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2016 Regular Season
Preview: Saints @ Cards

Setting the Stage:
Both teams are either out of the playoffs or breathing vapor.
Cards are a beaten up football team with starters Deone Bucannon, Tyvon Branch and John Urick all suffering significant damage and (according to Kyle Odegard of azcardinals.com) "likely done for the year." Add to this another one of those bizarre "fell asleep in the car"/"don't be that guy" incidents involving starting wideout Michael Floyd and it only adds to the challenges faced by the Cardinals during the next three weeks.

Meanwhile on the NO side of the equation, Sean Payton says that 13 penalties and a 4 for 13 third down conversion rate were what did the Saints in vs. Tampa Bay, but that he felt there were a lot of good things happening on the defensive side of the ball.

Opponent's Last Game
New Orleans lost to division rival Tampa Bay 16 - 11. Drew Brees threw an uncharacteristic 3 picks as Tampa Bay survived an equally uncharacteristic "pitchers battle." (NO scored zero TDs in the contest - their only points coming from 3 FG's and a safety.

Tampa Bay drew first blood when they moved to the Saint 23 in 8 plays and Aguayo booted a 41-yd field goal to make it 3 - 0 Bucs..

Bucs scored on their next possession, reaching the NO one yd iine just before the end of the first quarter.

First Quarter Score: Tampa Bay 3 - Saints 0.

On the second play of the 2nd quarter, D Martin scored on a one yard run off LT to make it 10 - zip Saints.

Brees was intercepted on the fourth play of the next possession and Tampa Bay turned it into a 10-play drive ending in a 39-yd field goal to make it 13 - 0 Buccos.

Saints got on the scoreboard at the end of a 7 play drive with a 42-yard field goal by Lutz. It's now 13 - 3 Bucs.

A muffed return ofthe following kickoff for a safety narrowed the Buc lead to 13 - 5

NO fielded the free kick with 5:20 left till halftime. Brees used all but 0:04 (and 14 plays) to march his team down to the Tampa Bay 15-yd line where Lutz was good from 34-yds. It's now a 5-point game.

Halftime Score: Tampa Bay 13 - Saints 8.

The two teams exchanged lengthy possessions to start the 3Q before Brees put together an 11 play drive that resulted ina 22-yd Lutz field goal that narrowed the score to 13 - 11.

Bucs put together a 13-play drive that carried over into the next quarter.

3rd Quarter Score: Tampa Bay 13 - Saints 11.

Tampa Bay 13-play drive ended at the New Orleans 7-yd line with a 26-yd Aguayo field goal to widen the Buc margin to 16 - 11

The Saints were able to get to the Tampa Bay 47 before a Brees-to-Coleman pass was intercepted. TB took over on its own 46 but couldn't get anything going. Punt was downed at the Saint 1-yd line with 6:44 left to play. Saints were boxed in and went 3 & out. Punt was returned by the Bucs to midfield. They picked up a 1st down but elected to punt from the th Saint 35. Punt was downed at the NO 3 at the 2:00 mark. Six plays later on a 4th & 1 at the Saint 45, Brees threw another interception (intended for Snead/picked off by Tandy). Two knees - game over.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 16 - Saints 11.

Meaningful Game Stats:

  • Brees was 25 for 41, 257 yards, 3 picks and no TD's.

  • Hightower and Ingram carried a total of 13 times for 45 yards.

  • Top 4 Saint receivers were Snead (6 for 85), Cooks (5 for 61) and Coleman (5 ffor 47) and Cadet (4 for 30)

  • All 9 NO points were via 3 Lutz field goals.

  • Top NO Tacklers - Anthony (9), Harper (8), Elerbe (6) and Fairley (6)

  • Fairley was credited with one sack. Jordan and V Bell were cited for a half-sack each.

  • Brees was sacked once/intercepted 3 times. (By contrast, J Winston was sacked twice/no picks)

  • Saints were penalized 13 times (TB 7).

Season Stats

  • First Downs: Saints - 311 / Opponents - 279

  • 3rd Down Conversions: Saints - 86/178 / Opponents - 66/161

  • Offensive Yards: Saints - 5,438 / Opponents - 4,767

  • Rushing Yards: Saints - 1,357 / Opponents - 1,279

YPC: Saints - 4.3 / Opponents - 3.8

  • Passing Yards: Saints - 4,220 / Opponents - 3,667

  • Sacks: Saints - 26 / Opponents - 20

  • Time of Possession: Saints - 30:28 / Opponents - 29:32

  • Turnover Ratio: Minus-5

    Passing: Brees: 382 for 541; 4,170 yds; 70.6%; 30 TDs; 14 Ints; 7.7 YPA; QB RAting: 100.7

    Receiving: M Thomas (69, 7 TDs, 12.0 YPR), Cooks (63, 6 TDs, 13.8 YPR). Snead (59, 4 TDs, 12.1 YPR). Fleener (43, 3 TDs, 12.9 YPR).

