This game really showed the advantage of the bye week, especially with the Cards coming off an emotional and physically draining victory against the Pack. The Saints haven't had a meaningful game in over a month and could focus all their attention on this week, get healthy, and not have to travel. Their energy level was at an absolute peak, as Shawn Payton mentioned after the game. The Cards were already banged up physically and it got immediately worse with the loss of DRC and Rolle. That pretty much sealed this game, unless the Saints had gotten sloppy with the ball.
After viewing other fan comments, I have these observations:
The Cards badly missed Boldin in this game, in my view, because unlike the Packers game, the Saints coverage was far better and the feel between Warner and Boldin on timing passes would have been more important. Doucet is very good already, but there is no replacement for the chemistry between receiver and QB that has grown over the years. Obviously, the fumble by Urban was huge in reversing the momentum that would probably have had the Cards up seven instead of down seven.
I don't think this one game means that Whiz should give up his offensive play-calling. No, it wasn't one of his better efforts (the running play calls were especially curious) but he was brilliant just a week ago. Plus, you have to give credit to the Saints defense, which seemed to be everywhere. There were very few wide open receivers for the Cards. Also, the protection wasn't good enough to allow Warner to wait for receivers to run longer routes.
I don't understand the defensive play-calling in this game for the same reason I didn't understand it the week before. If something isn't working, and one touchdown drive after another is a pretty good indication it isn't working, you have to change things up a bit. What happened to the defensive pressure that was brought against the Vikings? If the three man front isn't doing it, you have to blitz to have any chance to stop Brees, who was not pressured in the least all day. Davis will have to explain this. The Cards obviously need help on Defense if they are going to remain competitive. They couldn't even cover Shockey, who was hobbling around at half-speed. The ease with which Brees and the Saints marched down the field had to be a morale killer for the whole team.
Despite Hightower's nice run at the beginning, he hurt them later with at least one dropped pass and mishandle of the ball that cut short what would have been a huge gain. Still, the offense cannot be perfect every week, which is what they would have had to be against the Saints.
Overall, the Cards underperformed in every phase of the game, including special teams, which had been so good throughout the season. But I go back to my original point: the Saints had the luxery of resting and preparing for this game, while the Cards were badly depleted. This game, however, does not wipe out the fact that the Cards have had another successful season. The playoffs have shown the areas that need improvement for the coming season.
Finally, thanks to all the regular contributors to this site. I have learned alot from your comments and research.