All good things must come to an end.
At least for the Arizona Cardinals, I suppose.
The redbirds road into the Superdome riding a three-game winning streak only to be completed suffocated by the ever-impressive Saints defense en route to a 31-9 loss.
Oh, and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees returned to throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.
The Saints dominated time of possession from the opening kickoff while out-gaining the Kingsbury led Cardinals 501-237.
Arizona’s defense hung in valiantly, especially during the first half, holding Brees and company to a mere 10 points.
It was the usually proficient Cardinal offense that hit a wall on Sunday. Already without Pro Bowl RB David Johnson, Chase Edmonds was stifled by the New Orleans front seven. Edmonds, who left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury, managed only 8 yards on 7 carries.
The lack of a consistent run game hampered Murray’s ability to continually produce in the air, as he faced more pressure than in recent weeks.
The game inevitably changed for the worse when the trailing Cardinals (6-10) opted to go for it on fourth-and-one from their own 29. Edmonds was predictably stuffed off the left side and the Saints never looked back.
Brees finished with a sparkling line of 34 of 43 for 373 yards and three touchdowns, with his only blemish being an acrobatic interception curtsey of Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals move to 3-4-1 as they prepare for the unbeaten 49ers on a short week.
Game Ball: Christian Kirk
Returning after a three game absence due to a nagging ankle injury, Kirk was Arizona’s most productive offensive weapon on Sunday. The second year pass catcher hauled in three receptions for 79 yards while also contributing 19 yards on a nifty end around run.
Kirk remains one of the few Arizona receivers capable of separating vs man coverage and will be a critical element for this offense moving forward.
Needs Work: Arizona Run Game
After fielding one of the most productive running games over the course of the last month, the Cardinals were left completely one dimensional against the Saints. It didn’t help that now both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds are injured but more so that the Arizona offensive line was a total liability on Sunday.
The unit finished with a disastrous 40 rushing yards, must of it skewed by the maneuverability of Kyler Murray.
Zach Zenner looked predictably out of sync thanks to minimal practice reps. If neither Johnson nor Edmonds can suit up against San Fran come Thursday, the Cardinals will once again struggle against a fearsome front seven.
Rookie Spotlight: Kyler Murray
Cardinal quarterback Kyler Murray was mostly good Sunday, completing 19 passes on 33 attempts. However Sunday marked the second consecutive game in which Murray did not accumulate a touchdown for Arizona.
On the season, through eight games, Murray has just seven passing touchdowns while contributing two on the ground. It’s fair to wonder if this is more a product of personnel once Arizona enters the red zone. For example, later in the second quarter, Larry Fitzgerald bungled a sure touchdown pass from Murray as the veteran failed to secure both feet inbounds.
- After surrounding three sacks in their previous three games (all wins), the Cardinal offensive line regressed Sunday, allowing three sacks on Kyler Murray. Murray himself likely evaded several more, with both D.J. Humphries and Justin Murray struggling to contain the New Orleans rush.
- This was not one of Kliff Kingsbury’s better-coached games, as I’ve already mentioned the botched fourth down call. Additionally, the first year head coach opted NOT to challenge a blatant pass interference call against Christian Kirk late in the game. This was mostly due to the fact that Kingsbury had already mismanaged his timeouts throughout the second half. Kingsbury will be better but on Sunday he was schooled by one of the best in Sean Payton.
- Charles Clay emerged as the team’s leading receiver Sunday, hauling in three catches for 88 yards. The tight end position remains one of the surprise position groups for Arizona, as both Clay and Maxx Williams have been good contributors on an offense that desperately needs playmakers.
- Rookie receiver KeeSean Johnson was inactive (healthy scratch) for the first time this season. Additionally, second round wide out Andy Isabella saw minimal playing time while failing to secure a catch. The receiver position is a growing concern for the Cardinals and their rookie class’s lack of production isn’t helping.
- Sunday marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Cardinal offense did not commit a turnover.
- With that said, Kyler Murray did fumbled for the first time as pro (he did recover it).
- Rookie safety Jalen Thompson had his most productive day as a young pro, tallying six tackles for the Cardinal defense. He made a couple nice stops in coverage and should see his roll increased in the second half of the season.
- The Cardinals failed to secure a sack of Drew Brees following their eight-sack performance against the Giants a week ago.
- Zane Gonzalez was Arizona’s leading (and only) scorer for the afternoon, nailing all three of his field goals (including a 50 yarder).
- At the writing of this article, the Arizona Cardinals hold the 14th overall pick in next April’s draft.