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Burns: The Cardinals have been exposed

I understand what sells. What moves the meter. What gets people talking. Ben Affleck’s latest movie “The Town” isn’t a hit because of the subtly good performances, the symbolism, plot twists or anything like that.

It’s a hit because it’s got action, guns and pretty people. The fact it has all those other things is just an added bonus.

The Cardinals – following a 41-10 brain-bashing at the hands of the Chargers – are no different. The defense was atrocious. The offensive line was, well, offensive. The run game went largely ignored while it still had a chance to be relevant. But all anyone wants to talk about is the quarterback position, as if that’s the only element of this team that matters.

So let’s talk about the quarterbacks.

Derek Anderson’s quarterback rating of 23.2 doesn’t even begin to tell the tale of how bad he was. Bad decisions, bad interceptions, missed receivers. At this point, barring some kind of injury, I’d be surprised if he ever started another NFL game in his life.

Surviving the NFL without a legit quarterback is like trying to survive the harshest winter without a coat. And it’s obvious now that Cardinals management simply did not do enough to protect against the long winter ahead. Make all the Matt-Leinart-is-laughing-now jokes you want, but I didn’t see anyone beating a path to his door with a starting QB job in hand, did you?

Enter Max Hall, the undrafted rookie that the fans have been clamoring for since before the start of the season. The presumption with Hall was that he couldn’t be any worse than Anderson…and he wasn’t. But he wasn’t any better either. Under his leadership the team went backwards in the third quarter, literally. Minus 12 yards offense. It must be pointed out that by the time Hall came into the game, the Cardinals were down 28-7. With no real reason to defend the run the Chargers came after Hall with bad intentions.

People seem to think that I’m pro-Derek Anderson or anti-Max Hall. Truth is I’m neither. It seems to me that if you’re entrusting an undrafted rookie to be your starting quarterback a quarter of the way into the season, then that season is lost.

And besides, the Anderson/Hall debate misses the point entirely. It’s a defense that has given up 40 plus points in four of the last six games that have mattered. It’s an offensive line that has proven to be as sturdy as a cheap lock. They’ve got plenty of problems that have nothing to do with who is taking the snap.

In Flagstaff, the unspoken fear was the idea that the defense only looked that good at camp because they were going against the Cardinals offense. Now, everybody has been exposed.

Remarkably, the Cardinals are still a first place team, though this first place feels cheap and flimsy. Like the free toy that comes with a Happy Meal. But for now it will have to do. Like it or not, the Cards have margin for error and time to fix what is broke.

And that goes far, far beyond one position.