While his first start in place of the disappointing Derek Anderson was far from a masterpiece, undrafted rookie Max Hall earned mostly positive reviews following the Cardinals' stunning 30-20 upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in Week Five. Hall's numbers were hardly mind-numbing, as he completed 17-of-27 passes for 168 yards with one interception on his second pass of the game and two fumbles that took very fortunate bounces into the hands of unsuspecting Cardinals offensive linemen. He also was sacked four times, a few of which he admitted he could have avoided.
But it's that sort of accountability that appears to have quickly won over Hall's teammates, who couldn't be more impressed with his spunk and persistence in the face of adversity. Hall hung tough after bruising his shin and getting his bell rung near the end of the first half, completing nine of his 12 passes in the second half. He might not have been Kurt Warner Jr., but he certainly seemed to be a much more acceptable alternative under center than Anderson, who flat-out underperformed in the starting QB role.
The PFW Spin
Before getting into the much bigger reasons behind a surprising victory that catapulted the Cardinals back into their customary top spot in the NFC West, maybe the best thing Hall did was establish a genuine connection with star WR Larry Fitzgerald, who had seven catches for 93 yards against New Orleans. With injured WRs Steve Breaston and Early Doucet expected to be able to contribute again with the benefit of Arizona's bye week coming into play, an offense that gained only 194 yards against the Saints and converted only 4-of-15 third-down opportunities should get a lot better a few weeks from now.
In the meantime, while the Cardinals take a little bit of time to rest on their laurels following a win few people in the desert saw coming, the team's defense and special teams deserve the majority of praise for enabling the Cardinals to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since 2008.
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis' beleaguered unit came to play Sunday against the Saints, registering four turnovers, including three in the fourth quarter, and limiting the Saints' usually explosive offense to only one TD in the second half. Coming up especially big was FS Kerry Rhodes, whose TD return of a fumble forced by DT Darnell Dockett was the play of the game. It was the second score in consecutive weeks for Rhodes, who has made everybody forget Antrel Rolle in a hurry.
As for the Cardinals' special teams — a unit that head coach Ken Whisenhunt said before the Saints game had to step up and play better — the collective effort was quite special. With LaRod Stephens-Howling providing long kickoff returns of 60 and 48 yards, PK Jay Feeley connecting on all three of his FG attempts and Aussie P Ben Graham placing three punts inside the 20, including one that was downed on the one-yard line by Michael Adams, who is developing into a first-rate gunner, Arizona's special teams made a major statement.
Now let's see if all three components of the Cardinals' arsenal — offense, defense and special teams — can pick up where they left off after this week's bye with a challenging three-game stretch beginning and ending with road games against the Seahawks and the Vikings, respectively.