Quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton led the Cardinals offense on three scoring drives in the first half, while the defense and special teams did their part to help secure the Cardinals 31-27 win over the Raiders.
Kolb played through the first three offense series, and was 3-of-6 for 22 yards and was sacked three times, one of them leading to a safety.
Despite the offensive line issues, and some self-admitted issues on Kolb’s part, he was pleased with the way the offense jumped out and scored early.
“I like the way today went,” Kolb said. “The way we started, that was a big key for us. It felt like a real game today for the first time.”
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt saw some good things and some bad things, but he was pleased with the team’s overall effort.
“We made a lot of plays out there tonight, which was good to see,” Whisenhunt said. “We still had a number of mistakes that we have to clean up, but we had a lot of things that we wanted to see.”
Skelton relieved Kolb in the second quarter, and was only on the field for one series and a kneel down, but made the best of that playing time, connecting with fullback Anthony Sherman on a three-yard touchdown pass, which put the Cardinals up 17-8 at the time.
Skelton says he wasn’t happy that his playing time was cut short.
“There is a little frustration, but at the same time you kind of understand it,” Skelton said.
Running back Ryan Williams was one of the bright spots for the Cardinals, as he made his first career start at University of Phoenix Stadium, and he didn’t disappoint, looking just as good as he has in training camp.
Williams had five rushes for 25 yards and one touchdown, a three yard run on the Cardinals’ first possession to put them up 7-0.
“I can’t lie, I was kind of scared, starting the game off getting that first hand off, but as soon as I got hit and tackled, the rest was history,” Williams said.
Despite looking good on the field, Williams admits he’s still not 100 percent.
“I can still feel the little pinching here and there, and things of that sort, but I can play,” Williams said.
Rookie safety Justin Bethel had perhaps his best game as an Arizona Cardinal on Friday night.
Bethel blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, and blocked an extra point in the third quarter after the Raiders got to within seven points.
“I’m really excited about Justin and the way he works, the way he’s made some plays for us in games,” Whisenhunt said. “Obviously, that’s a pretty good pick that we got in the draft.”
There were questions about the first team defense, and their ability to stop first team opposing offenses.
At least for the first Raiders drive, they shut them down. For the second and third drives, the Raiders offense moved the ball pretty well, but could only muster two field goals, which was a moral victory of sorts for the defense.
“That’s the signature we want as a defense,” safety Kerry Rhodes said. “We want to come out and no matter where they are, be able to get a stop.”
The defense bent quite a bit in the first half, giving up 184 yards of offense to Oakland, but they didn’t break, allowing just six points. The defense allowed just 100 yards of offense in the second half.
“It’s encouraging to see them respond the way they did,” Whisenhunt said.
The bad news of the night: Left tackle Levi Brown suffered a triceps injury, which forced backup D.J. Young into the lineup.
The extent of Brown’s injury isn’t known, but if Brown is out for an extended period of time, that’s a huge blow for the front line.
For the near future, Whisenhunt said the team has to “look at what our other options are,” which could include using Young or D’Anthony Batiste at that spot.
“Obviously having a starter, especially on the offensive line, get injured, I’m really concerned about,” said Skelton.
The team has a short work week, as they’ll travel to Nashville, Tenn., to take on the Titans next Thursday night.
Whisenhunt is looking for his team to take the momentum of this win, and parlay it into more victories.
“If we can continue to make progress like this over the next couple of weeks, the season opener is going to be a great place to be.”