QB Carson Palmer picked up where he left off last season before tearing an ACL, throwing three touchdown passes and 307 yards, leading the Arizona Cardinals to a 31-19 victory over the always-energized New Orleans Saints to open their 2015 season. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was no slouch either, throwing for a total of 355 yards and a touchdown, but in the end there was simply too much red meat running wild on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium with 62,903 elated fans looking on.
If you’re not an avid fan and haven’t paid attention to this team lately, veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s post game comment sums them up in one line. “In Coach Arians’ car, there is no cruise control,” he said in a post-game interview. Head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim have done well in assembling a crop of players that compliment that vehicle with high octane fuel and they are loving his pedal-to-the-metal approach. Although the final score doesn’t fully indicate it, the game was close and hard-fought on both sidelines. The Saints played well on defense considering the pre-game injuries to the secondary and was able to hold Arizona at arms length until the fourth quarter after Raphael Bush, starting d-back Jarius Byrd’s replacement, left the game with a chest injury in the third. A depleted opposing secondary’s chances at lasting four successful quarters against Carson Palmer and his speedy surrounding cast are slim and none.
FIRST QUARTER: The Cardinals, led by Palmer’s passes of 14 and 18 yards to receivers John Brown and Michael Floyd respectively, and an 18-yard run by Andre Ellington, marched down the field 80 yards on nine plays with a 10 yard completion to John Brown to seal the deal on their opening drive. A 24-yard pass play from Brees to running back Mark Ingram highlighted a Saints drive that took over six minutes, ending with second-year kicker Zach Hocker making a 37-yard field goal with 3:55 left in the quarter. SCORE: Cardinals 7, Saints 3
SECOND QUARTER: Arizona’s first drive of the quarter was highlighted by a 48-yard pass play to tight end Darren Fells and aided by a Saints 17-yard penalty before Ellington took the last yard up the middle for a touchdown. The Saints answered with another controlled near-six minute drive that saw second-year/undrafted 6’6″, 225lb WR Brandon Coleman score his NFL debut touchdown of 12 yards. SCORE: Cardinals 14, Saints 10
THIRD QUARTER: Fresh from the break, this time Drew Brees and the Saints wasted no time getting down the field with a 63-yard pass play to WR Willie Snead, but were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal. The Cardinals responded on another Saints possession picking off a Brees-to-Colston pass, and with four seconds left in the third a 43-yard field goal by kicker Chandler Catanzaro was made to keep pace. SCORE: Cardinals 17, Saints 13
FOURTH QUARTER: A 30-yard completion from Brees to the speedy receiver Brandin Cooks helped set up yet another Zach Hocker field goal of 45 yards. Another costly pass interference penalty set up another Palmer-to-Fells connection, this time for a 17-yard score. Brees then hit Ingram again for 59 yards but the Saints played it safe and settled for a 33-yard field goal with 6:45 left to play. However, following two punts by each, and inside the two-minute mark, coach Arians did not play it safe and on the second play of their final series, Arizona’s Carson Palmer completed a pass to rookie running back David Johnson that took him 55 yards for the score. FINAL SCORE: Cardinals 14, Saints 10
In some circles, going for the jugular is frowned upon or considered disrespectful…Tough! This is NFL football. It’s also the NFC West and that’s exactly the killer instinct mentality it will take to overcome the competition here. Coach Arians and staff have an assortment of goodies in their bag and they will, no doubt, need every one of them along the NFC West way. Carson Palmer flourished at USC with both speed and talent; he’s got to be giddy again sniffing the fumes of the jets at his disposal this year, and while the talented Andre Ellington is out with what is now being called a mild PCL sprain of the knee, speedwise they won’t miss a beat with Chris (CJ2K) Johnson getting the start in week 2. The defense is a fired up and capable bunch and although Patrick Peterson is its documented star, make room for the ultra-talented Tyrann Mathieu (led both Cards and Saints in passes defended and total solo tackles) who is back healthy and out to make his mark in the NFL.
Oh, but file this under EVEN KINGS NEED ADVISERS: It’s been reported that the Arizona Cardinals got a pre-game boost when they became aware of the Seattle Seahawks losing to the St. Louis Rams in an early game. With Matte Forte, Alshon Jeffery and the Chicago Bears next week, the new improved Colin Kaepernick, Carlos Hyde and the San Francisco 49ers week 3, then the defense of the St. Louis Rams invading your turf week 4 (not even mentioning a certain running back healthy and playing by then), you might not want to look too far ahead to the Seahawks weeks 10 and 17.