2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Saints gain confidence from 31-7 win vs. Cardinals

By BRETT MARTEL - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-23 03:26

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans Saints players often wore T-shirts with the phrase, ``Be Special,'' printed across the front during the season in which they won the Super Bowl.

Between coach Sean Payton's return from his bounty ban, his morale-boosting hiring of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and quarterback Drew Brees' continued prowess in the passing game, the Saints are starting to have that look of a special squad again.

After a pair of narrow victories over NFC South Division rivals to open the regular season, the Saints rode their surprisingly suffocating defense and Brees' play-making to a convincing 31-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

In securing their first 3-0 start since their Super Bowl season of 2009, the Saints took particular satisfaction in their fourth-quarter dominance, a goal Payton set leading up to the game.

``We won the first two weeks in nail-biter situations,'' Brees said. ``We talked all week about finishing. ... We were successful in that regard.''

The Cardinals, who beat Detroit a week earlier, looked like a formidable foe when they marched 80 yards on the game's opening possession, capping the drive with a 3-yard run by Alfonso Smith for a 7-0 lead. After that, however, it was all Saints.

Brees was 29 of 46 for 342 yards and three touchdowns - two to tight end Jimmy Graham and one to recently reacquired receiver Robert Meachem. Brees also scrambled 7 yards for a score.

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer wound up 18 of 35 for 187 yards. He was sacked four times and intercepted twice by the Saints' resurgent defense, which ranked last in the league last season.

``There's not a lot of positives other than the beginning of the ball game,'' Cardinals first-year coach Bruce Arians said. ``We played very poorly.''

Here are five things we know from New Orleans' victory over Arizona:

1. DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: Ryan's defense in New Orleans has allowed only four TDs through three games while getting pressure up front and creating turnovers. The unit was encouraged after keeping Arizona scoreless on its last 10 drives, but also pleased by a three-game trend of strong play highlighted by eight sacks and four interceptions.

``We're just buying into the scheme, players are trusting players and we're playing as hard as we can,'' Vaccaro said after making his first career interception against Arizona. ``We know we've got the talent.''

2. TYRANN'S TALENT: Tryann Mathieu's stardom in college continues to translate well in the NFL. The New Orleans native fittingly made a difficult grab of a Brees overthrow for his first career interception. Mathieu's small stature and trouble staying off drugs while in college left many skeptical about his ability to make it as a pro. So far, so good.

``He has taken great strides, and we just look for him to continue to make plays,'' Peterson said. ``We know that he is not going to let us down.''

3. GRAHAM'S GROWTH: Barring injuries, Graham is likely to be a matchup problem for most teams the Saints play this season. He had nine catches for 134 yards, including touchdowns of 16 and 7 yards. Even Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals' best all-around athlete, had trouble defending Graham.

``He knows how to maneuver his body real well,'' Peterson said of Graham. ``He did a good job boxing us out and going up and getting the ball.''

Graham's numbers against Arizona were by no means extraordinary for the former college basketball player turned NFL tight end. A week earlier at Tampa Bay, Graham had 10 catches for 179 yards and touchdown.

4. DEPTH FINDER: The Cardinals will be challenged to get some younger or less experienced players up to speed. With receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe) playing hurt, the Arizona offense struggled to sustain drives. Meanwhile, Arizona's defense was down four starters by the third quarter, when Brees and Co. started to put the game away.

``We had critical injuries, and some young guys had to chip in and play,'' Arians said, referring to the departures of linebackers Lorenzo Alexander (right foot) and Sam Acho (left ankle), as well as safety Rashad Johnson (finger). ``They didn't handle it as well as I hoped they would.''

Nose tackle Dan Williams also was excused following his father's recent death in a car accident.

5. HARD YARDS: The jury is still out on New Orleans' running game. At halftime, the Saints had run the ball for minus-6 yards. When Brees scrambled for 13 yards in the fourth quarter, he was at that moment New Orleans' top rusher.

New Orleans wound up with 104 yards rushing, but much of that came from after the game was no longer in doubt.

``I'm not concerned,'' Payton said, explaining that the Saints' lack of running in the first half came by design because of the five-man fronts Arizona often used.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Sam BradfordApr 24 06:02p

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota could be selected by the Philadelphia Eagles if the team could make trades with the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans, according to one draft rumor. [ More ]

Chris PolkApr 24 05:42p

Philadelphia Eagles restricted free-agent RB Chris Polk's tender offer has been rescinded by the Eagles, according to a source. Polk will become an unrestricted free agent and allowed to sign with any team.

Jaiquawn JarrettApr 24 04:52p

New York Jets restricted free-agent SS Jaiquawn Jarrett signed his tender offer Friday, April 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Hakeem NicksApr 24 01:42p

Free-agent WR Hakeem Nicks (Colts) agreed to terms on an undisclosed deal with the Tennessee Titans Friday, April 24.

