The Arizona Cardinals returned to the scene of the crime of their 2009 Divisional Round loss, but three years later couldn't avoid a similar fate Sunday inside the Mercedez-Benz Superdome.
As was the case in the team's 45-14 playoff defeat to the New Orleans Saints back on Jan. 16, 2010, the Cardinals had no problem going 80 yards down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive.
But after Alfonso's Smith three-yard touchdown run five minutes and 47 seconds into the contest, the Cardinals' offense went silent and failed to score on its final 10 possessions -- eight punts and two interceptions.
The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees were happy to take advantage yet again.
Brees threw three touchdowns -- two to tight end Jimmy Graham -- and ran for another, as the Saints cruised to a 31-7 victory over the Cardinals.
Following its 80-yard touchdown drive, Arizona amassed only 167 yards the rest of the contest.
With the loss, the Cardinals have gone winless in their last nine road games.
Outside of their opening 80-yard touchdown drive, little went right for the Cardinals' offense.
That wasn't exactly the case for Todd Bowles' unit.
While the game was put out of reach in the fourth quarter, Arizona received notable contributions from Darnell Dockett and Tyrann Mathieu.
Dockett doubled his sack total from a season ago (1.5) with three on Drew Brees Sunday. Dockett's three sacks matched a career high set back in Super Bowl XLIII against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rookie Tyrann Mathieu returned to his home state of Louisiana with his third big play in as many weeks. In the third quarter, Mathieu picked off a Brees' pass intended for Lance Moore in the end zone for his first career interception. In addition to the pick, Mathieu had a career-high 10 total tackles.
In the first half, the Cardinals' offense sputtered due to a lack of pass protection.
Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked three times, hit five times and pressured 10 times in the first thirty minutes of play, as tackles Levi Brown and Eric Winston struggled to contain Junior Galette and Chandler High School alum Cameron Jordan.
Arizona followed up their poor offensive performance in the first half by recording just 22 yards in the third quarter -- thanks in large part to a sack by Glenn Foster and a third down penalty by Larry Fitzgerald.
In the fourth quarter, the sloppiness spilled over into Palmer's play. The Cardinals quarterback finished the contest with back-to-back interceptions, giving him four in the first three games of 2013.
Defensively, Arizona struggled once again to contain a big-play tight end. Regardless of who was covering him Sunday -- Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu or Yeremiah Bell -- the Saints' 6-foot-7 Jimmy Graham had a field day in the 24-point win. Graham grabbed a game-high nine catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
HE SAID IT
"There's a lot of disappointment. We are a team right now with a lot of potential. We're not finishing, and that's pretty much all it is. This was a team loss. We showed what we could do as a team, and then found a way to let it go." -- Arizona Cardinals guard Daryn Colledge
- After its 80-yard touchdown drive, Arizona didn't get inside New Orleans' 15-yard line the remainder of the afternoon.
- Dan Williams, who recorded a pick-six in Week 1, missed Sunday's game after his father was killed in a car accident earlier in the weekend.
- Lorenzo Alexander (foot), Rashad Johnson (finger) and Sam Acho (ankle) left the game due to injury and did not return. After the game Bruce Arians to Arizona Sports 620's Paul Calvisi that multiple players may be lost for the season, although he didn't specify the players by name.
- After going 1-of-11 on third down in last Sunday's 25-21 win over the Detroit Lions, the Cardinals went 5-of-13 against the Saints.
The Cardinals (1-2) will stay out on the road and take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) on Sunday, September 29 at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. MST and can be heard on 92.3 KTAR.