    Rushing: Ingram (772 yds, 5.1 YPA), Hightower ( 453 yds, 4.1 YPA)

    Punting: Morstead's Gross Yardage = 48.4 per punt.

    Field Goals: Lutz was just 3 for 7 outside the 50 and missed 3 more between the 30 and 50.

    Returns: TL Lewis is averaging 12.5 yards per PR and 18.7 yds per KR. Cadet is averaging 14.4 yards per KR.

Rosters/Match-ups

Late Breaking: Cards placed $B Deone Bucannon (ankle), Safety/Nickel Corner Tyvon Branch (groin) and (recent) starting RT Ulrick John (shoulder) on IR. They also released starting punter, Drew Butler. Added to the active roster: P Matt Wile, LB Scooby Wright and QB Zac Dysert & LB Reshard Cliett (both (rom PS). The Cards have one open roster spot, and other moves are expected later in the week. The loss of John leaves the Cards expected to dig deep into backup depth &/or "the street" to fill starting RT hole left vacant by John's injury

Saint Offense

WR    10 Cooks (A)..............83 Snead (AA)...........87 TL Lewis (BA)           
LT       72 Armstead (AA).....76 Hills (P)                   
LG      75 Peat (P)................68 Lelito (A)             
OC      60 Unger (AA)..........66 Allen (R)   
RG     73 Evans (A)..............65 Kelemete (A)..........78 Turner  (BA)     
RT      64 Strief (AA)......         
TE      82 Fleener (P)...........86 Phillips (P)                                   
WR    13 M Thomas (AA)....16 Coleman (BA).......19 Lampman (R)                       
QB     09 Brees (HQ)...........07 L McCown
(NA)
RB.....22 Ingram (A)............34 Hightower (P).......38 Cadet (BA)........36 Lasco (P).....23 Murphy (P)
FB......29 Kuhn (A)

Key: E = Elite. HQ = High Quality. AA = Above Average. A = Average. BA = Below Average. P = Poor. R = Rookie (need more info). NA = Not enough info.

Cardinal Defense

DE        93 Campbell (HQ........91 Stinson (P)
NT        98 Peters (BA).............94 X Williams (P)...............72 Pierre (NA)                
DT        95 Gunter (P)..............92 Rucker. (P)...................97 Mauro (A).....,,90 Nkemdiche (P)                   
SLB     55 C Jones (HQ)..........57 Okafor (A)               
ILB      52 Gooden (P).............xx Wright    
ILB      54 Moore (P)...............51 Minter (A)...............               
WLB    44 Golden (AA)............96 K Martin     
LCB     21 Peterson (HQ).........41 M Cooper (inj) (P)                 
RCB    26 B Williams...............28 Bethel  (P)....................29 Simon (A)             
SS       36 Swearinger (AA).            
FS       32 Mathieu (inj) (A)......22 T Jefferson (HQ) 
  

Key: E = Elite. HQ = High Quality. AA = Above Average. A = Average. BA = Below Average. P = Poor. R = Rookie (need more info). NA = Not enough info.

Matchup: Saints Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Drew Brees had a rare-off day last week, throwing three interceptions vs. Tampa Bay. When he'e on, he's a deadly short passer with a high completion percentage and the ability to move the chains slowly and steadily.

Brees spreads the ball around nicely - favorite targets being wide receivers, M Thomas, Cooks and Snead. Though their TE (Fleener) isn't rated that highly, he's also a Brees favorite.

It's unclear at this point which Cardinal DB's will be out Sunday, but it looks like Bucannon, T Branch and Cooper are three likely suspects. A weakness in the Cardinal pass defense was exposed last week when the absence of key Cardinal DB's forced Jim Bettcher to dial up less exotic pass rush packages. With all the time in the world, Drew is likely to shred us like a coconut.

Fortunately, the Cardinal pass rush is still a potent force and C Jones, Campbell, Golden & Co. will have to bring it early and often.

Key Matchups: Brees vs. Cardinal secondry. Saints are strong at OT. Look for Card pass rushers to attack the interior. It's not necessary for Patrick Peterson to focus on any single NO receiver, so expect to see a lot of zone and disguised assignments with Peterson (& maybe a returning Mathieu) popping up where you least expect them. Biggest matchup figures to be Snead, Cook and M Thomas vs. Cardinal backup corners (Simon, B Williams, Bethel)

Matchup: Saints Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Welcome back to the Valley THT! Hightower and Ingram didn't gain much yardage vs. Tampa Bay, and we don't expect that to change that much Sunday.

