Five Things That Were Good
1. Max Hall, in his NFL starting debut, wasn't spectacular, but there was a lot to like in his performance. He made some of the mistakes you'd expect from a rookie, but his leadership and toughness were obvious. He took a licking and kept on ticking. He had some nice touch on his passes (particularly in long completions to Larry Fitzgerald), a trait completely absent in Derek Anderson. And even though he was still sacked four times, he showed a lot more mobility in the pocket than he did in his second-half playing time last week (he still has to learn when to get rid of the ball). Hall looked infinitely better than highly-touted rookie Jimmy Clausen.
2. Hello, Cardinals defense. Welcome back. Greg Toler, Paris Lenon and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all picked off Drew Brees. The defense scored two touchdowns, one off of a Kerry Rhodes fumble return (that Darnell Dockett forced) and another off a pick-six from DRC near the end of the game to seal the deal. New Orleans' red zone ineffectiveness continued, thanks to the Red Birds.
3. In this game, the Cardinals' secondary deserves a lot of credit. In addition to the three picks, there were a lot of potential big passes defensed, including monster swats by Adrian Wilson and Rodgers-Cromartie. Overall, they were able to keep the game-breaking plays to a minimum -- typically the Achilles heel of the Cardinals D.
4. Larry Fitzgerald as a legitimate weapon once again. Granted, it wasn't his fault he wasn't impactful over the first four games, but he was a rock on Sunday. He caught seven of nine passes for 93 yards, including a couple for 25+ yards. It was obvious that Hall wanted to make sure Larry knew he was going to play a big part in any victory over the Saints.
5. The Cardinals head into their bye week in sole possession of first place in the NFC West. The 49ers shot themselves in the foot (again) against the Eagles and are now 0-5. The Rams were routed by the Lions. The Seahawks had a bye. Max Hall survived his trial by fire and will only improve with two weeks to prepare. The intangibles are in place. It seems like the things he'll need to improve on are things that can be learned, and Max is a smart little man, so he'll no doubt take the time to learn them. Nice to have a little hope.
Five Things That Were Bad
1. The run game was atrocious. In order for Hall to be successful on a consistent basis, Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower and the offensive line have to make things happen on the ground. Rushing for 41 yards on 24 carries is not going to do it. In fact, that's downright pathetic. It's particularly embarrassing considering the belly-aching Wells did after the loss in San Diego. The Saints are 23rd in rushing defense, allowing 118.8 yards a game and 4.1 yards per carry, but the Cards lollygagged on 1.7 yards per carry.
2. Although it was probably the play of the game (thanks to Levi Brown), Hall's goal-line fumble should have been avoided. I liked that he took off and ran with it, but tuck that ball away, young man, and head for the ground. You can't put the team at risk in the red zone and hope that a lumbering offensive lineman is going to bail you out on a fluke recovery for a touchdown.
3. The third-down conversions are still lacking. The Cardinals were 4-for-15 yesterday. Every game, they're improving, but they're still not proficient.
4. Still no real offensive touchdowns. This team needs a nice, solid touchdown pass or three to get the feel back for what it's like to have an effective offense.
5. Hey, DRC: Thanks for the interception, but please take a knee next time. There was a nice lesson to be learned just last week when San Francisco's Nate Clements had the ball stripped on an interception return and it cost them the game. When your team is up and time's getting low, just take a knee and let the team run the clock out. K, thanks.