The New Orleans Saints beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to maintain their perfect season. The Saints were able to dominate the Cardinals’ offense with yet another stifling defensive performance. This win, unlike the two previous wins, also featured some offense. As ludicrous as it sounds, Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense were a bit out of sync the first two games. For the first time this season, the Saints’ offense looked crisp and had some semblance of rhythm.
Brees was able to get going, throwing for 342 yards and three touchdowns, but still wasn’t able to avoid a turnover free game. In addition, Brees proved that he can be a little bit of a dual threat with a rushing touchdown.
Brees’ rushing attempt, however, was the majority of the ground attack. The Saints’ ground game was once again suspect. Despite the total of 104 yards by the end of the game, the Saints actually lost 6 yards rushing in the first half. The lack of ground production was more of a product of the way the Cardinals were playing the Saints’ offense.
Sean Payton adjusted to the heavy fronts, which are not conducive to successful runs, by featuring a very extensive short passing game out of more two tight end sets. The adjustment proved effective as Brees was able to get into rhythm exploiting mismatches with Jimmy Graham, who has been on two-game tear racking up 313 yards in two games, and Darren Sproles.
Finally, some recognition must be given to two players. First Marques Colston performed well even though it was only a 71-yard day. Colston disappeared on Revis Island last week and then had to face Patrick Peterson and bounced back nicely. Also, undrafted free agent Khiry Robinson performed well on his 4 carries. Robinson was the star of the preseason and continues his success, averaging 9.5 yards per carry. Don’t be surprised if Robinson starts taking some of Mark Ingram’s carries.
While the offense finally came around, the defense put together yet another dominant performance. The defense looked like it was back to its old ways after allowing the Cardinals to march 80 yards for an opening touchdown. After that, however, they only allowed 167 yards, 78 of which came in garbage time after the Saints got up 24-7 in the fourth quarter. Rob Ryan’s defense continues to defy logic and put a potent unit out of the field despite playing with second-stringers.
The front 4 shined the brightest. Cam Jordan, Akiem Hicks, Tyrunn Walker, and Junior Galette were relentless, racking up 4 sacks and a numerous pressures. And because of this pressure, the secondary was able to get 2 interceptions by Kenny Vaccaro and Keenan Lewis (first interception for both as a Saint).
The defense is somehow ranked 5th in the league. It doesn’t make sense, but nobody is questioning it. After three games of sustained dominance, there is no way this is a fluke. The offense seems to be coming around, and will continue to get better. If the Saints are able to keep up the defensive effort, New Orleans may prove to be one of the scariest, most complete teams in the league. They will have a chance next week to show the entire nation as they play on Monday night in prime time against the 3-0 Dolphins.