggles, Whisenhunt said he will start again should Kolb's status remain unchanged. Kolb went through a substantial practice for the first time since his injury Wednesday.
"We've go to get better at making sure (Skelton) won't struggle," the Arizona coach said.
Another matchup with the Rams (2-8) might help the Cardinals and Skelton, who was 20 of 35 for 222 yards in the previous meeting. Arizona has won nine of 10 matchups and is seeking its seventh consecutive win at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Cardinals forced Sam Bradford to throw a career-worst three interceptions in their 17-13 win in St. Louis last season, and the Rams' young quarterback enters this game following his own miserable performance.
Bradford fumbled twice, was picked off once and sacked five times during a 24-7 loss to Seattle. The Rams were limited to 185 yards, their second-lowest total this season, and Steven Jackson was held to 42 yards on 15 carries after topping 125 in three consecutive games.
"I'm beyond frustrated right now," Bradford said. ''I've never been on a team that has been in this situation. I don't like it. I hope this is the only time in my career that I'm ever in a situation like this."
Jackson might fare a little better against the Cardinals, who won't have starting nose tackle Dan Williams for the rest of the season because of a broken left arm. The Rams running back has averaged 107.3 yards over his last four matchups with Arizona but has scored only two touchdowns.
One of those TDs, however, came in a 19-6 victory at Arizona on Dec. 5.
Jackson, though, won't have starting tackle Rodger Saffold to help open holes. He's on injured reserve after undergoing surgery for an ailing pectoral muscle, and fellow starting tackle Jason Smith's status remains unknown because of a concussion.
The Rams used practice squad call-up Kevin Hughes in last week's game after replacement tackle Mark LeVoir also hurt his pectoral muscle. LeVoir is expected to miss at least the next two games.
"Timing is really important on offense and we haven't had a lot of that with the same 11 guys. You have to fight through that," coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
The Cardinals are also dealing with a potential injury on their offensive line. Whisenhunt said right tackle Brandon Keith has a concussion and will be evaluated throughout the week to see if he can play Sunday.
- Kevin Kolb