Kevin Kolb certainly didn't look skittish on Sunday. In fact, the Arizona Cardinals quarterback played circles around the guy who took his job in Philadelphia.
The lightly regarded Kolb outplayed Michael Vick while throwing a pair of touchdown passes, lifting the Cards to a surprisingly easy, 27-6 win over the Eagles and helping Arizona improve to 3-0 for the first time since 1974.
A 17-of-24 performance for 222 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions is ho-hum stuff for some big-time signal callers, but it was a giant leap forward for Kolb, who has never really shown much with his opportunities in Philly or Arizona.
Kolb, of course, lost his gig to Vick in the City of Brotherly Love and then was beaten out by the pedestrian John Skelton with the Cardinals this season. Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly called the University of Houston product "skittish" and "scared" after a preseason game last month and former Cards great Kurt Warner recently said the game was "too fast" for Kolb.
A small sample size isn't going to fend of the critics, but Kolb has finally showed off the skill set that Arizona thought he had when it gave up a second- round draft pick along with a big-time cornerback in Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie to get him.
Kolb came off the bench in the season opener against Seattle when Skelton sprained his right ankle and led the Cardinals to a game-winning drive before following that up with a steady performance in New England as Arizona upset the mighty Patriots.
On Sunday against the Eagles, the undersized Kolb got the ball out of his hands quickly, made very good decisions and showed nice accuracy.
All that said, the big story in the desert remains the Cardinals' emerging defense, which planted Vick in the turf time and time again with Daryl Washington and Kerry Rhodes unleashing particularly vicious hits on the embattled Eagles' quarterback.
But, for the first time, it looks as if Kolb could at least game-manage a Cardinals club with a destructive defense into the postseason.
It's still conceivable Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt will go back to Skelton when he's ready to return. After all, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound former Fordham star has the size and big-time arm that Kolb lacks, but for now it's Kolb at the helm of a team off to its best start in 38 years, has won seven straight home games and taken 10 of 12 contests dating back to last season.
"I'm going to enjoy it, don't get me wrong, but the biggest thing is being 3-0," Kolb said. "Being 3-0 with the teams that we've played and the fashion that we've won, it's been exciting."
THE MONDAY REWIND:
CHARLES IN CHARGE:
The dynamic Jamaal Charles is back.
All running backs talk a big game when returning from ACL surgery, but doubt always lingers. Will the same burst be there? The same explosive speed and innate ability to make defenders miss?
Charles erased any doubts on Sunday, helping the Kansas City Chiefs overcome an 18-point second-half deficit in a 27-24 overtime win against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. It was the largest comeback in franchise history
Charles carried the ball 33 times for 233 yards, the second-best single-game total in Chiefs history behind his own 259-yard performance at Denver back on Jan. 3, 2010. With Kansas City down 24-6 in the third quarter and Peyton Hillis down with an ankle injury, Charles turned the game around with a spectacular 91-yard touchdown run.
"I didn't trust myself (until Sunday)," Charles said after his performance. "It really hit me when I started getting the runs. I started trusting myself. I kind of feel like the old me, It's motivating me more that I still have my speed and I still can run the long ones."
UPSET OF THE WEEK
NFL coaches often talk about how great teams handle adversity. What they don't touch on as much is how great teams handle success.
After a 2-0 start which included wins over Green Bay and Detroit, a pair of playoff teams from a year ago, the San Francisco 49ers arrived at Minnesota with a ton of press clippings touting them as the NFL's best and little else.
Most of the Niners looked like they expected the young Vikings to shake in terror at the very sight of them. Instead Minnesota rode a steady performance by second-year quarterback Christian Ponder along with a strong effort by its much-maligned defense to stun a haughty San Francisco team, 24-13, at Mall of America Field.
"The Vikings did a better job than we did all the way around," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We didn't get it done. There are a lot of reasons for that. We're not going to start pointing fingers or making excuses for any of those."
Hopefully, the talented Niners learn from this. In the NFL, "Any Given Sunday" isn't just a cliche or a bad Oliver Stone movie.
"I don't know, there is only 16 games in a season," San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith said. "Every game is huge. Yeah maybe it's a bigger challenge with a so-called 'good team' comes in, but every game is a challenge."
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE ED HOCHULI
None of us could have ever imagined we would be clamoring for an Ed Hochuli double-biceps pose, but here we are.
The NFL's replacement officials continued to confound onlookers with their awful work on Sunday. New England Bill Belichick could even be fined or suspended after grabbing the arm of an official while leaving the field after rookie John Tucker's last-second field goal snuck inside the right upright, giving Baltimore a 31-30 victory.
"I'm not going to comment about that," Belichick said when queried about the officiating.
Of course, then he did.
"You saw the game," the coach continued. "What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?"
The real number was 24. The Pats were whistled 10 times for 83 yards, and Baltimore was flagged on 14 different occasions for 135 yards, making the game virtually unwatchable.
"It's our job to go out there and control what we can control," Belichick said. "Talk to the officials about the way they called the game. Talk to the league about the way they called it. I don't know. But we just have to go out there and try to play the best we can."
Things were even worse in Minnesota, where the 49ers got five timeouts thanks to some especially egregious decision-making from the faux zebras.
It was so bad referee Ken Roan had to admit to a pool reporter that his crew didn't know the challenge rules and granted two erroneous challenges to Harbaugh.
The first came when Vikings running back Toby Gerhart fumbled the ball on a 2nd-and-10 play with just over three minutes remaining. Gerhart was ruled to be down initially and Harbaugh called a timeout before asking for the challenge on the fumble. Roan ignored Harbaugh's original request, granted the challenge and overturned what appeared to be correct call in the first place.
