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Notes from the Nest: Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Well here we are, folks. It’s Week 1 of the NFL season and the Cardinals are set to host the New Orleans Saints.

It’s an interesting matchup given how much is expected of the Cardinals while little is thought of the Saints, though that does not mean this won’t be a tough matchup for the home team.

After all, any squad coached by Sean Payton and quarterbacked by Drew Brees will present a challenge.

The good news, if you’re Arizona, is that receiver Michael Floyd is active and int he lineup, as are tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas.

All told, the Cards are pretty healthy heading into this game, which is something the Saints cannot say as their secondary is especially banged up.

The Cardinals won the toss and elected to receive.


End of game

And that’ll do it. Cards get the stop, get the ball back and get the win. Final is 31-19 as Arizona starts the season off right. Time to head down to the locker room. I’m sure Ellington will be a topic, but I wouldn’t expect much of an answer today.


 

1:33 left in fourth quarter

How wrong I was. The Cards get a couple yards on a run and then Palmer hits David Johnson out of the backfield for a 51-yard TD. The rookie showed impressive speed on the play. It is now 31-19 Cardinals.


 

1:49 left in fourth quarter

Defense comes up with a stop and the Saints punt it away from their own end zone. With two timeouts left the Cardinals will need a first down in order to officially put this one away. They start at their own 43. It’s going to be the Chris Johnson show. Can he perform?


 

2:12 left in fourth quarter

Cardinals take to the air on third and long but can’t complete the pass. Butler’s punt is downed at the three, which is great if you’re the Cardinals. The Saints have two timeouts (plus the two-minute warning) and a long way to go.


 

4:37 left in fourth quarter

Cardinals moving the ball and the chains with some short passes and nice runs from Chris Johnson. It’s currently 2nd and 8 from the Arizona 37. If the Cards can chew up some clock here it would be an impressive sign for them, being able to run the ball when absolutely needing to.


 

6:45 left in fourth quarter

The defense comes up big again, snuffing out a screen pass on third down to force a 33-yard field goal. Hocker is having himself a day for the Saints, so congrats if he’s on your fantasy team.

Anyway, the score is 24-19 and you’d think one more good TD drive would be enough to ice this one away. Anything short of that, though, and the Cards better at least give the Saints a long field to work with.


 

8:59 left in fourth quarter

Cardinals force the Saints into a third down but a short pass to Ingram goes for 59 yards. New Orleans is at the Arizona 15, as Rashad Johnson walks off the field with an apparent injury. Running backs have been killing the Cards in the passing game today, with Sean Payton giving James Bettcher a playcalling clinic.


 

9:48 left in fourth quarter

Cardinals get a BIG touchdown on a pass from Palmer to Fells. The 17-yard score gives Arizona some breathing room, as the PAT makes it 24-16 home team.

However, the drive was not without trouble, as Andre Ellington was injured during a run. There was no contact on the play and he appeared to hurt his leg, which is super troubling. The RB was helped off the field by trainers and then is being taken to the locker room on a cart. Cards have seen too much of that over the last year or so.


 

12:24 left in fourth quarter

The Saints move down the field with the help of a 30-yard pass from Brees to Cooks. Peterson wasn’t beat bad on the play, but he was beat enough for a perfect pass to get there. The D stiffened up from there, though, and some Frostee Rucker pressure forced Brees to throw the ball away on third down. Hocker is good from 45-yards out on the field goal, and the score is Arizona 17, New Orleans 16.


 

End of third quarter

The Saints pick up a yard on a run and head into the fourth with the ball at their own 21.

 


 

:04 left in third quarter

On third and four Palmer has plenty of time, but is nearly picked trying to squeeze a pass to the TE Fells. At any rate, it falls incomplete and Catanzaro comes in to attempt a 43-yard field goal. It is good, and Arizona’s lead extends to 17-13.


 

2:15 left in third quarter

Well how about that! The Saints move down the field a bit, but on third and long Brees fires a pass that bounces off a covered Marques Colston’s hands and into the waiting arms of Rashad Johnson. The safety returns the interception to the Arizona 40, and just like that the Cardinals have life again.


