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Kolb, Cardinals battered in fall from unbeatens

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Kevin Kolb wasn't around to talk to reporters Friday. He probably was home nursing his many aches and pains in the aftermath of Arizona's first loss of the season, a 17-3 Thursday night manhandling at St. Louis.

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Kolb was sacked nine times after being nailed eight times a week earlier. When he wasn't sacked, he often was slammed to the ground after barely getting off the pass.

The Cardinals' offensive line, already considered a weak link, was exposed in a nationally televised flop that, among Arizona fans, erased the euphoria of the team's best start in 38 years.

The Cardinals again had no running game to speak of and their three points were their fewest in a game since 2004, three years before Ken Whisenhunt took over in Arizona.

Twice he was hit so hard his helmet was knocked off, leaving him on his knees or on his backside, blood on his lips.

After a preseason game against Oakland, Raiders defensive end Tommy Kelly said Kolb played ``skittish'' and ``scared.'' No one was calling Kolb scared after Thursday night.

``I think he answered a lot of questions about that,'' Whisenhunt said. ``People were questioning his toughness or his ability to play in one of those kinds of games. He certainly did that.''

As tight end Rob Housler put it, ``You can follow a guy who gets back up.''

Guard Daryn Colledge said Kolb ``showed what we always knew.''

``A lot of people said he wasn't tough, he'd been knocked out of a couple of games, he'd gotten some shots put on him,'' Colledge said, ``but he's willing to stand in there and get a bloody nose. He's proved that and we want to keep fighting to for him.

``We take that personal. We want to protect him.''

Even though Kolb was sacked 17 times over a period of five days, Whisenhunt was unwilling to be overly critical of his offensive line.

``They had five sacks in (the first) three games,'' Whisenhunt said. ``We weren't overly praiseworthy of them at that point either. You have to keep it consistent and have a middle line.''

Not that the coach is unaware of the problem.

``Are we disappointed we have that many sacks? Absolutely,'' Whisenhunt said. ``Are working to get better? Do we expect to get better? Sure we do. The guys are working at it. We have to work better at it.''

It's not like the Cardinals can easily go out and find an offensive tackle any better than the ones they already have.

When left tackle Levi Brown went down with a season-ending injury, well-traveled but sparsely used D'Anthony Batiste shifted from right tackle to the left side, with rookie Bobby Massie starting at right tackle.

Both have struggled mightily against pass rushers on the edge. Massie has been particularly vulnerable.

``I'm trying to get better every practice, every game,'' Massie said. ``I've just got to keep working at it.''

Only two tight ends were active because of injury, and one of them (Housler) not really a blocked. The team also didn't have running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who despite his diminutive size is good at picking up the blitz.

That severely limited Arizona's ability to give the line some help.

Colledge said he knows the line only gets noticed when it fails, and that it takes the brunt of the criticism even if there are problems elsewhere that contributed to the assault on Kolb.

``That's how this game works,'' Colledge said. ``We're kind of quiet soldiers. When things are going good, it's all about the skill guys and we're great with that. And when it goes bad, it's on us and we know that. That's great, that's what we signed up for.''

The line, he said, is ``going to find a way to grow from this and get better.''

The rush might not have been so fierce had Arizona been able to run the ball. After gaining 28 yards against Miami, the Cardinals got 45 yards rushing against the Rams.

Already without running back Beanie Wells until at least Nov. 25, the Cardinals lost Ryan Williams to a left shoulder injury. Whisenhunt said that after treatment Williams could have gone back into the game, but there was no point in risking it.

After a poor performance on a short turnaround on Thursday night, the Cardinals have nine days to recover and prepare for their Oct. 14 home game against Buffalo.

After that, it's a rough stretch that begins at Minnesota, followed by a Monday night home contest against San Francisco, and road games against Green Bay and Atlanta.

Still, the Cardinals still are 4-1, and that's better than most of the rest of the NFL.

``We'll look at a lot of things that we've got to do, but I'm not going to panic,'' Whisenhunt said. ``We've got a team that's tough mentally. They'll bounce back from this.''

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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The Associated Press
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