"He was trying to conserve time," Roan said of Harbaugh. "What he was doing was calling time out immediately after the play was over, not knowing what the result of the play was, whether it was a challengeable play or whether it was not a challengeable play.
"So he called a timeout immediately after the play was over. Then realizing that, 'Hey this is something that I want to challenge, but I just used my last timeout, can I challenge and get my timeout back?'
"What I told him was, 'Well, you challenged it not knowing what the result of the play was going to be.' So I granted him the challenge and we went and looked at it. That was wrong. I should not have. In order to do that, he has to have two timeouts left."
Needless to say an official shouldn't be helping out a coach with administrative duties late in a contested game.
To make matters worse and even more confusing, because the mistaken challenge was successful, the 49ers were given their final timeout back. The same thing then repeated itself with 2:18 left when Gerhart fumbled again.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, quite possibly the most even-tempered mentor in the business, was incensed on the field but was calmer after securing the win.
"It was one of those things that we'll have to get some clarification about on Monday," Frazier said. "There were some head-scratchers, no question about it. But we're just proud of our guys not getting caught up ... in anything other than just playing the next play, and our guys did a good job of that, so just proud of the way they responded."
The fact that commissioner Roger Goodell keeps allowing this dreck to go on seems more than arrogant. The integrity of the game is now nothing more than a punch line and running out these replacement officials week after week is a direct slap to the face of the league's fans.
The regular officials, of course, remain locked out in a labor dispute and the two sides do not appear to be close to a settlement
BEARS STILL ALL ABOUT DEFENSE
Jay Cutler's on-field pouting sessions are always front page news in the Windy City. The Vanderbilt product has proven to be your classic front runner, a tremendously gifted gunslinger who looks like the second-coming until things start to derail like they did in Green Bay just over a week ago.
Cutler's bad body language and intemperate demeanor was erased at least for one week when the Monsters of the Midway held the St. Louis Rams to just 160 yards in a suffocating 23-6 Week 3 win. The 160 yards allowed by the Bears defense were the third-lowest total by an opponent in the Lovie Smith era.
"This was a bounce back game for us," Smith said. "We needed to come out strong. The defense really came out ready to play. Our defensive line has played outstanding ball all year and they set the tone today."
Cutler or no Cutler, the Bears are still all about defense and the play of Julius Peppers and friends will be the storyline going forward in the Second City. When the Chicago D is on, Cutler's finger-pointing is inconsequential.
BILLS HAVE A CHOICE
Despite being without their top two running backs, the Buffalo Bills had an excellent "Choice" on Sunday.
Fred Jackson went down with a knee injury in the season opener and then it was C.J. Spiller's turn on Sunday, who exited with a shoulder injury. It was next man up for Buffalo, however, as veteran Tashard Choice came on after Spiller suffered the injury and rushed for 91 yards on 20 carries in the Bills' 24-14 win over Cleveland.
"When I saw C.J. go down, I knew I had to step up and be ready to go," Choice told the Buffalo News. "That's just how the game is, especially at our position. It was good to get a rhythm, good to get a chance to help my team out that way running the football."
Choice is certainly no bell cow, but it's hard to imagine any other third- string back in the NFL back being that productive.
Buffalo coach Chan Gailey has already said the explosive Spiller did not break his collarbone on a hit from Browns defensive back Usama Young and should be back sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Jackson also is nearing a return to the lineup after injuring his knee in the season opener against the New York Jets, but it's nice to have choices.
REVIS ISLAND CLOSED FOR THE YEAR?
The Jets won the battle, taking a 23-20 decision in overtime over AFC East rival Miami, but may have lost the war when superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis left in the third quarter with a knee injury after awkwardly planting his left knee during a Daniel Thomas run.
Coach Rex Ryan said at his post-game press conference that the team will be sending Revis for an MRI on Monday.
"I'm always concerned with guys being injured," Ryan said. "Clearly with Darrelle -- your best player, of course you're going to be concerned."
Citing a team source, Yahoo! Sports reported the All-Pro cornerback "probably has a torn ACL", New York's worst fear and an injury which would cost Revis the rest of the season.
FALCONS COULD BE NFL'S BEST
If you were hesitant to consider the Falcons among the league's elite teams, you'll have no choice after Atlanta dismantled the San Diego Chargers, 27-3, on the road, staying perfect at 3-0.
Matt Ryan threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns, and the opportunistic Falcons defense continued to pile up the turnovers, picking off Philip Rivers twice and recovering two fumbles.
"I feel as confident as I ever have," Ryan said."Now realizing that I can do it, I can make the plays we need to make for us to win."
The last time the Falcons started 3-0 was 2004, when they made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game.
- The Tennessee Titans became the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of at least 60 yards in a game in their 44-41 overtime win over Detroit.
The Lions, meanwhile, became the first team in NFL history to score two touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of regulation to either take the lead or force overtime. Detroit backup quarterback Shaun Hill threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson with 18 seconds remaining and then connected with Titus Young on a 46-yard Hail Mary as time expired to force overtime.
- Arizona All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald recorded nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals' win over Philadelphia, becoming the . the youngest player in NFL history (29 years, 23 days) to reach the 700-catch mark (707). He surpassed the previous record of Dallas' Jason Whitten (30 years, 133 days) by over a year.
- Denver quarterback Peyton Manning passed for 330 yards in the Broncos' 31-25 loss to Houston, his 64th career 300-yard game to surpass Hall of Famer Dan Marino (63) for the most in NFL history.
- The Vikings' Blair Walsh kicked a 52-yard field goal, becoming the first rookie in NFL history to kick a 50-yard field goal in each of his team's first three games.