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

Ryan TannehillSep 15 04:15p

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill struggled to deliver accurate passes in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills, and TE Charles Clay had several dropped passes. Tannehill was 5-for-16 (31 [ More ]

Chris IvorySep 15 04:11p

New York Jets RB Chris Johnson played 27 snaps in Week 2, while RB Chris Ivory played 27 and RB Bilal Powell played 17 snaps Sunday, Sept. 14.

John AbrahamSep 15 04:02p

Arizona Cardinals LB John Abraham (concussion) will return to the team, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Abraham had been mulling retirement.

Keith RiversSep 15 04:02p

Buffalo Bills LB Keith Rivers (groin) will be tested this week to gauge how close he is to returning from a groin injury. Rivers did not practice last week [ More ]

Vernon DavisSep 15 03:32p

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis (ankle) is undergoing an MRI on his injured left ankle, according to head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Charles TillmanSep 15 03:32p

Chicago Bears CB Charles Tillman (triceps) will likely be placed on season-ending Reserve/Injured, according to a source.

R. Griffin IIISep 15 03:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) will not be placed on season-ending Reserve/Injured, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

DeSean JacksonSep 15 03:12p

Washington Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder) is day-to-day with a shoulder sprain. His status for this week's game is yet to be determined.

Jerrel JerniganSep 15 02:42p

New York Giants WR Jerrel Jernigan (foot) has a mid-foot sprain and is being evaluated. There is no timetable yet on his return.

Kelvin BenjaminSep 15 02:42p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee) had his right knee taped Monday, Sept. 15, but appeared to be walking fine.

Rod StreaterSep 15 02:32p

Oakland Raiders WR Rod Streater (hip) suffered a hip flexor injury Week 2.

Marques ColstonSep 15 02:32p

New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston, who didn't catch a pass in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns for the first time in 87 games, wasn't even targeted a [ More ]

Walter ThurmondSep 15 02:32p

New York Giants CB Walter Thurmond (pectoral) is out for the season as he will undergo surgery for a torn pectoral Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Justin JonesSep 15 02:22p

Free-agent WR LaQuan Williams (Ravens) and TE Justin Jones (Patriots) are scheduled to work out for the Kansas City Chiefs Tuesday, Sept. 16, according to a source.

Donald BrownSep 15 02:22p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown is likely to fill the void as the team's every-down running back with RB Ryan Mathews (knee) sidelined.

Nevin LawsonSep 15 02:22p

Detroit Lions CB Nevin Lawson (toes) could very well be out for the season after undergoing surgery on his dislocated toes, according to head coach Jim Caldwell. Lawson suffered [ More ]

DeAngelo WilliamsSep 15 02:12p

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh) is scheduled to work out Tuesday, Sept. 16, in order to test his injured thigh.

Marcedes LewisSep 15 02:03p

Jacksonville Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis (ankle) is a candidate to be placed on the Active/Reserve/Injured list because of his high ankle sprain, according to head coach Gus Bradley.

Tavon AustinSep 15 01:52p

St. Louis Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee) has been diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament and is expected to miss around two weeks, according to a source.

Chad HenneSep 15 01:52p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Chad Henne is still the starting quarterback for now, according to head coach Gus Bradley.

Mark IngramSep 15 01:42p

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand) suffered a broken hand in the team's Week 2 game and will miss at least four weeks, according to a source.

Carson PalmerSep 15 01:42p

Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (shoulder) said he wasn't close to playing in Week 2 against the New York Giants. He described his injury as a nerve in his [ More ]

Tyrann MathieuSep 15 01:42p

Arizona Cardinals FS Tyrann Mathieu (knee) played for the first time in Week 2 against the New York Giants since suffering two torn knee ligaments last December. He was [ More ]

Lamar MillerSep 15 01:32p

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller (ankle) left the Week 2 game against the Buffalo Bills in a walking boot Sunday, Sept. 14, and his status for Week 3 against [ More ]

Allen HurnsSep 15 01:32p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (ankle) is considered day-to-day because of the ankle injury he suffered Week 2.

Ryan MathewsSep 15 01:22p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, according to a source. Mathews could [ More ]

Jamaal CharlesSep 15 01:22p

Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle) is dealing with a high ankle sprain, according to head coach Andy Reid.

Chris McCainSep 15 01:22p

Miami Dolphins LB Chris McCain (illness) hardly played at all in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills after being a big contributor in the Week 1 victory. McCain missed [ More ]

Adrian PetersonSep 15 01:22p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was reinstated after being deactivated in Week 2 against the New England Patriots following his arrest on a charge of causing injury to his [ More ]

Marcedes LewisSep 15 01:12p

Jacksonville Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis (ankle) will be sidelined for six to eight weeks because of a high ankle sprain.

DeSean JacksonSep 15 01:02p

Washington Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder) is listed as day-to-day after being diagnosed with an AC joint sprain in Week 2. Jackson left the game in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

R. Griffin IIISep 15 01:02p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) isn't dealing with a fractured ankle, according to an MRI exam, and he doesn't think surgery is necessary. The best-case scenario for [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group