Cardinals vs. Saints: Takeaways from the Saints' 31-7 Victory over Arizona
In what started out as a competitive game, the New Orleans Saints eventually disposed of the Arizona Cardinals 31-7. The Drew Brees-to-Jimmy Graham combination has to be embedded in the minds of anyone who supports the Cardinals. Brees went 29-of-46 for 342 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Nine of those passes went to Graham for 134 yards (two of them for touchdowns).
After an opening-drive touchdown, the Cardinals offense stalled out the rest of the game—due to very efficient play by the Saints defense. It seemed like every prominent player on the Saints defensive line had a hand in pressuring Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.
Conversely, the Cardinals defense started out strong but eventually succumbed to the pressure being put on by Brees and Co. through the air. Despite not running the ball the majority of the game, the Saints controlled both the clock and the tone of the contest.
If the Saints continue to play like this, there's not one team they can't beat in the grand scheme of things. The Saints are 3-0 with the next tilt being a Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins. That should be an excellent test as well.
One I'm sure they can pass...
Here are my takeaways from the game.
The Run Game Without Ingram
Much-maligned running back Mark Ingram was inactive (toe injury) for the game against the Cardinals. If you ask most fans, Ingram has been pretty much inactive, despite playing, due to his inefficiency since arriving in New Orleans. His inability to break tackles or break off long runs hampers the Saints offense—whenever he's in the game.
Well if you believed that theory, it may have been altered after the first three quarters. Both Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles were bottled up so much that Brees was the leading rusher deep into the fourth quarter.
And then it happened.
Preseason star Khiry Robinson was finally unleashed—and didn't disappoint in the process. His four carries for 38 yards were so electrifying, that it conjured memories of former Saints back Chris Ivory (presently of the New York Jets). As a matter of fact, if you squinted, it looked like Ivory sneaked back into a Saints uniform—number and all.
Robinson runs with a physical presence, which can spark the offense while wearing down the opposing defense simultaneously.
There was a report from CBS Sports' Jason La Confora that Ingram could seek a trade in the coming week—Robinson may have cemented that process in just four carries.
Good riddance, Mark Ingram...
Drew Brees Back on Track?
Fans of the "Black and Gold" expect perfection from quarterback Drew Brees. As one of the greatest QBs of his era—if not ever—Brees has delivered on such lofty expectations more times than not. On Sunday, Brees more than delivered against a stout Cardinals defense.
Brees went 29-of-46 for 342 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. He even went back into the time machine using his legs to the tune of six carries for 21 yards, with one touchdown.
Brees hit eight different targets, which essentially negated Arizona's cornerback Patrick Peterson's impact on the game.
Brees had an average game against Tampa last week (minus the clutch play at then end), but he bounced back with a great performance just as we all expect from him.
What a great player!
Safety Rotation Minus Roman Harper
Both Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Vaccaro continue to jump off the screen. With veteran safety Roman Harper out due to injury, fans may have gotten a glimpse of the future.
Vaccaro filled Harper's slot at strong safety, while continuing his nickel corner and outside linebacker duties. His seven tackles and one interception were about as timely as you could imagine. I thoroughly believe he will continue to make splash plays every game he's in a Saints uniform.
Jenkins continues his career revival with another solid game. He got to defend slot receivers in certain packages, which is right up his alley as a former corner.
The versatility of these two players allows Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to present multiple looks—within the same personnel grouping.
Expect these two guys to eventually garner the same attention the Atlanta Falcons' duo of William Moore and Thomas Decoud has gotten.
Hawaii will be in both of their futures, respectively.
Is the Rush Holding Up?
The Saints pass rush looked like a pack of wild animals on the hunt for a kill. Led by defensive end Cameron Jordan and outside linebacker Junior Galette, the unit sacked Palmer four times—while continuously pressuring him throughout the contest.
Jordan (two sacks, three QB hits) and Galette (one sack, three QB hits) continue to establish themselves as the leaders of the defense. Both are very vocal in the media (and social media) and will let the opponents know what they can expect each week.
Backed by defensive linemen Glenn Foster (one sack), Tyrunn Walker and Akiem Hicks, the Saints have one of the youngest—and most productive—line rotations in the entire league.
Offensive Line Holding Up?
The offensive line continues to be a hindrance. Brees was sacked another four times (totaling 10 in three games) and was generally pressured throughout the tilt. Cardinals lineman Darnell Dockett came up with three sacks of his own, which highlights the Saints' lack of interior line play.
Guard Jahri Evans did not play (hamstring injury), but I personally don't believe it mattered. Evans, along with fellow guard Ben Grubbs, has struggled thus far.
Tackles Zach Strief and Charles Brown have followed suit at various points so far. Center Brian De La Puente has been solid overall, but Evans' replacement, Tim Lelito, was victimized quite a few times.
It's imperative that the line protects its franchise QB, or this success will turn upside down quickly.
Is Jimmy Graham All the Way Back?
Does anyone remember what place Graham finished in the NFL Network's top 100 players this offseason?
Graham finished in "zero place" as he was overlooked by his peers as an upper-echelon player.
Despite coming off a season where he had 85 receptions for 982 yards (with nine touchdowns), Graham was seen as having a down year.
Well if his start is any indication, Graham will go from zero to hero after this season is over. His nine receptions for 134 yards, with two touchdowns, seemed like a walk in the park after last week's performance (10 receptions for 179 yards).
At 6'7", 265 pounds, Graham is simply indefensible.
The Brees-to-Graham connection is alive and well!
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