Optimism back in Arizona

The Cardinals head into the bye week with a record of 3-2 despite experiencing a great deal of struggles so far.

A quarterback change, a bye week and the imminent return of two top receivers combine to give the Cardinals hope for the final 11 games of the year.

The Cardinals' upset of the Saints improved their record to 3-2 and put them alone atop the NFC West.

And they should be close to full strength when they play at Seattle on Oct. 24.

Receivers Steve Breaston (knee) and Early Doucet (hernia) are expected to return after missing time. While they were out, several rookies played and improved, including Andre Roberts and Stephen Williams.

Quarterback Max Hall didn't rewrite the record books in his first start Sunday, but he improved as the game progressed.

Hall was nervous to open the game, and his second pass was intercepted. He also fumbled twice, but the Cardinals recovered each time.

What was most encouraging for the Cardinals is that Hall completed 9 of 12 passes in the second half, and operated the multi-receiver package out of the shotgun with little trouble.

"I made a lot of mistakes," said Hall. "The good thing for me, we have a great defense that played outstanding. Offensively, we still have work to do."

The Cardinals have scored only one offensive touchdown in the past two weeks, and that was a 2-yard fumble recovery by left tackle Levi Brown.

But there is hope. The offensive line is healthy. And Larry Fitzgerald, Breaston and Doucet will give Hall three experienced targets.

The Cardinals are just beginning to develop a running game, and should start relying more upon Beanie Wells.

"I'm excited about our players," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "and as we continue to progress, I think we're going to become a pretty good football team."

Whisenhunt was encouraged by Hall's performance, although he acknowledged the rookie made some mistakes that could have been more costly.

What Whisenhunt especially likes is Hall's toughness and leadership ability. In the preseason, Hall took a vicious hit against the Redskins and Whisenhunt chewed him out for not sliding.

"He yelled back at me, 'O.K., O.K., that's past us! Let's go!'" Whisenhunt said. "That's what is going to make him the quarterback that we think he can become."

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