Arizona Cardinals (1-1) vs New Orleans Saints (2-0)
Sunday September 22, Noon Kickoff Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Last week’s results: New Orleans beat Tampa Bay 16-14 and Arizona beat Detroit 25-21. The Cardinals used a seven play, 61 yard drive in 2:29 to take a 25-21 lead over the visiting Lions. Arizona scored the go-ahead points with just two minutes left in their game last week against the Lions. One could argue that the Cardinals could be and should be 2-0 on the season.
Arizona took a 24-13 led over the Rams in the first week of the season only to see the Rams close out the game on a 14-0 run. Arizona started the 2012 season 4-0 only to lose their 11 of last 12 games of the regular season to finish with a 5-11 record.
Series History: The Saints have played the Cardinals 26 times with the Cardinals owning a 14-13 advantage against the Black and Gold. The last time the teams met was back in 2010 when Arizona beat New Orleans 30-20 in Arizona. The two have met 26 times in the regular season and once in the playoffs. After the 2009 regular season the Saints opened the post season with a 45-14 blowout win over Arizona in the NFC Divisional playoffs.
New “Arians” out there: He led the Colts to a surprising 11 win regular season in 2012 and an AFC playoff berth and then became the Head Coach of the Cardinals. Bruce Arians was named the NFL Coach of the Year last season as well. Did you know that Coach Arians was the Saints TE Coach under then Saints Head Coach Jim Mora? Me neither. I read it in the Cardinals' game notes.
Turnover in the desert: Over the course of the last few seasons there has been a lot of turnover in Arizona in the form of players. There will be 17 new starting players on the Cardinals Roster since the last time the Saints played Arizona. And only 11 current members on the Arizona Roster where on the team when the teams last played during the 2010 season.
Down from the Bayou
The Honey Badger, LB Kevin Minter and the multi-talented Patrick Peterson are all former LSU players who are on the Cardinals Roster. Minter is injured and may not play, Peterson is coming off a game in which he more than had his hands full in covering Lions WR Calvin Johnson and Mathieu made the game saving tackle in the Cards 25-21 win over Detroit last weekend in the desert.
Other Louisiana connections from the Cardinals include former Cards great and former Southern University Coach Stump Mitchell. Mitchell was fired after just two games in 2012 at Southern and now he is the RB’s coach for Arizona.
Cardinals assistant OL Coach Larry Zierlein coached at both LSU and Tulane in the 1990’s, Arizona Special Teams Coordinator Amos Jones once coached at Tulane, QB’s Coach Freddie Kitchens was at LSU in 2000, Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowels was at Grambling State in the late 90’s.
Master P! No other player in the NFL has been on the field more than Arizona’s Patrick Peterson. The former LSU Tiger has been on the field for 125 plays, the most in the league. Double P has 118 of the Cardinals 119 defensive snaps to his credit and Peterson has also been a part of seven offensive snaps. Look for this talented young star to play all over the field again Sunday in the dome.
Maintain Defense, maintain! The Saints Defense has been outstanding the first two weeks this season. Teams are not converting on third down, the Saints are allowing only 15 points per game and the defense has made game saving and game changing plays in two weeks as well.
“We just want to get better each time we step on the field,” said Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. If the Saints Defense can maintain their current play, the Saints stand to win a lot of games this season. And I mean a lot!
On the run! The Saints have shown commitment to running the football. But their efforts have yet to yield anything significant. “I thought there was improvement. They graded out well,” said Coach Sean Payton when asked how his O-Line did in the team’s 16-14 win over Tampa Bay.
However the Saints have averaged just 76.5 rushing yards in their first two games. And the guy that is supposed to play the role of main RB, Mark Ingram is averaging less than two yards per carry.
Folks you don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford to know that something is not working. The Saints, I do believe will continue to try and pound the football. But if better numbers are not achieved, looking elsewhere for production coming out of the backfield will be necessary.
Early leader board: The Saints would like to get off to a fast start against the Cardinals. Yes we hear that every week. But this time around the Saints would like to get 7 instead of three on their first possession.
