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A Critical Choice

Signs of life from Cards' offense, but Whisenhunt undecided on QB


Larry Fitzgerald runs in for his second touchdown Sunday on a screen pass from Derek Anderson, a score that gave the Cards their lone second-half lead.

Ken Whisenhunt said probably the only thing he could, in the minutes after the Cardinals' 38-35 loss to the Buccaneers Sunday.

At that moment, he didn't know who he was going to turn to at quarterback next week in Minnesota. So he wasn't going to make any decisions.

But, Whisenhunt added, "That position is not getting the production we need out of it, and we're going to take a hard look at it."

For a second straight start, Max Hall didn't make it through the game. This time, it wasn't a !head shot that forced him to the sidelines. It was mistakes, two interceptions returned for touchdowns that were devastating for a team that lost by three.

For a second straight game, veteran Derek Anderson came in and played well right away. Anderson led his team to the lead. And at the end, when he had the chance to be the hero – and at least fashion a tie and a chance at overtime – he threw a crucial interception.

Whisenhunt, and the Cardinals, were left with a loss. And at a loss.

What quarterback to use?

Both guys said what you'd expect: They'll work all week, and wait for Whisenhunt to made his choice.

"(I'm) just coming in tomorrow, watch (video) and continue to work the way I have and prepare the way I have and whatever coach decides I am moving forward," Anderson said.

"I'm just going to prepare and do everything I can mentally to prepare for that and the coaches will make a decision," Hall said. "I've just got to worry about continuing to get better. Whether it's me or Derek … we're got to play better."

The irony here? In many ways, the Cardinals had their best offensive day of the season against the Bucs. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had his first multi-touchdown game. Fellow receiver Steve Breaston had a career-high 147 yards. The Cards averaged 4.3 yards a rush. Most importantly, for a team that had one touchdown rushing or passing the previous three games, the Cards came up with four such TDs on Sunday.

It was impossible to get away from the negative, though. Briefly, maybe, when Hall directed a touchdown drive on his second possession after tossing his first NFL scoring pass to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald caught the ball and hustled it out to Hall, a souvenir of what was and hopefully a harbinger of what was to be.

But midway through the second quarter, Hall had thrown more touchdown passes to the Buccaneers than his teammates, and Anderson was called.

"We're going to give Derek a chance," Whisenhunt told Hall. "Hang in there, you're fine. We're just going to let Derek go."

That was how Hall recalled the conversation after the game, and if that's how it went, maybe Hall still could get the call for next week in Minnesota's Metrodome.  Depending how you parse Anderson's showing, you could see why Anderson has an edge.

"I got us back in it and gave us a chance to win the game," Anderson said.

Anderson's first interception could have been a fumble. His pass to running back LaRod Stephens-Howling was all but caught when Stephens-Howling was blasted by a defender, and when the ball popped out, Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud dove and picked it just above the turf. It would be difficult fault Anderson.

The final interception was different. On the play there was indeed an open wideout as the Cards ran double slants. But it was Early Doucet running the inside slant against the zone, not Fitzgerald on the outer slant. Anderson threw it to Fitzgerald. Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib ended up with the ball.

Whisenhunt ended up with a situation he was hoping not to have.

Hall's numbers aren't good, but he is a rookie. In his three starts, he is 29-of-59 for 275 yards. Fitzgerald insisted he is just taking normal rookie lumps and the Cards "have to continue to encourage him." Anderson's numbers are generally better, although it's the final pick thrown Sunday that tends to linger in the thought process.

Conventional wisdom says Whisenhunt probably goes with Anderson. No inside information here, but after having to take Hall out again, you'd think the coaches will be leery about having that happen repeatedly to Hall. That would sap confidence, regardless of how confident a guy -- like Hall -- might be.

The Cardinals are still very much in the NFC West race. All four teams are bunched together. Now that their offense chugged a little further forward Sunday – at least in terms of points – the quarterback decision carries even more weight.

"You would love to have a guy that can go the distance and do what you need him to do," Fitzgerald said. "But whoever is out there, we have to go out there and play regardless."

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