Key Matchups:
It will be the two NO running backs and their blockers vs.guys like Minter, Moore, Gunter and X Williams.


Cardinal Offense

WR1    11 Fitzgerald (AA) ....10 Golden (P).............18 Bundy (R)
LT        74 Humphries (inj) (A)73 Wetzel (P)                       
LG       76 Iupati (A)..............65 Boggs (P)                  
C         53 Shipley (AA).........70 Boehm (BA)                    
RG       78 Watford (P)..........61 Toner (R)                   
RT........63 Price (R)
TE       .85 Fells (P)...............89 Valles (P)           
WR2    15 M. Floyd (P).........12 John Brown (A).....14 JJ Nelson (BA)           
QB       03 Palmer (A)...........05 Stanton (P).............xx Dysert (R)     
RB       31 D Johnson (AA)...23 C Johnson............38 Ellington (BA)......33 K Wiliams (A)
TE        84 Gresham (P)

Key: E = Elite. HQ = High Quality. AA = Above Average. A = Average. BA = Below Average. P = Poor. R = Rookie (need more info). NA = Not enough info.

Saints Defense

DE....99 Kruger (BA)...............91 Edebali (BA)..   
DT......95 Davison (P)..............93 Onyemata (P)           
DT    ..90 Fairley (A)................98 Rankins (P)........92 Jenkins          
DE.....94 Jordan (E)................55 Tapp (A)       
WLB..59 Ellerbe (P)           
MLB...52 Robertson (A).........97 Barrington (NA)               
SLB....54 Stupar (P)...............50 Anthony (BA)       
CB......40 Breaux (P)..............28 Webb (A)..........46 Crawley (P)
SS......32 Vaccaro (susp) (A)..41 Harper (P).........37 Banjo      
FS......31 Byrd (A)..................48 Bell (A)..............49 Keo (A)          
CB.....24 Moore (A)...............21 D Harris
(P.........30 E Harris (BA))

Key: E = Elite. HQ = High Quality. AA = Above Average. A = Average. BA = Below Average. P = Poor. R = Rookie (need more info). NA = Not enough info.

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Saints Pass Defense
Santa showed up early in Miami last Sunday in the form of Carson Palmer (who's offense committed four turnovers in the first quarter alone. Some of this can be blamed on unexpected torrential weather, but, still: If you know it's raining, you take steps in play-calling and execution to protect the ball better.

To add insult to injury, the Cardinal receiving corp continues to shrink. Michael Floyd was "that guy" Monday morning as he was roused from a deep (allegedely inebriated) sleep in his car at the side of the road. His status for Sunday is yet to be determined. John Brown is still suffering from sickel cell fall out. That leaves Fitz, Nelson and Golden and probably TE Jermaine Gresham to man the fort. Palmer has his work cut out.

Judging by most recent PFF player ratings, this is not New Orleans' strongest group of pass cover gys, and this could help Palmer qute a bit.

Cardinal pass blockers *another shredded unit) will be challenged by NO pass rusher Camerion Jordan (one of a miniscule group of players rated "Elite" by PFF.

Key Matchups: Humphries (& help) vs. C Jordan. sterling Moore (& help) vs. Fitz. David Johnson vs. Robertson or Harper

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Saints Run Defense
David Johnson continues to keep on trucking, piling up yardage game after game both on the ground and as a receiver.

Expect him to see even more action if only because BA realizes he's close to all we've got left. Challenge: With backup OT Ulrick John now injured, we're down to locating large guys flipping burgers somewhere.

Key Matchup: Johnson vs. Robertson. Some Guy We Never Heard Of vs. Saint interior DL

Special Teams

Saints

K          03 Lutz                           
P          06 Morestead                            
H          06 Morstead     
LS        47 Drescher                                  
KR        23 Murphy.........38 Cadet                              
PR        23 Murphy
........87 TL Lewis

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                                   
H          02 Butler                             
LS        46 Brewer                                 
KR       .38 Ellington              
PR        38 Ellington

Matchup: Saints Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
We know what Catanzaro is capable of doing (to the Cardinals). The NO kicker (Lutz) isn't all that much better. Culprit in Sunday's game in the Miami rain appears to have been mainly our long snapper (Brewer)

Key matchups: Catanzaro, Butler and Brewer vs,Themselves.

Coaching
NO: Sean Payton

AZ: Bruce Arians came off a few very successful years and then fell off an unexpected cliff. Lots of buzz in the media about staffing changes needing to be made and even whether BA still has the confidence of Cardinal management (No reason to believe he or Steve Keim won't be back, but when you lose, anything can happen).

Last Word
Both teams have nothing left to play for but pride. How they perform Sunday will be a reflection of their coaching staffs and whether they still have the confidence of their players in the locker room.


 
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