Alfonso Smith (left) scores Arizona's lone touchdown against New Orleans.
The Arizona Cardinals suffered a 31-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Arizona scored on its first drive of the game with an Alfonso Smith touchdown. The Saints responded with 31 unanswered points to get the win and improve to 3-0. Arizona fell to 1-2 with the loss.
The Cardinals didn't have many standout performances in the loss. We'll break it down by position in this article and show where Arizona succeeded and where it didn't.
Start the slideshow below, and we'll jump in with quarterback Carson Palmer.
Carson Palmer was the only quarterback on the day for the Cardinals, and he had a mediocre game.
He finished the day with 18-of-35 passing for 187 yards and two interceptions. Palmer was also sacked four times for a total of 26 yards in losses and sustained nine hits.
Palmer targeted 10 different receivers at least once and nine of them had at least one catch. No one player had more than six targets on the day.
He continues to do well with getting the ball to different receivers and keeping defenses guessing. The problem was Palmer kept throwing it short and didn't take many shots downfield.
Running Backs: Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor and Alfonso Smith.
The Arizona ground game rolled up 86 yards on 16 carries for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Of the 86 yards, 46 of them came on three carries. That makes the average per carry a little deceiving.
Mendenhall led the way with 29 yards but couldn't get going like he did in previous weeks.
Smith scored Arizona's lone touchdown and finished with 27 yards on three carries. His longest run of the day was 21 yards.
Ellington contributed in both the run game (19 yards) and the passing game (three receptions, 36 yards) and looked to be Arizona's best back on the day. Taylor added a two-yard reception but didn't contribute anything else.
Arizona could have run the ball more to keep the New Orleans offense on the sideline as long as possible. The Saints won the time of possession battle as they had the ball for 35:31 in the win.
Wide Receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Jaron Brown, Kerry Taylor
The wide receivers were hampered with Palmer's inaccuracy. Fitzgerald scraped together 64 yards on five catches. Floyd posted 49 yards on four catches to lead the Arizona receiving corps.
Brown, Taylor and Roberts combined for one catch for six yards on six targets.
Overall, the Arizona receivers were average. No one was really great, and no one was really awful. Palmer had issues with pressure, and it impacted the effectiveness of this positional unit.
Tight Ends: Rob Houser (above), Jim Dray, Kory Sperry
The Arizona tight ends were underutilized in the passing game. Housler had the only reception for this unit. Dray wasn't targeted despite making five receptions for 31 yards last week against Detroit. Sperry saw limited action as a blocker.
Head coach Bruce Arians likes running sets with two tight ends, but they need to get more involved in the passing game. Housler made his season debut after missing the first two games of the year with an ankle injury. It will take some time to get Housler up to speed, but Arizona can't afford the lack of production from this position.
Offensive Line (with position in parenthesis): Levi Brown (LT), Daryn Colledge (LG), Lyle Sendlein (C), Paul Fanaika (RG) Eric Winston (RT) and Nate Potter (OT).
Brown (pictured) had struggles with the oncoming pass rush for the second time in three weeks. Junior Galette of the Saints was able to bounce off him and record a sack on Palmer in the first quarter. Colledge was only okay but looked a little more comfortable at the left guard spot.
Sendlein and Fanaika didn't do anything good nor bad in the game. Winston was good and didn't have any major issues during the game. Potter came on in a pair of tackle-eligible situations but wasn't used in the passing game.
The line looked like the line of last season as Arizona couldn't effectively block in the passing game. It allowed four sacks, and Palmer took nine hits. Pass blocking is going to be more valuable than run blocking when you take on the Saints. The Cardinals were just bland as a unit here.
Defensive tackle: Alameda Ta'amu
The second-year player out of Washington was pressed into duty to replace nose tackle Dan Williams. Williams' father, Thomas, died in a car accident as he was driving to New Orleans to watch his son play.
Ta'amu and a rotation of defensive ends came in to plug the gap in the middle of the field. They were able to hold New Orleans to minus-six rushing yards in the first half.
Unfortunately, the Saints got their ground game going in the second half, which lowers this unit's grade.
Inside Linebackers: Karlos Dansby, Jasper Brinkley, Alex Okafor
Dansby (pictured above trying to haul down Marques Colston) led the way with a game-high 12 solo tackles. Two of those were tackles for loss. At one point in the fourth quarter, Dansby made the tackle on three consecutive plays. Dansby was very active and showed some flashes of his last stint in Arizona.
He was making his presence felt and looked like he was picking up the slack for Daryl Washington. Washington sat out the third game of his four-game suspension the league hit him with for violating the substance abuse policy.
Brinkley made four tackles, and Okafor recorded one tackle in the loss.
Defensive Ends: Darnell Dockett (pictured), Calais Campbell, John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy.
Dockett led the way for this group. He was able to burst through the New Orleans offensive line and record three sacks. Dockett was also credited with a total of four quarterback hits.
The rest of the group was mainly invisible, and none of them recorded more than Campbell's three tackles.
It was good to see Arizona get some pressure on Drew Brees since it had one sack in the first two games.
Outside linebackers: Sam Acho (pictured) and Lorenzo Alexander
Acho had a solid game recording a sack on his only tackle of the game. He also recovered a fumble early in the second quarter.
Lorenzo Alexander left the game in the first half with a foot injury and didn't return.
The Cardinals played more nickel and dime defensive coverage so the outside linebackers weren't very involved in this game.
Cornerbacks: Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers, Antoine Cason, Javier Arenas and Justin Bethel.
Peterson was all over the field but wasn't effective. He recorded four tackles on defense and ran two punts back for a total of 15 yards. Peterson had an 11-yard run on offense and a 2-yard loss on a reception. Peterson fumbled on one of his punt returns but Acho recovered it for Arizona.
This unit didn't do much in terms of tackles. Powers led the way with four tackles and was credited with defending two passes. Bethel downed a couple of punts inside the New Orleans 20-yard line on special teams.
The cornerbacks didn't add much to the team in this game.
Safeties: Yeremiah Bell, Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson.
The safeties performed well given the conditions they were playing in. Mathieu recorded 10 tackles and an interception. Bell added six tackles for the Cardinals, and Johnson chipped in three tackles.
They both had the task of trying to slow down tight end Jimmy Graham of the Saints. They weren't able to as he finished with 134 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.
Mathieu has to be given a lot of credit for doing his best to slow Graham down. Keep in mind that Graham is 6'7" and 265 pounds while Mathieu checks in at 5'9" and 186 pounds. Despite being 10 inches shorter and 79 pounds lighter, Mathieu was right there when it was his turn to cover Graham.
Special teams: Mike Leach (long snapper), Dave Zastudil (punter) and Jay Feely (kicker).
Leach was quiet, which is a good thing for a long snapper. Zastudil (holding for Feely, above) was stellar. He booted eight punts for the Cardinals with a long of 60 yards. Four of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line to pin the Saints back in their own territory.
Feely hit his extra point but didn't get a chance to kick a field goal. That was due to the Arizona offense not being able to get deep into New Orleans territory.
Excluding the first drive, the Cardinals ran one play inside the New Orleans 35-yard line. That was a 1st-and-10 play at the 19-yard line of the Saints. Palmer was intercepted by Kenny Vaccaro early in the fourth quarter.
With that lack of movement, Feely would have had to try field goals of at least 52 yards. He missed from 50 yards away against the St. Louis Rams in Week 1. That would make it difficult to trot him out for field-goal attempts from long range.