New Orleans had a nice opening drive last week but failed to cash in with a TD instead calling on K Garrett Hartley for a Field Goal. And yes, the Black and Gold could really be looking pretty after just three weeks into the season.
If Tampa loses at NE, the NY Giants beat Carolina and Miami beats Atlanta the Saints could be 3-0 with a solid distance between themselves and the rest of the NFC South.
Get into the Zone. The End Zone: New Orleans is most dangerous when their offense puts pressure on opposing teams to keep up. In order for this to happen the Saints have to score in the Red Zone.
Last week New Orleans was 0-4 in the Red Zone. That’s not good. The Saints are 1-7 in the Red Zone this season. I’d say it’s time to score some TD’s. Wouldn’t you?
The Big Chief’s Final Analysis
The oddsmakers have the Saints as a 7 ½ point favorite with the over/under at 48 ½. New Orleans has to get out of their offensive funk eventually, right? Why not this week? Well, I think it will be harder to get out of the rushing funk this week than the previous two.
The Cards have some good defensive play makers and they have been salty against the run allowing only 58 yards per game. I see the Saints struggling some again to get production on the ground and if that is the case the Red Zone trips will be very key in this game.
The Saints can’t keep kicking field goals. They need Td’s. I like the Saints at home but Arizona is not a bad team. In fact the Cardinals should be 2-0. In a tight one I say New Orleans 27 Arizona 21
What they are saying
Arizona Cardinals CB #21 Patrick Peterson on the Saints Offense
“We see that these guys are very explosive there in the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome. As a defense, we have to seize the moment because they come out so fiery in the first quarter and they like to move the ball and get a lot of plays in and take their shots. As a defense, we have to seize those moments. We know those guys are going to move the ball; we want to do our best job to try and contain that. We want to slow down their big play ability guys. We know that they’re going to take those shots. We can’t give up those big plays, but the whole key to their offense, which everyone knows, is Drew Brees. I believe that if you can get to him and harass him a little bit, although he’s a great quarterback, a lot of quarterbacks don’t like to get hit. If we can get a couple of hits on him, rattle him up a little bit, we don’t necessarily have to get sacks but if we get some clean hits and let him know that we’re there, I think we’ll have a productive day, especially in the back end, not giving him the opportunity to set his feet and scan the field and pick us apart.”
Saints Coach Sean Payton on Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu making the transition from CFB to the NFL.
“He’s done very well his first year. On tape, he has very good instincts. I know that is something that served him well when he played at LSU, and it’s also evident now on pro tape. You never know how quickly a player is going to be inserted into a lineup, but he’s fit in their nickel scheme very well. He’s very confident, he has good ball skills, he’s very smart on the field, and you can see that on tape.”
Saints QB #9 Drew Brees on how the play of the Saints Defense helps the Saints Offense
“Yeah, it is. What it does, in the game the other day, the defense played phenomenal. The only two touchdowns they scored were from two turnovers and that’s when we give them the ball deep in our territory on one and they run one back from a touch down. At the end of the day, you say our defense didn’t give up any points. Those were all points that I gave up for that matter. I feel terrible about that. But yeah, when the defense is playing like that, you feed off that, especially when they got us two turnovers around midfield. You feel like you are going to take those and get points immediately. That is complimentary football at its best, where you are feeding off their emotion, their success, their ability to take the ball away and those kind of things. You are capitalizing on those and in turn I think that feeds them. When we are moving the ball on offense and sustaining drives and giving them rest and scoring points at the end of it, I know they get charged up too.”
Saints Coach Sean Payton on Arizona DB Patrick Peterson
“He’s explosive so we need to have a game plan in special teams devoted just to punt coverage. Fortunately, Thomas (Morstead) is one of the better punters in this league and he understands distance, hang time, and location are critical. It is always easy to say, hey, let’s kick the ball to the sideline, but having to come off your foot where you want to go with it directionally is a skillset. I think that is something he is very good at and it’s going to be important in this game.”