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Tuesday November 1st, 2011

Kevin Kolb completed just 47.6 percent of his throws, tossed an interception and took six sacks in a losing effort Sunday. (ZUMAPRESS.com)

Every week, we’ll take a look at a player or team whose bad performance did the most to raise the stress level of their coach.

It's unfair to pin Arizona's entire collapse in a 30-27 Week 8 loss to Baltimore on Kevin Kolb. After all, it takes a pretty solid team effort to blow a 21-point lead in about 16 minutes of game time.

Here is what can be said about Kolb, though: Handed a 24-3 lead built mostly off turnovers and special teams play, the Cardinals' quarterback did next to nothing to finish the Ravens off. Considering Arizona gave away one of its stars, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, for Kolb this offseason, then handed Kolb a $65 million contract, there's no doubt Arizona expects more than it got Sunday.

Kolb delivered the biggest play of the first quarter, a 66-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald. That connection came courtesy of a terrific pass by Kolb, who threaded the needle in traffic about 25 yards downfield, then watched as Fitzgerald sprinted deep into Baltimore territory.

Arizona settled for a field goal on that drive, with Kolb firing an incompletion on 2nd-and-goal, then taking a sack on third down.

Baltimore tied it at three moments later and it stayed even until midway through the second quarter. Then, Ravens QB Joe Flacco fumbled, and Arizona recovered on the Ravens 2, setting up a Beanie Wells touchdown run. After the Cardinals' defense stopped Baltimore's next possession, Patrick Peterson broke free for an 82-yard punt return to make it 17-3.

And on the ensuing snap from scrimmage, Richard Marshall intercepted a Flacco pass. Kolb turned around a threw a touchdown to Early Doucet, putting Arizona ahead by a shocking 24-3 count.

That's when the wheels fell off.

A big portion of Arizona's unraveling came on account of not being able to cover ex-Cardinal Anquan Boldin. Flacco routinely turned Boldin's way during Baltimore's comeback effort, picking on A.J. Jefferson for the most part. Boldin finished with 145 yards receiving, 80 of them on one touchdown drive alone.

Baltimore had scored 13 points in six quarters heading out of halftime Sunday, then dropped 24 on Arizona in the second half. The Cardinals' suspect defense had no answers down the stretch.

Neither did Kolb. In the third quarter, Arizona's quarterback finished 1-of-2 passing for three yards, with two sacks and one costly interception.

The turnover came after Baltimore had pulled within 24-20 on a Ray Rice touchdown run. Kolb was hit as he went to throw on Arizona's next play, and his pass wound up fluttering into the arms of Jameel McClain, who returned it to the Arizona 22. Rice would score again to open the fourth quarter and put Baltimore ahead 27-24.

Kolb did respond with a 15-play, 53-yard drive to set up a game-tying Jay Feely field goal, but that was all the Arizona offense could muster in the second half.

And, again, we can't hang that all on Kolb. He found himself under heavy pressure from Baltimore's defense right out of the gate, something that did not change as the day went on. The Ravens finished with six sacks and constantly forced Kolb to improvise outside the pocket.

In that regard, the one turnover Kolb finished with could be considered a pretty decent performance -- there definitely were opportunities to cough up the ball more than he did.

Still, we have to circle back to Arizona's expectations of Kolb. In trading for the former Eagles QB and handing him a monster contract, the Cardinals turned their offense over to Kolb for the foreseeable future.

Is Kolb surrounded by oodles of Pro Bowl talent? Aside from Fitzgerald and an occasional burst from Wells, no. The Cardinals have a long way to go, on both sides of the ball, before they can be considered contenders. But there's enough there for Kolb to be better than 24th in the league in QB rating or 16th in passing yards.

There is also enough around him that it is fair to expect Kolb to step on a team's throat when Arizona jumps out to a 21-point lead. The Ravens played nearly flawless football over the game's final 35 minutes, and Arizona imploded on defense and struggled on the offensive line. But Kolb is being paid like a QB that should be able to close teams out. He didn't even come close Sunday.

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