TEMPE, Ariz. -- John Skelton's dreadful performance Sunday must make Arizona Cardinals fans anxious for Kevin Kolb's return. The trouble is, no one knows when that might happen. Kolb's right foot injury is showing slow progress, at best.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Skelton will remain the starting quarterback if Kolb is forced to miss a fourth consecutive game when the Cardinals visit the St. Louis Rams this weekend.
"John didn't play his best yesterday," Whisenhunt said, "but he's got to bounce back. If he has to play this week, he's got to be ready to go."
Skelton had directed the Cardinals to two wins in a row before falling flat in the 23-7 loss to the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers. He completed 6 of 19 passes for 99 yards and was intercepted three times before being replaced by Rich Bartel, who engineered Arizona's only touchdown drive.
Bartel threw his first NFL touchdown pass, a 23-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald, with 2½ minutes to play. The ball Bartel used was in his locker Monday.
Skelton had some bad moments in his first two games, but he bounced back to help the Cardinals beat the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. He was at a loss Monday to explain why he wasn't able to do that this time.
"I don't know. That's a frustrating thing when you get a question like that," he said. "You just don't know how to answer it. I guess normally you know how to turn it off and on and move on, but a game like that against a good defense, it's hard to make a mistake and not let it affect you."
Arizona's offense also has been hurt by the nagging sore knee that has hampered Beanie Wells, although the extent of that seemed to be a subject of dispute between Whisenhunt and the running back.
"He can't go more than a certain number of reps at a time during the course of a game, so you have to make sure that you watch that, then he comes out," Whisenhunt said. "There have been a few times where we've had plays called that we wanted him in there that you've had to put another back in there.
Wells, who carried eight times for 33 yards against the 49ers, said that was news to him. He said he has been limited in practice but ready to go full-tilt on Sundays.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals lost starting nose tackle Dan Williams for the season with a broken left arm. Starting right offensive tackle Brandon Keith sustained a concussion and will be evaluated throughout the week.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press