 

5:18 left in third quarter

Andre Ellington with a strong run up the middle, breaking tackles and moving forward, but at the end of the run has the ball knocked out of his  hands for a fumble. The Saints recover at their own 38. First turnover of the game goes to the visitors, and the Cards are kind of in a danger zone, here.


 

5:33 left in third quarter

Cards get a big first down on a pass to Fitzgerald, and on the next play Palmer has No. 11 wide open down the field but overthrows him. Tough miss, though Palmer was hit right after he threw so it was not as if he had a clean pocket to get the pass off.

The Saints are called for a defensive hold on the next play, giving Arizona another first down. They’re at their own 49.


 

7:04 left in third quarter

There was no turnover, but after allowing one first down the defense comes up with a couple pressures on Brees before forcing a third and long. That led to a fourth and less long, but still a punt. It goes out of bounds at the Arizona 30.

The Cardinals’ offense has looked dominant some of the time, but clunky, too. With a one-point lead, now would not be a bad time to move the ball down the field a bit and get back on the scoreboard.


 

10:21 left in third quarter

Cardinals go three-and-out as Palmer’s third-down pass to John Brown falls incomplete. Not a good start to the second half for Arizona’s offense, which began the game looking great. So far no turnovers in this game, and while there is never a bad time for your defense to come up with one, this would be a good spot for Arizona to make a play and recapture some momentum.


 

12:01 left in third quarter

Hocker is good from 23-yards out on the field goal attempt, making the score 14-13 Arizona. All things considered, not a bad job by the D to stiffen up and keep the Saints out of the end zone.


 

12:51 left in third quarter

Well it wasn’t a screen pass, but Brees hit Willie Snead for a 63-yard gain on the first play of the half. Snead beat Jerraud Powers on the play, then broke some tackles and was off to the races. The D has a chance to redeem itself with a 3rd and 5 from their own seven.

The Saints went to another screen pass and Robinson broke some tackles but was ultimately tackled short of the sticks.


 

14:53 left in third quarter

Short kickoff is returned to the New Orleans 25, so it’s like a NCAA touchback. The Saints will go to work from there. Can Arizona’s D adjust to what NO is doing, specifically the screen passes?


 

Halftime

Palmer scrambles for the first down and good yardage, but it was in the middle of the field and with no timeouts left the Cards were unable to stop the clock. So, the drive ends with Arizona in Saints territory.

The half, on the other hand, ends with the home team up 14-10. Cardinals have played well enough, but have made some costly mistakes in this one.


 

:14 left in second quarter

Palmer nearly picked off trying again for Nelson deep. Ball falls incomplete, though, and Cardinals are still alive on this drive. It’s 3rd and 10, though, from the NO 39 — which means it’s a really, REALLY long field goal if they can’t go anywhere on this play.


:27 left in second quarter

First down Cardinals but they spend their last timeout after a short catch by Fells. First play post-timeout is a bomb to J.J. Nelson. The WR wasn’t really open and the ball wasn’t really close. Second down from the New Orleans 39.


 

:54 left in second quarter

A screen pass attempt nearly goes awry when Cameron Jordan almost picks it off — he doesn’t, and the following play Palmer steps up and hits Larry Fitzgerald for a nice gain. It is first down, Cardinals, at their own 49.


1:07 left in second quarter

Markus Golden finally gets a pressure on Brees, hitting the QB just after he gets the pass off. It actually should have been caught but was dropped, and J.J. Nelson returns the punt to the Arizona 37.


2:00 left in second quarter

Saints pick up a first down on another screen pass, but on first down get a false start penalty. Short gain after that makes it 2nd and 11 at the NO 20.


3:38 left in second quarter

After Johnson loses a yard, Palmer hits Jaron Brown for eight. On third down, Watford is beat and Palmer is forced to avoid the rush. He throws incomplete down the field looking for Chris Johnson, and the drive ends.

Butler’s punt is fair caught at the New Orleans 11, so at least the Cardinals flipped the field. But after a kick return like the one they got, you’d like to see points put on the board.


5:07 left in second quarter

David Johnson takes the kickoff from deep in the end zone and returns it 43 yards to the Arizona 36. That’s where the drive will start, with Chris Johnson in at RB.


