Stats: 7 of 12, 94 yards, 1 TD, 111.1 QB rating
Anderson started off slow, hitting on a few routes underneath and throwing into double coverage on one occasion. Things picked up on the Cardinals' third offensive possession as the 10-play, 72-yard drive was a thing of beauty. Anderson hooked up with rookie sensation Stephen Williams three times, resulting in 54 yards and a 27-yard touchdown strike. Anderson looked comfortable in the pocket and his decision making improved throughout his time on the field.
Anderson's arm strength allows him to penetrate the second level of opposing defenses, an area where Matt Leinart struggles. Even in a near perfect performance against the Bears, the majority of Leinart's throws were less than 10 yards down the field. Meanwhile, Anderson proved his grasp of the offense and his ability to stretch the field may keep him as the team's starter heading into the regular season.
One aspect that may have been overlooked during Anderson's emergence to the top of the depth chart is his unfamiliarity with some of the team's top wideouts like Larry Fitzgerald. Anderson received some snaps with the first-team offense during training camp but the majority of his time came with the second unit. His timing with Fitzgerald is unknown but given Fitzgerald's injury, his timing will need fine-tuned even if Leinart returns to the starting lineup.
While his completion percentage and QB rating were less than Leinart's, Anderson picked up steam as the game went on and completed some excellent passes downfield. His touch on short passes is still questionable but what the Cardinals desperately wanted to see tonight was success in the vertical passing game.
Stats: 9 of 10, 84 yards, 1 TD, 135.0 QB rating
Once again most of Leinart's damage came on underneath routes, but he certainly answered the call to his recent demotion. Leinart was nearly perfect and the offense finally showed signs of life with him at the helm. Leinart led a 5-play, 48-yard scoring drive that ended with WR Steve Breaston taking a crossing route to pay dirt from 13 yards out. Leinart could have easily had another scoring drive if RB Beanie Wells wouldn't have fumbled deep in Bears territory at the end of the first half.
Just like he has been for the entire preseason, Leinart was accurate and fairly decisive in the pocket. It's surprising Leinart didn't take more shots down the field. But similar to previous games, the play calling didn't seem to accommodate the vertical passing game during his time on the field. At the very least, Leinart proved he's up for the challenge to keep his starting status but he still may be facing an uphill battle to accomplish that feat.
The one noticeable aspect that had been missing from Leinart's game – and his demeanor in general – was emotion and passion. After connecting with Breaston for a touchdown in the third quarter, Leinart was visibly excited for the first time during the preseason. His arm strength probably isn't going to improve, but his passes were crisp and on target all evening. The one area still lacking is hitting on passes down the field. It would have been nice to see Leinart complete a deep ball or two in the 20-plus yard range or at least make an attempt.
The most impressive aspect of Leinart's performance is that he did after seeing Anderson experience a lot of success before him. A couple long completions and this would have been a solid A.
This is very close, by the slimmest of margins. Although Leinart's numbers were slightly better, the advantage goes to Anderson. Anderson moved the ball better down the field - which remains Leinart's biggest short coming. However, Leinart managed to hold his own and the battle is far from over. Both quarterbacks will be scrutinized in practice throughout the next two weeks and Week 4 of the preseason might have some added importance to determine who the starter is.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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