Boy what a difference three weeks and some home cooking makes for the Arizona Cardinals, particularly backup quarterback John Skelton.
Riding a modest two-game win streak, the Cards (6-7) and Skelton exercised some past demons with a 21-19 comeback victory over the NFC-West leading San Francisco 49ers (10-3) in Glendale Sunday.
Skelton, playing for Kevin Kolb who left in the first quarter with a head injury, engineered two second-half scoring drives and put the Cards ahead to stay late in the fourth finding Andre Roberts for a three-yard score. He finished 19-28 for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Quite a turnaround from his 6-19, three-interception day at Candlestick Park back on November 20.
“I think the last time I played (San Francisco), I was forcing some stuff,” Skelton explained to the media. “In this game, you just have to take what they give you. Our receivers did a great job finding those holes and the o-line did a great job getting protection.”
One receiver who found plenty of holes in the 49er secondary was Larry Fitzgerald who caught seven balls for a game-high 149 yards and a touchdown. The Pro-Bowler also threw a key downfield block to help spring Early Doucet on a 60-yard score in the second quarter.
“Our coaching staff did a great job moving me around,” Fitz said. “When you move me inside it makes it a little difficult to identify where I’m going to be and I can see where the doubles are going to come from. It was great.”
Skelton’s late-game heroics would not have been possible without another solid effort from Ray Horton’s defense who limited San Francisco to one touchdown and just 233 total yards. The Niners converted only three of 17 third downs and were held without a touchdown on their three trips to the red zone.
“Our defense did a great job,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt. “We just had so many guys make plays. We were able to hold them to field goals. Some of it went our way today, but you have to earn those breaks and our guys played hard.”
The Cards struggled on the ground managing a mere 55 yards, but Skelton helped keep drives alive with key second-half scrambles. He finished with 25 yards on six carries.
With the victory, Arizona has now won five of their last six. They’ll look to keep it going next Sunday when the Cleveland Browns visit University of Phoenix Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:15 p.m.