Quarterback Max Hall (6) steps into his first huddle Sunday.
SAN DIEGO – The ball sailed over the head of Stephen Williams, and that, more than anything else, might have crystallized what has been wrong with the offense of the Cardinals.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt had lamented – more than once – missed opportunities. Then Derek Anderson couldn't connect on what would have been a 40-yard tying touchdown.
Certainly, Whisenhunt wasn't happy with the two interceptions Anderson threw either, and that, as a body of work in the first half Sunday during a gut-punch of a 41-10 loss to the Chargers, was enough to get Max Hall his first playing time.
Now we wait to see if it was enough to continue to keep a rookie quarterback in the lineup.
"I don't know if there is ever a good time to go to a rookie quarterback," Whisenhunt said. "That's something we have to look at now. I'm not saying that's the direction we will go in. We will look at it this week.
"In my mind, there are a lot of things I think. Until I see it on the tape, I don't know. I don't want to make a judgment based on what I think happened today. Because there aren't a lot of things I think weren't very good."
So the season is at its first crossroads. The Cardinals, while they remain tied for first place, probably don't have much chance at a three-peat in the NFC West if their defense doesn't ratchet up its play, regardless of the quarterback. But finding a viable signal-caller is important not only in the short-term but long-term.
Anderson looked good at first, hitting rookie Max Komar on a 16-yard pass as the Cardinals marched toward a score – a score they got on a 22-yard run from Tim Hightower that turned out to be called back on a holding call – when it unraveled.
He acknowledged his first interception was "bad" decision and that his second was an "(expletive)" decision. Of the Williams' overthrow, Anderson said "I don't feel like I missed him by that far."
But the combination put him on the sideline.
"Coach made that decision, and there is nothing to second guess," Anderson said quietly. "(My play) was awful and it's been awful."
Hall ended up looking a lot like a rookie quarterback playing against a good defense with a big lead would. He was sacked six times in a little more than a half. He didn't turn the ball over; he made a couple of nice passes but generated only a field goal, and he admitted he wanted more.
Getting playing time, however, was something Hall has been hoping to get.
"All I can do is prepare every day in case it does happen and I play," Hall said. "So right now, that's what I will do."
Such moves always create a natural chaos. The move to Hall wasn't out of the blue, not with the way the offense and Anderson had been sputtering. But that doesn't mean Hall's inclusion into the lineup will suddenly result in a streamlined offense, either. It doesn't mean the Cards won't be hurting until veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet return, or that whatever issues plaguing the offensive line will suddenly evaporate.
These are the reasons Whisenhunt wants to make sure he considers his next move carefully – even if it does seem likely Hall will get the opportunity he has been craving.
"It would be easy to make an emotional decision based on how I feel, which is pretty upset at the way we played," Whisenhunt said. "I don't want to do that."
Whisenhunt also doesn't want to give away the chances the Cards have for big plays anymore. His team can't afford it.
"I feel bad for D.A. because unfortunately he has to take the fall for a lot of things, a lot of other players," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "Everyone is upset. Whatever coach Whiz wants to do (at quarterback), we are going to support him."
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