 

5:14 left in second quarter

Know why you just can’t do that? Because the Saints took advantage of that opportunity and got a 12-yard touchdown on a pass from Brees to Brandon Coleman. Tyrann Mathieu missed a tackle on the play.

The PAT is good, and the score is 14-10 Cardinals.

8:19 left in second quarter

Check that. Cardinals called for having too many players on the field, which gives the Saints five yards and a first down. That will not make Bruce Arians happy because you cannot give the Saints offense new life. Just can’t.


8:29 left in second quarter

Saints move down the field a bit by way of the screen pass, which is a great way to negate an aggressive Cardinals blitz. On 3rd and three, Brees had Ingram open on a wheel route, but the RB wasn’t looking and the pass fell incomplete. The Saints line up as if they were going for it, but call timeout and elect to punt.

The ball is downed at the Arizona 1.


 

11:03 left in second quarter

The Saints are called for three penalties on one play, the most severe of which was a pass interference in the end zone. With the ball at the one, the Cards go with Andre Ellington, who runs up the middle and sneaks into the end zone for a touchdown.

On the play, A.Q. Shipley — a center — was lined up as the fullback. The PAT is good (even after a false start by Jared Veldheer) and the score is 14-3 Cardinals.


 

11:37 left in second quarter

Cardinals moving the ball well. Offensive line benefiting from big blocks by Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford. Chris Johnson enters the game and picks up six yards, then Palmer hits TE Darren Fells for a 48-yard gain.

Cardinals in the red zone at the New Orleans 18.


 

14:07 left in second quarter

On third and eight, Brees finds a receiver but for only a short gain. The punt is fair caught at the Arizona 12 by J.J. Nelson.

So, the scoring has slowed just a bit. Good to see Arizona’s D come up with a stop.

Can the offense take advantage?


1:45 left in first quarter

It was third and relatively short, and Palmer stepped up and scrambled a bit to his right. On the run he threw deep to an open John Brown, but the ball was a tad underthrown and though the receiver appeared to make the catch, the ball was knocked loose at the last second and fell incomplete. Almost a really big play right there.

Note to the Saints, you’re not going to cover John Brown on-on-one. It just won’t happen.

Drew Butler’s punt bounces out of bounds at the New Orleans 32 — not exactly a great kick.


 

2:50 left in first quarter

Cardinals, looking to respond, get a 14-yard reception from John Brown on 3rd and 10 to keep the drive alive. Big catch, given the possibility this game will be a bit of a shootout.


3:55 left in first quarter

On 3rd and three Brees has time and looks for Brandin Cooks in the back of the end zone. Patrick Peterson, who was in great position, defends against the pass and it falls incomplete. Cards call timeout before Zach Hocker lines up for the field goal.

The kick is good from 37 yards out. Cards still up 7-3.


5:40 left in first quarter

Saints moving down the field, pick up a first down on a 24-yard screen pass to Mark Ingram. Cards struggling to stop New Orleans — forced a couple of third and shorts on this drive but could not hold.

Saints are now facing a 2nd and 7 at the Arizona 23.


 

Still 9:46 left in first quarter

Catanzaro’s kick sails into the end zone and it’s a touchback. Interested to see how James Bettcher’s defense fares in his first game as the coordinator. Tough test in the Payton/Brees combo.


 

9:46 left in first quarter

Just when all seemed lost on that drive, Carson Palmer works some magic. Facing a third down from the 10, he rolled to his right and bought some time, waited, looked, waited and looked some more, and found John Brown heading to the sideline in the end zone. The Cardinals have their first TD of the year, and Catanzaro’s extra-long extra point is good.

7-0 Cardinals after a very impressive drive.


 

11:35 left in first quarter

The Saints are offering little resistance thus far, with Palmer finding open receivers down the field and Andre Ellington being granted some room to run. Palmer was flushed out of the pocket just now and scrambled for a few yards. Everyone held their breath, but he made it OK. Next play is a first-down pass to Darren Fells, who is dragged down by his facemask.

First and goal from the eight.


 

15:00 left in first quarter

Kick goes for a touchback and Cards start at their 20. First pass is a quick strike to John Brown, who catches and runs to the 34. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a big day from No. 12 as I’m not sure the Saints  have a player who can keep up with the second-year pro.