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Saints stole their last game from Tampa Bay by the margin of one missed chip-shot field goal late in the game. The Cardinals were coming off a hard-fought come-from behind home-win over the Lions. In many ways, the upcoming game on the road against Drew Brees and his high-powered Saint offense figured to be an "identity game" that would serve as a measuring stick to determine how much the Cardinals had improved and whether they were ready to hold their own against the NFL elite.
Saints make jambalaya out of Arizona.
The Bottom Line:
(The game was marred by the awful news that Dan Williams' Dad (who was en route by car to the game) lost his life in an auto accident. Our hearts are with Dan and his family). The Cardinals failed to show they could "run with the big dawgs."The Saints turned a 7 - 7 first quarter tie into a 31 - 7 runaway. Actually, the game didn't resemble a blow-out until late in the 3Q, when NO kicked a FG to stretch a 14 - 7 lead to 17- 7. In several ways (most notably QB play, receiving, pass blocking, pass defense and coaching) the Cardinals were outmatched by a Saints team that pretty much could do what they wanted during the course of a very long afternoon. Especially (& brutally) noticeable were how well Sean Peyton and his coaching staff exploited mismatches involving (a) 6-7 TE Jimmy Graham and scatback, Darren Sproles with our DB's and (b) their edge rushers with Levi Brown. Not only did they gash us fairly early in the contest, but our coaches didn't seem to have a clue about what to do their about it. Result: a good, old-fashioned southern-fried butt-whipping.
Cards received. TB on the KO. Palmer oversaw the only successful Cardinal drive of the football game mixing short passes with a 21-yard run around left end by Alfonso Smith and a 16-yard hookup with Fitz to set up a 3-yard TD run by Smitty. Cards 7 – Saints 0.
TB on the KO. Brees proceeded to open up our secondary like a can-opener. Pass to Watson +14. Pass to Thomas +9. Run -2. Pass to Graham +14. Incompletion. Pass to Colston +24. Sack -6. Pass to Meacham (who beat Powers deep) for +27 and a TD. Saints 7 – Cards 7.
KO returned by Arenas to Cardinal 21. Palmer started out being sacked (way to go Levi!) but followed it up with a 17-yard completion to Ellington. Cards were orced into a 3 & out anyway (S Taylor ran too shallow a crossing pattern). A penalty on the punt pushed NO back to its own 12. Acho sacked Brees for minus-9 to end the quarter. First Quarter Score: Saints 7 – Cards 7.
Saints were forced to punt from their own 32 three plays later. Fair caught by PP21 at his own 21. Drive stalled 7 plays later at the NO 42. Punt was fair caught at the NO 17. Cards forced NO into a 3 & out. Punt was fumbled by PP21, but Cards retained possession. A reverse to PP21 picked up a 11-yards on the first play of the series, but Cards had to punt 4 plays later. Saints went 3 & out. Out-of-bounds punt and NO penalty moved the ball to our own 43. Turning Point of Game: Another sack – 3 & out (a blown scoring opportunity). Sproles returned Zastudil’s punt 28 yards to the Saints 42. Completions to Sproles, Graham and Collins and a pass interference flag on Mathieu set up a 16-yard TD pass to Graham. Saints 14 – Cards 7.
Arenas returned the KO to the NO 49, but once again, the Cards failed to take advantage of the good field osition – we went 3 & out. Bethel downed the punt at the Saints 4 (1:43 til halftime). We held NO to 3 & out. Peterson returned the punt 8 yards to the Cardinal 40. On the first play from scrimmage, Palmer got sacked again (by Jordan), but Carson was able to regroup - a couple of throws to Ellington made it 1st & 10 at the Saint 41 with 0:51 til halftime. But we were held to 3 & out, and Brees took a knee to run out the clock. Halftime Score: Saints 14 – Cards 7.
Saints received. TB on the KO. A 10-play drive all the way to the Cardinal 29 was derailed by Matheiu who made a leaping interception deep in the end-zone of a pass intended for Moore. Cards picked up a 1st down before another sack of Palmer forced us to punt from our owb 40. TB on the punt. Dockett sacked Brees for minus-4, but Brees came right back with a pass to Thomas who turned a minus-5 yard screen into a 16-yard gain. The 8-play drive was capped by a 31-yard Hartley FG. Saints 17 – Cards 7.
