With some luck and a lot of help from his defense, Max Hall's NFL debut as a starting quarterback was a winner, against the reigning Super Bowl champions no less.
The undrafted rookie from BYU completed 17 of 27 passes for 168 yards, Jay Feely kicked three field goals and the Arizona Cardinals upset the New Orleans Saints 30-20 on Sunday.
Hall threw an interception that led to an early Saints field goal and fumbled twice, but both turned out to be key plays for Arizona (3-2). The first was returned 2 yards by Cardinals tackle Levi Brown for a touchdown. Guard Alan Faneca pounced on the other for a 10-yard gain.
Arizona's defense, awful in a 41-10 loss at San Diego a week earlier, intercepted Drew Brees three times and converted two turnovers by the Saints (3-2) into touchdowns. Kerry Rhodes returned Ladell Betts' fumble 27 yards for a score and, with 10 seconds to play, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned an interception 28 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
New Orleans' red zone problems continued. Three times the Saints drove deep into Arizona territory only to settle for field goals and a 13-10 halftime lead.
Hall took several brutal hits in the first half. He stood on the sideline as the man he had replaced, Derek Anderson, played Arizona's final series of the half.
His day didn't start out so well. Stephens-Howling returned the opening kickoff 60 yards to the New Orleans 45, but on third-and-10 Hall threw his second pass of the game toward Larry Fitzgerald, who was double-covered. Jabari Greer intercepted and returned it 26 yards to the Arizona 47. Brees completed three straight passes to set up John Carney's 31-yard field goal.
The Saints went 76 yards in 11 plays late in the first quarter. On third-and-goal from the Cardinals 1, Brees threw a play-action pass to wide-open Jeremy Shockey in the end zone to make it 10-0.
Stephens-Howling brought the kickoff back 48 yards to the 50 and this time Arizona got something out of it. Hall's 25-yard pass to Fitzgerald set up Feely's 37-yard field goal that cut the lead to 10-3 with 11:15 to play in the half.
After neither team moved the ball, Ben Graham's 40-yard punt was downed by Arizona's Michael Adams inside the Saints' 1-yard line. One play later from the 2, Brees' short pass over the middle bounced off Betts' hands and was intercepted by Paris Lenon at the 2.
The Saints defense held and on third-and-goal from the 1, Hall sprinted left and tried to score but was stopped. Hall fumbled, but Brown picked it up and took it into the end zone for the score to tie it at 10-all with 2:19 to play in the half.
That was enough time for Brees, whose 39-yard pass to Devery Henderson moved the ball to the Arizona 15. After three incompletions, Carney's 32-yard field goal put New Orleans back on top 13-10 1:10 before halftime.
Notes: The Saints again were without their top two running backs — Reggie Bush (broken leg) and Pierre Thomas (sprained ankle). ... Missed field goals plagued the visitors in both Arizona home games this season. Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32-yarder as the game ended to allow the Cardinals to escape with a 24-23 victory.