Justin BlackmonApr 24 12:42p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon is likely done with the Jaguars if he's reinstated into the league, in the opinion of beat writer Ryan O'Halloran.

Adrian PetersonApr 23 05:22p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson may not be in the Dallas Cowboys' plans after all, according Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Robinson said the Cowboys have not spoken to the Vikings regarding Peterson.

Demaryius ThomasApr 23 03:32p

Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas has decided not to participate in offseason workouts because he does not want to suffer an injury, but general manager John Elway does not [ More ]

Will HillApr 23 03:12p

Baltimore Ravens restricted free-agent FS Will Hill signed his tender offer Thursday, April 23, according to sources. Hill received a one-year deal worth $1.54 million.

Andre EllingtonApr 23 03:02p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington's (foot) injured foot is about 95 percent healed, and Ellington has not suffered any setbacks, according to head coach Bruce Arians.

M. Jones-DrewApr 23 02:22p

Free-agent RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Raiders) will sign a one-day deal to retire as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars next Tuesday, April 28. He played nine seasons and rushed [ More ]

Victor CruzApr 23 02:12p

New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (knee) said he believes that he will be ready to play in the season opener next season and play like he did before he suffered the injury.

Justin TuckerApr 23 01:52p

Baltimore Ravens restricted free-agent PK Justin Tucker has signed his one-year tender offer. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Bear PascoeApr 23 12:52p

Free-agent TE Bear Pascoe (Falcons) signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears Thursday, April 23. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sam BradfordApr 23 01:53a

The Philadelphia Eagles and QB Sam Bradford have yet to make significant progress on a contract extension sparking speculation the quarterback might be traded again, although head coach Chip [ More ]

Brandin CooksApr 22 11:43p

New Orleans Saints WR Brandin Cooks (knee) spent time training together with QB Drew Brees during the offseason in San Diego. 'Man, I love everything about him, his makeup, [ More ]

Greg JenningsApr 22 06:13p

Free-agent WR Greg Jennings (Vikings) signed an undisclosed deal with the Miami Dolphins Wednesday, April 22.

Philip RiversApr 22 05:33p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers may be losing faith in the organization, according to NFL Network analyst and former Chargers' RB LaDainian Tomlinson. 'The parts around him keep [ More ]

Jacques McClendonApr 22 04:13p

Free-agent OG Jacques McClendon (Jaguars) signed an undisclosed deal with the Miami Dolphins Wednesday, April 22.

Adrian PetersonApr 22 02:23p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is not expected to be traded by the Vikings unless the team is overwhelmed by an offer from another team, according to a source. [ More ]

Antonio BrownApr 22 02:23p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown said he is not participating in voluntary workouts because he is spending time with his newborn child. Brown said he will report to offseason [ More ]

Marvin LewisApr 22 11:33a

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis signed a one-year extension Wednesday, April 22. He's under contract through the 2016 season.

S. RichardsonApr 21 05:23p

Kansas City Chiefs CB Shaquille Richardson (undisclosed) was released Tuesday, April 21, with a failure to disclose physical condition designation.

Adrian PetersonApr 21 01:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson remains a candidate to be traded, and a source close to the situation believes that if he isn't traded before or during the 2015 [ More ]

Dennis PittaApr 20 06:52p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) is participating in the team's voluntary conditioning program that started Monday, April 20. Pitta's career remains in doubt after fracturing his right hip [ More ]

Prince AmukamaraApr 20 05:22p

New York Giants CB Prince Amukamara (biceps) said he's about 90% recovered from a torn biceps he suffered last season.

Adrian WilsonApr 20 05:02p

Updating a previous item, free-agent SS Adrian Wilson (Bears) signed a contract to officially retire with the Arizona Cardinals.

Tim TebowApr 20 03:52p

Free-agent QB Tim Tebow (Patriots) officially signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, April 20. Financial terms were undisclosed.

Adrian PetersonApr 20 01:42p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is not in attendance for the start of the team's offseason workout program Monday, April 20, according to league sources. However, Peterson hasn't attended [ More ]

Antonio BrownApr 20 11:02a

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown is seeking a new contract and could hold out from minicamps and training camp, according to sources.

Adrian WilsonApr 20 07:22a

Free-agent SS Adrian Wilson (Bears) is expected to retire Monday, April 20, and join the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff. The Cardinals, the team Wilson played for from 2001-2012, have announced a press conference.

Tim TebowApr 19 07:42p

Free-agent QB Tim Tebow (Patriots) is expected to sign a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, April 20.

Stefen WisniewskiApr 18 01:02p

Free-agent C Stefen Wisniewski (Raiders) signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday, April 18. Financial terms were undisclosed.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group