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Kolb, Cardinals battered in fall from unbeatens

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Kolb, Cardinals battered in fall from unbeatens

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.

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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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

The Columbus Blue Jackets were the better team for large stretches of Game 5, but they ultimately weren't good enough. The Washington Capitals defended home ice for the first time this series and escaped with a 4-3 overtime win to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Blue Jackets to the brink.

Here's how Washington won Game 5.

A fluke bounce off of Sergei Bobrovsky’s back

Much was made coming into Game 5 of the fact that the road team had won every game to this point in the series. After winning two straight, it was imperative that for the Caps to come in and take advantage of the home crowd. But Columbus was the better team to start and scored a shorthanded tally for the game’s first goal. There was not much to like about the start…until a fluke bounce tied the game at one. Nicklas Backstrom had the puck behind the goal line and tried to feed it in front. Bobrovsky stuck his stick out to block the pass, but the puck had so much spin on it, it bounced up and off the netminder’s back into the net. A bad start ended up not costing Washington as the score was tied at 1 after the first.

The penalty kill

In the first two games of the series, the Caps gave up four power play goals on eight opportunities. Since then, Washington's PK has been lights out. The Caps gave up five power plays to Columbus in a penalty-filled contest, but killed off all five of them. Washington has not allowed a power play goal since Game 2, killing off 13 straight opportunities in the process.

A critical save by Braden Holtby

The Caps looked like they were out of gas in the third period. They held a 3-2 lead at the start, but yielded the game-tying goal to Oliver Bjorkstrand just 2:30 in and had to survive just to reach overtime. They were outshot 16-1 during that period. Luckily for them, Holtby was on point. All 15 saves Holtby made that period were critical, but none was better than highway robbery he committed on Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Considering how gassed the Caps looked that period, that goal would have been tough to come back from.

Nicklas Backstrom

There was no question who the player of the game was in this one. Backstrom scored the Caps' first goal off the back of Bobrovsky, then deflected in the overtime winner for his second goal of the game. But it goes beyond what he did on the ice. After the game, Barry Trotz said some of the team leaders stepped up in the locker room in between the third period and overtime. He would not name names, but did confirm Backstrom was one of those who spoke out.

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