New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals
Saints (6-8) – 48 Cardinals (5-8-1)– 34
University of Phoenix Stadium (Phoenix, AZ)
New Orleans traveled to Arizona with what turned out to be an all-out shootout. The Cardinals’ defense has struggled in recent weeks but wrote a whole new definition of ‘not showing up’ against Brees and company on Sunday. Drew Brees, after not throwing a touchdown in two weeks, responded beautifully with four passing touchdowns and nearly 400 yards passing (389 yards). In what was also a strong showing for the Saints’ run game, former Cardinal Tim Hightower also had a bitter-sweet homecoming in Arizona as he rushed for two touchdowns on the day.
The Saints’ offense was firing on all cylinders on Sunday as nine different receivers caught a ball from Brees. Matched up against Patrick Peterson all day, Brandin Cooks made up for his dropped touchdown pass from a week ago, totaling 186 yards receiving on 7 catches with two of them resulting in a touchdown. As for the Saints’ running game, in the second half both backs sparked an attitude and took control of possession. Mark Ingram rushed for 78 yards on the ground while Hightower, in a complimentary role, scored twice to put the game out of reach. Without a pulse on defense, Sean Payton and his offense finally played like the best offense in the league once again.
Play of the Game:
5:33 Saints – 34 Cardinals 34
Michael Thomas had a quiet day for the most part but came up huge late in the fourth to make an immaculate catch to increase the Saints’ lead 41-34. What seemed as if he climbed a ladder over the defensive back, Thomas gave Brees his fourth touchdown pass of the day. Thomas finished the day with 52 yards receiving and a touchdown on seven receptions.
Brees is Back:
After two disappointing weeks in a row had Saints fans wondering if the end of the world was near, he responded with 389 yards passing and four total touchdowns. Drew passed for 300+ yards for the 105th time in his career on Sunday, only adding to his NFL record. He continues to solidify his spot as one of the league’s all-time best as he continues to put up great numbers well into his career. Although the Saints will not reach the playoffs for a third straight year, Brees only adds to the hope of ‘Who Dat Nation’ for next year.
Young Receivers Explode:
Three weeks after voicing his opinion to the Saints’ organization, Brandin Cooks cut up the Cardinal’s secondary for 186 yards receiving, including two huge touchdowns in the first half. Saints fans have to be excited about the chemistry that was shown between the youngster and their veteran quarterback. To compliment the third year speedster, Michael Thomas (7 rec.) and Willie Snead IV (8 rec.) finished second and third in receiving on the day and continued to be a sure target for Drew Brees as they cruised past what was supposed to be a tough Arizona secondary.
Playing for Job Next Year?
Jairus Byrd – Safety
Jairus Byrd was brought into New Orleans in 2013 to solidify a Saints’ secondary in 2013. He signed a 6 year $54-million-dollar contract as a free agent, but has been nowhere close to living up to the dollar signs. Although much of his career in New Orleans has been spent on the sideline due to injury, Byrd has watched his play time decrease in 2016 with Vonn Bell stealing snaps from the veteran. The Saints would take another big hit to their salary cap if they cut the 7-year player but if the Saints have the chance to move him, who’s to say defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would not turn it over to his young Buckeye, Vonn Bell.
Stephone Anthony – Linebacker
Stephone Anthony has been a mystery for the Saints, as he led the team in tackles last year but cannot even find the field in 2016. In the offseason the Saints moved him to outside linebacker in hopes of James Laurinaitis solidifying the middle but even when Laurinaitis was cut, Anthony still did not fill the MLB role. With the emergence of Craig Robertson in the middle and Dannell Ellerbe on the strong side, Anthony will have to clean up his game if he hopes to see the field in 2017. He is too young for the Saints to give up on him yet, but the coaching staff has emphasized the need for their second year linebacker to get better at dissecting offenses and cutting out misreads at the line of scrimmage.
Paul Kruger – EDGE Rusher
Paul Kruger was cut from the Browns right before the season and the Saints jumped on the veteran after losing pass rusher Hau’oli Kikaha with a torn ACL. New Orleans signed Kruger to a three-year contract with a player option in his last two (simply a one-year contract). He has given New Orleans production off the edge and a veteran presence in the locker room. Kruger demonstrated his ability to still make plays this week, stripping quarterback Carson Palmer, which later turned into a Saints touchdown. The Saints will have a tough time deciding what to do with their veteran but with questions still on the edge, bet on Kruger to at least be invited to training camp in 2017.