2013 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

Terrelle PryorApr 23 08:58a

The Seattle Seahawks acquired QB Terrelle Pryor from the Oakland Raiders Monday, April 21, in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick in this year's draft. He will compete with [ More ]

Matt RyanApr 22 10:53p

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith is calling for major improvement on both sides of the line of scrimmage. He fears the team could bottom out for a second [ More ]

EJ ManuelApr 22 08:13p

Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel (knees) is healthy entering voluntary workouts and feels normal and had no limitations during the Tuesday, April 22 conditioning program. Bills head coach Doug [ More ]

Rolando McClainApr 22 07:53p

Updating a previous report, the Baltimore Ravens have officially placed LB Rolando McClain on the reserve-retired list for a second time. The Ravens will retain McClain's rights if he changes his mind again.

Eli ManningApr 22 07:33p

New York Giants QB Eli Manning (ankle) expects to be 100 percent for the beginning of training camp. Manning has no concerns about learning the Giants' new playbook, instead [ More ]

Ray RiceApr 22 04:43p

Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice looks great physically, according to strength and conditioning coach Bob Roguck. 'He's doing some things differently as far as his diet and so forth, [ More ]

David WilsonApr 22 02:43p

New York Giants RB David Wilson (neck) said he is still waiting for a clear MRI to be medically cleared, but is currently ahead of schedule.

Julio JonesApr 22 01:13p

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (foot) will be limited during the team's offseason workouts while he recovers from offseason foot surgery. 'Julio is participating with our athletic performance department,' [ More ]

Eli ManningApr 22 01:03p

New York Giants QB Eli Manning (ankle) said his ankle is progressing but he does not have a timetable for his return to the field. Manning is currently in a walking boot.

Stevie BrownApr 22 12:33p

New York Giants FS Stevie Brown (knee) said he feels like he is ready to go when the Giants hit the field after recovering from a serious knee injury. [ More ]

Will HillApr 22 10:33a

The New York Giants are likely to cut FS Will Hill after his third potential drug suspension.

Josh MorganApr 22 09:52a

Chicago Bears WR Joshua Morgan is likely to compete for the No. 3 or 4 wide receiver role this year, and he'll compete with WRs Domenik Hixon, Eric Weems [ More ]

Will HillApr 22 09:33a

New York Giants FS Will Hill is facing a year-long suspension after reportedly failing another drug test. He will appeal what would be his third drug-related suspension.

Kyle WilliamsApr 21 09:33p

The Kansas City Chiefs re-signed WR Kyle Williams Monday, April 21. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

Colt AndersonApr 21 07:12p

The Indianapolis Colts signed free-agent FS Colt Anderson (Eagles) to an undisclosed deal Monday, April 21.

Jamar TaylorApr 21 06:43p

Miami Dolphins CB Jamar Taylor (groin) is healthy following hernia surgery and began offseason workouts with his teammates Monday, April 21. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said he expects [ More ]

Dustin KellerApr 21 05:42p

Eugene Parker, agent for free-agent TE Dustin Keller (knee), said Keller is ready to participate in offseason workouts when he signs with a team.

Eric FisherApr 21 05:12p

Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Fisher (shoulder, hernia) said there is no timetable for his return following multiple surgeries, but he doesn't think he'll be out for long. 'He's [ More ]

Josh MorganApr 21 04:02p

The Chicago Bears have signed free-agent WR Joshua Morgan (Redskins) to a one-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

A.J. GreenApr 21 03:32p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green said he has added around six pounds this offseason, because he wants to be more physical as a way to beat coverage at the [ More ]

Michael VickApr 21 02:42p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith said he believes he will be the starting quarterback this upcoming season even though the team added QB Michael Vick this offseason. He [ More ]

Navorro BowmanApr 21 02:12p

The San Francisco 49ers plan to place LB NaVorro Bowman (knee) on the Physically Unable to Perform list when training camp begins, because he is not expected to be [ More ]

Eric FisherApr 21 02:02p

Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Fisher (shoulder, hernia) underwent shoulder surgery and had a procedure to fix a sports hernia. He's currently rehabbing in Kansas City.

Tony CarterApr 21 01:22p

The Denver Broncos signed DT Mitch Unrein to his restricted free-agent tender Monday, April 21. CB Tony Carter, SS Duke Ihenacho and LB Brandon M. Marshall all signed their exclusive rights tenders.

Rolando McClainApr 21 01:02p

Baltimore Ravens LB Rolando McClain is retiring from the NFL again Monday, April 21. 'I gotta follow my heart. It ain't football. If football made me complete I would [ More ]

Tony RomoApr 21 12:42p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) will take part in the team's voluntary offseason program beginning Monday, April 21, according to a source. Players are allowed to lift weights, [ More ]

Marcus LattimoreApr 20 09:12p

San Francisco 49ers RB Marcus Lattimore (knee) is not expected to be restricted in any way when offseason workouts begin.

Michael EgnewApr 20 08:42p

The Miami Dolphins likely will add at least two more tight ends this offseason that will compete with TE Michael Egnew for a roster spot.

Armon BinnsApr 20 12:02a

Miami Dolphins WR Armon Binns is currently the team's No. 4 receiver, but the Dolphins have had discussions about WR Rishard Matthews replacing Binns at the spot, according to a source.

Tyrone CrawfordApr 20 12:02a

Dallas Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford (Achilles') is expected to be ready for the team's offseason program, and he is expected to be a key piece to the defense this season.

M. Jones-DrewApr 20 12:02a

If healthy, Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden is expected to be the team's starting tailback with RB Maurice Jones-Drew as his backup.

Brian HartlineApr 20 12:02a

Miami Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (knee) is expected to be ready for the start of mini camp, according to a source. He suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament in the 2013 regular season finale.

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