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Arizona Cardinals Top Five Surprises Of The 2010 Season

Now that the season has been over for the last two weeks, it's about that time to start recapping. The playoffs aren't over, but for the Cardinals, that means little. To make things run a little more smoothly, I wanted to start with some positive surprises -- more or less -- from the season we just witnessed. Next week, we'll look at the top disappointments. Here's the list:

  1. Matt Leinart is released - The Cardinals season began with a surprise when former first round pick -- Matt Leinart -- was abruptly released. Many believed he didn't fit the bill at quarterback for head coach Ken Whisenhunt. That may be correct, but given how bad the quarterbacks performed for the Cardinals this season, Leinart could have been a valuable option. Instead, he joined the Houston Texans in a back up role and may never have another opportunity to start for an NFL team again. 
  2. Beginning the season 3-2 - Even after two blowouts, the Cardinals led the NFC West and all signs pointed to another division crown. The 3-2 start saw the Cardinals defeat three good teams in the Rams, Raiders, and Saints. The start to the season also proved at the moment that the Cardinals weren't seeing the side effects of the turnover they faced in the offseason -- yet.
  3. Max Hall leads victory over Saints - In a game they weren't supposed to win, with a quarterback that wasn't supposed to play, the Cardinals shocked even their own fans with a win over the defending champion Super Bowl Saints. The defense did it's job, intercepting three Drew Brees-passes and returning a fumble to the end zone. What pushed the team over the hump was the heart of undrafted rookie Max Hall. He sacrificed his body throughout the game and led the Cardinals offense on a scoring drive that featured offensive tackle Levi Brown leaping into the end zone with the football.
  4. The Cardinals drop seven straight games - All season long, we heard about how open the NFC West was for the taking. Even after the Cardinals fell well below the .500 mark, they remained within the race for the title. It wasn't till a seven-game skid that made everyone realize just how disappointing the Cardinals were in 2010. 
  5. Giving the fans a Christmas gift - It wasn't the final game of the season, but it came on Christmas day. The Cardinals squeezed one last shocker out of the deflated team that defined this season. Against the favorite Dallas Cowboys, the Cardinals got out to a 21-3 lead. Even after Dallas stormed back and threatened to steal back the victory, the Cardinals kept their composure and won on a late field goal. With a win like this coming so late in the season, let's hope that it was enough to boost the team-chemistry heading into the offseason.

What were your surprises from the Arizona Cardinals 2010 season?