TB on the KO. An illegal shift call helped derail our possession. Zastudil punted to the NO 40, where Sproles returned it 21-yards to the Cardinal 39. Although Dockett sacked Brees (again), the New Orleans QB was able to complete 3 other short passes to move the ball to our 12-yard line to end the quarter. Third Quarter Score: Saints 17 – Cards 7.
Four plays later, Brees scrambled 7-yards for a TD (right up the middle, untouched by human hands). Saints 24 – Cards 7.
KO was returned to our own 19. Palmer hit Fitz for +26 and Floyd for +13. Ellington ran for +3 and Palmer hit Floyd for +20 to give us the ball at the NO 19. (Good time for an interception, and right on cue, Palmer's short pass intended for Housler was picked off by Vaccaro - it looked to me as though Housler turned the wrong way and then didn't come back to fight for the ball and help out his QB). Brees then reeled off 12 dink & dunk plays (the longest being a 19-yard completion to Graham) and drained 6:27 off the clock, hitting Graham for a 7-yard TD with 5:25 left to play. Saints 31 – Cards 7.
The next Cardinal possession ended 3 plays later when Lewis intercepted a Palmer pass intended for Floyd. They then gave us a heavy dose of Khourey Robinson (whom our tacklers bounced off frequently) followed by a couple of “Brees’ Knees”). Game over. Final (Yech!) Score: Saints 31 – Cards 7
Palmer had a very mediocre 18 completions in 35 attempts for 187 yards, no TD's and 2 interceptions.
16 of our 55 total plays were running plays.
Ellington ran 3 times for 19, Mendenhall 9 times for for 29 and Smith 3 times for 27.
Total Cardinal team net rushing yards were 86.
Total Cardinal team net passing yards were a yucchy 161.
Fitz led Cardinal receivers with 5 grabs, followed by Floyd (4) and Ellington (3).
Palmer was sacked 4 times.
Dockett was credited with 3 sacks. Acho had one.
Karlos Dansby led the Cards with 12 tackles, followed by Mathieu (10) and Bell (6).
Cards hit with only 3 penalties.
BA seems to script the plays in his opening drive effectively.
(the more experience he gets, the better he'll be).
The Dark Side
Acho and Alexander were put on IR. Johnson lost the tip of his finger.
Even before our loss to New Orleans, visiting various Cardinal fan-sites has been like attending a funeral.
Our problems started with Levi giving up multiple sacks, and it spread from there. Overall OL pass blocking began to look like a jailbreak (with everyone trying to do each other's job). This caused Carson Palmer to look more and more jittery, mess up his footwork, start eyeballing his receivers and making weird decisions (like throwing too early, throwing too late and throwing into double or triple coverage). It then spread over to the defense, where previously sure tacklers began to lunge at NO ballcarriers (Check out our inability to stop Khourey Robinson on the final series of the game). How many times did Abraham either bounce off of or narrowly miss Brees. (A missed sack or dropped interception against Brees is like giving up a TD pass).
It seemed to this writer that our pass rush was intense right up to initial contact with NO blockers, but then our guys would hit and stop. Many sacks and QB hurries result from second-effort by the pass rusher. The Saints pass rushers were more relentess than ours.
Our DB's lost more than half their one-on-one battles - they seem to lack sound coverage techniques compared to other DB's in the NFL.
We were outcoached - we had no answers (& adjustments) to Graham, Sproles or NO pass rushers. This was less a matter of overall team talent disadvantage than it was scheming and matchup difficulties.
We seem to operate OK when we start games or playing even-up with our opponents, but seem to fall apart and lose our poise when things start to "go south."
We were outclassed by a Saints team that seemed to know what it was doing - where it wanted to go and how to get there. By contrast, the Cardinals - while blessed with a number of talented players - appeared to be wandering around in the desert looking for answers we could hang our hats on and build around. Simply put, the consistency (& confidence) simply has not been there yet. It's a matter of leadership, and our coaching staff still focusing on putting the bicycle together without having to worry about which nuts and bolts will fall off. We play in Tampa next week, and we'd better not show up "flat", because the Buccos are 0 & 3 and it's rumored that Coach Schiano's job may be on the line. Look for an emotional, smashmouth football game and a true test of who'll hit the hardest and executes best.