Saints grind down Cardinals on Hall of Fame weekend for sixth straight win

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NEW ORLEANS – Okay, I must confess and digress.

I was among those who openly wondered if the Saints should rest Drew Brees through the bye week and bring him back against Atlanta.

I was not alone.

I was wrong.

When Brees said he wanted to play and said he would tell Sean Payton he was ready and could play and Payton would believe him, we should have known.

Brees said he could play. Payton listened. Brees delivered, making Payton look very smart, as he does, more often than not.

After a bad decision resulting in an interception in the third quarter, Brees responded in decisive fashion with two big touchdown passes and he would finish with three scoring tosses.

The Saints would finish with a convincing win, displaying the kind of focus elite teams display, regardless of who is injured and who is playing.

Here are my Quick Takes on the 31-9 win over Arizona:

**Arizona won the toss and deferred, giving the Saints the ball first.

**The Saints had a nice opening drive.

**The Saints had a nice drive to start the game, using 12 plays and reaching the Arizona 29-yard line but Wil Lutz missed a 47-yard field goal, his third straight miss.

**The drive stalled when on first down from the Arizona 35, the Saints tried a trick play end-around with Michael Thomas and he was belted for a 9-yard loss.

**Arizona connected on a trick play on a throwback to Kyler Murray, who then hit Charles Clay for 47 yards to the New Orleans 14-yard line. The Saints stiffened defensively and forced a 31-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead with 5:41 to play in the opening quarter. The drive covered six plays, 50 yards, taking 3:15 off the clock.

**The Saints had seven first downs to just one for Arizona in the first quarter and New Orleans had 100 yards to just 50 for the Cardinals. New Orleans had 21 offensive snaps to just six for Arizona. The Saints had the ball for 11:47 to just 3:13 for the Cardinals and still trailed 3-0.

**New Orleans responded with a 14 play, 68-drive, taking 6:28 off the clock which stalled at the Arizona 7-yard line. Lutz then connected on a 26-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 with 14:13 to play in the half. The big play of the drive was a 22-yard pass from Brees to Taysom Hill.

**The Saints took the lead 10-3 with 8:59 to play in the first half on a 71-yard seven play drive covering 3:59. Latavius Murray scored on an 8-yard run. Murray accounted for 27 yards on the drive and Brees hit Michael Thomas for 28 yards to get the drive in motion.

**Arizona responded with 9 play, 51 yards, taking 3:41 off the clock with Gonzalez hitting a 31-yard field goal to cut the New Orleans lead to 10-6 with 5:18 to play in the half. The big play of the drive was a 19-yard completion from Murray to Clay.

**New Orleans then drove the ball to the Arizona 20-yard line but on a completion from Brees to Murray, it appeared Murray was tackled out-of-bounds. It was ruled in-bounds and the clock continued to run as the Saints had no timeouts left.

**Rather than spiking the ball, Brees opted to run a play and he hit Dan Arnold for a touchdown but Terron Armstead was called for holding. Because the clock had run out, by rule, the half ended on the play and the Saints did not even have a shot at a field goal.

**The Saints dominated every facet of the half, finishing with 197 yards to just 106 for the Cardinals. New Orleans had the ball for 20:52 in the half to just 9:08 for Arizona. New Orleans had 42 snaps to just 19 for Arizona.

**Erik McCoy went down injured last in the first half, replaced by Will Clapp but McCoy returned to start the second half.

**Brees was 20-of-27 for 192 yards in the first half. He went over 75,000 yards passing by the end of the half, the first quarterback to ever do so in NFL history.

**Brees made a bad decision, trying to throw deep into double coverage to Zach Line and it was intercepted by Patrick Peterson.

**Then, Kliff Kingsbury made a huge mistake. On third-and-one, Murray threw badly, incomplete. Then, on fourth-and-one from his own 30, Kingsbury elected to go for it and David Onyemata and friends stuffed Chase Edmunds for no gain, giving the Saints the ball at the 30.

**New Orleans took full advantage, driving 30 yards in five plays with Brees hitting Murray on a 15-yard touchdown pass to give the Saints a 17-6 lead with 5:25 to play in the third quarter.

**Arizona then drove nine plays, 43 yards, taking 3:43 off the clock with Gonzalez hitting a 50-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-9 with 1:42 to play in the third quarter. The big play of the drive was a 22-yard completion from Murray to Clay.

**Will Clapp was injured on the final play of the third quarter and limped off the field.

**New Orleans then had an excellent drive, going 75 yards in seven plays with Brees hitting Taysom Hill on a 5-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-9 with 12:48 to play. Brees was 4-of-4 for 69 yards on the drive.

**Trey Hendrickson returned to action and recorded a pair of sacks.

**New Orleans put the cherry on top of the whipped cream, driving 73 yards in three plays to increase the lead to 31-9. First, Murray ran 28 yards before Brees hit a wide open Taysom Hill for 36 yards. Then, Brees connected with Thomas on a 9-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-9 with 5:18 to play in the game.

**Payton then made a really good move, inserting Bridgewater into the game for the final offensive series of the game. Bridgewater came into chants of β€œTeddy, Teddy.” He received a well-deserved ovation. It was a great moment.

Brees is a treasure, one to appreciate now and for life for what he has done for this franchise. He remains a brilliant player, tough as nails and burns to compete and win.

Bridgewater is the best No. 2 quarterback in the league and can start and win games. Taysom Hill is a tremendous talent who can hurt people at quarterback and so many other ways. The Saints have the best quarterback room in the NFL. I challenge anyone to debate that premise.

New Orleans thoroughly dominated the Cardinals. The Saints amassed 510 yards of offense, including 137 rushing.

Brees was simply being Drew. He completed 34-of-43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns with one interception . New Orleans was 7-of-12 on third-down conversions. New Orleans had 72 offensive snaps to just 45 for the Cardinals. The Saints had the ball for 37:59 to just 22:01 for the Cardinals.

Thomas caught 11 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. Call that perfect.

Murray had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Murray finished with 21 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, along with the touchdown reception.

On a day where Reggie Bush was honored with being inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame, Thomas became the first player since Bush in 2009 against Tampa Bay to have 11 targets and all resulted in catches.

Murray is the 15th Saints running back to record a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the same came. Ten of those have been in the Payton era.

Taysom Hill remains a heck of a weapon.

The Saints held Arizona to just 237 yards, including just 40 rushing.

The Saints are really good. They are now 7-1, winners of six straight games. Their defense is now of championship caliber. Their offense is looking good. So is their prognosis moving forward.

Now comes the bye week, a chance to get rested and healed up for the second half of the season. The bye comes at the perfect time, in the middle of the season. Perhaps you will see Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook returning after the break. Ditto for Tre’Quan Smith. That is the hope.

There is real hope that this team can get back to Miami this year, the site of the greatest accomplishment in franchise history, if the Saints can get healthy and stay healthy enough. This team is that good.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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