After a well-needed bye week, the Arizona Cardinals will head to Seattle to take on a division rival. Joining the Seahawks will be their infamous "12th man". Qwest Field has been one of the most difficult stadiums to play at for opposing teams and it's not just because the Seahawks play better there. The home crowd has a lot to do with the success Seattle experiences at home each year. Since 2005, opposing offensive lines have committed 99 false start penalties.
If the Cardinals want anything to do with a victory on Sunday, they'll need to take the crowd out of the game. That's where Max Hall comes into play. We already know his story so far -- he's an undrafted free agent quarterback that worked his way up the depth chart and finally started his first game against the New Orleans Saints two Sundays ago, in which the Cardinals won.
Hall could face the biggest test of his young career this week. A rookie's job is never easy in the NFL, let alone a rookie quarterback. Dealing with the environment can be the first step to success. A quick start against the Seahawks would alleviate some of the pressure he'll feel.
Last season Kurt Warner did exactly that when he led the Cardinals on a 15-play, 80-yard drive, in which the Cardinals offense held the ball for a whopping 10:42. He capped off the drive by throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. The usually reliable home crowd was taken out of it's comfort zone. It also helped that Ken Whisenhunt's wise play-calling gave the ball right back to the Cardinals' offense when Neil Rackers pooch-kicked the ensuing kickoff and the Cardinals recovered.
We all know that Hall is no Kurt Warner. All the same, he can take a page from history -- score early and score often. If Hall does, then we know the chances for a Cardinals' victory increases. That would also say a lot about Hall's football smarts and confidence. After a practice this week, Hall revealed that the jitters have passed, and that he thinks Seattle would be a fun place to play:
"I think I've settled down," Hall said after the Cardinals practiced on Wednesday. "I think the anxiety part's over. Now I'm just really trying to get better every day, to be the quarterback of this team, to be the leader and to step up into that role that everybody is expecting me to step up into. I'm just keeping my head down and working as hard as I can."
...Talking to reporters after the Cardinals worked out on Wednesday, Hall said that he’s heard the Seattle stadium is noisy and "a fun place to play." He said quarterbacks coach Chris Miller told him that players live for these kinds of games.
It's no easy chore to play against an NFL team and the thousands of fans that come with them. Should he succeed, he'll move just another notch up the ladder.