The Defense – The unit rebounded from some sketchy performances to keep one of the league’s most explosive offenses in check. The defense forced four turnovers, returning two for scores and giving a boost to a struggling offense. DT Alan Branch and LB Clark Haggans put continuous pressure on QB Drew Brees and forced mistakes that ultimately doomed the Saints. New Orleans still put up over 350 yards of total offense and 19 first downs, but like Arizona teams of the past, the defense came up with key plays at crucial times and kept points off the board. This was a very encouraging sign, especially against such a talented opponent.
Larry Fitzgerald – The All-Pro wide receiver was a major factor for the first time in 2010 with seven catches for 93 yards. More importantly, Fitzgerald seemed to develop a solid rapport with rookie QB Max Hall that is promising for the offense’s future. The bye week should allow Fitzgerald and Hall to get even better acquainted with each other, and help the offense out of its season-long slump.
The Offensive Line – Struggles continued in the trenches as Hall was sacked four times and hit constantly, limping off the field on multiple occasions. Opening running lanes was even less successful, as the Redbirds totaled just 41 yards on the ground. While Levi Brown’s heads-up play accounted for the Cardinals’ only offensive touchdown, the group’s short-comings were highlighted by missed assignments and an inability to get a push off the ball. The o-line’s play was primarily the only thing holding the offense back from a more successful game.
Max Hall – For an undrafted rookie, Hall’s debut was not terrible by any stretch, but he was knocked around like a tetherball and failed throw for a score. The BYU product’s numbers were unimpressive (17-27, 168 yards, INT), though he showed leadership and toughness in guiding the team to an unlikely win. Some lucky bounces went his way and he did make a few nice throws, but he still has a long way to go to be a solid NFL quarterback.
This was a marquee win for a team desperate for momentum. Some of Hall’s play is encouraging going forward in that he can put touch on his throws, find open receivers and take the big hit. But Hall needs to put in the work with the first-team to have any staying power.
The defense stepped up big and produced where the offense could not: the scoreboard. It now falls on them, with an unproven quarterback at the helm, to navigate the Big Red to more victories. The offensive line and the running game have to get on track if Arizona is to have sustained success and the bye week is the perfect opportunity for them to do so.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52