GAME BLOG: New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals in NFC Divisional Playoff
The New Orleans Saints are on to the NFC championship game for the second time in four years following a dominant 45-14 victory over Arizona in the Superdome this afternoon. After Tim Hightower ran 70 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, New Orleans basically destroyed the Cardinals, forcing 2 turnovers and accumulating 418 yards of offense. Reggie Bush was brilliant. He had 12 touches for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Drew Brees was 23 of 32 for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns--one each to Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey. New Orleans plays the winner of the Dallas at Minnesota game, set for Sunday, in the NFC Championship game a week from tomorrow.
Brees takes a knee. 2-minute warning.
Brees still in the game though he will no doubt hand off. 2:08 to play.
Arizona makes one first down, Hargrove tackles Wells for a 3-yard loss, forcing a punt by Graham.
Morstead booms one--over 5 seconds half time, 50 yards and no return. He was a a very good pick. He has had a big game today. 5:04 to play, 45-14 Saints. Cards ball at their own 20.
Saints run up the middle 3 times for 3 yards and will punt. Saints timeout, their final one. Don't need them in this one!
Saints backups in on defense and they force a 3-and-out. Graham punts. Fair catch by Bush, not wanting to risk injury. Brees coming back for New Orleans with 7:31 to play. Still 45-14 New Orleans.
We may have seen the last of Kurt Warner in his brilliant career. He comes out and Leinart takes his place.
Saints drive stalls. On fourth and one, they run a tight end around with David Thomas. Not enough speed. Stopped for no gain. Cards take over on downs at their own 25-yard line with 8:22 to play. The Saints killed 9:24 on the drive, as valuable as scoring, even better, actually. Can't get too greedy! 15 play, 66-yard drive.
Saints have driven to the Arizona 31 with 8:59 to play in the game. Brees runs the play clock down and calls timeout. 3rd and 7 for New Orleans. 14th play of the drive coming up. 10 have been runs. Just what you want to do in this situation. Run the ball, run the clock, move the chains. 45-14 Saints and it is getting late.
Pierre Thomas back in...Good to see him. 1st down Saints on completion to Bush for 7 yards. Thomas carries for 3 yards.
Saints call timeout with the play clock down to 1 second. 3rd and 7 from their own 33-yard line.
Thomas gets left ankle re-taped. Not likely to return but does not look bad.
3rd quarter comes to a close--45-14 New Orleans in total control. Pierre Thomas just limped off the field following a 5-yard run. Got to think about getting key players out of the game soon. Saints have made 2 first downs on their drive and have it at their own 30-yard line to start the fourth quarter. Brees is 21 of 29 for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns. Reggie Bush with 5 carries for 84 yards and a score rushing. He has a punt return of 83 yards for a score. New Orleans with 373 yards, Arizona with 334 yards.
Warner 17 of 26 for 205 yards and an interception.
Cardinals drive to the New Orleans 10-yard line but the Saints defense stiffens. On 4th and 2, Warner throws incomplete and the Saints take over on downs with 2:46 to play in the 3rd quarter. New Orleans on top 45-14 and they have the ball. Warner hit his first 5 passes on the drive. Tim HIghtower really stalled the drive. On 2nd down, he fumbled a pitch by Warner when he had open space in front of him and would have at least made a first down and could have scored. Still, a great job by the Saints defense.
Another touchback by Morstead. Arizona ball at their own 20 with 6:42 to play in the 3rd quarter and the Saints dominating 45-14.
Bush's punt return is the 3rd longest punt return in NFL playoff history.
Arizona makes one first down on a 14-yard completion from Warner to Fitzgerald but then the defense gets another stop. Graham punts to Bush--83 YARD TOUCHDOWN RETURN BY REGGIE! His best game ever as a pro. Not even close. Blowout. Saints lead 45-14 with 6:42 to play in the 3rd quarter. 45 yard punt, 83 yard return. Bush fresh, healthy, and great today.
Morstead kicks a touchback. Arizona ball at their own 20 with 8:26 to play in the 3rd quarter. 38-14 Saints.
Garrett Hartley kicks a 43-yard field goal to make it 38-14 with 8:26 to play in the 3rd quarter. Saints drive 6 plays, 39 yards, taking 2:10 off the clock. Bush had a 14-yard run on the drive.
Saints defense allows one first down but gets a stop. Ellis with good pressure on Warner again and forces an incompletion. Graham punts 46 yards, Bush returns it 11 yards to the New Orleans 36-yard line. 10:36 to play in the 3rd quarter and the Saints lead 35-14 and have the ball.
Morstead punts to the Arizona 12-yard line. Cards get it with 12:51 to play in the 3rd quarter with the Saints up 35-14. Kurt Warner is returning.
Saints drive to the Arizona 38 but the drive stalls and the Saints have to punt.
Rackers hits an awful kickoff, well short and out of bounds. Saints get it at their own 40 to start the 3rd quarter.
Warner has his helmet on and hs is warming up. May return. Saints will get it first to start the second half.
Neil Rackers misses a 50-yard field goal--short, to end the first half. 35-14 New Orleans at the half. Great half for the Saints. The defense forced 2 turnovers. The offense produced 307 yards, including 192 passing and 115 rushing. The Saints have 18 first downs to 9 for Arizona. New Orleans 5 of 6 on 3rd down. Time of possession is 18:23 for the Saints and just 11:37 for the Cardinals. Drew Brees is 15 of 20 for 192 yards and 3 touchdowns. Reggie Bush is 4 carries for 70 yards and a score and has 2 catches for 12 yards and has looked great. Colston has 5 catches for 72 yards and a score. The Saints are only the 9th team in NFL history to score 35 points in a half. Devery Henderson with 2 catches for 60 yards and a score. Jeremy Shockey with 3 catches for 36 yards and a score. Arizona has 228 total yards. Don't know if Warner will return.
Leinart, 16 to Fitzgerald to the Arizona 48 then he spikes it to stop the clock. 14 seconds left.
Leinart completes 2 passes to LSU's Early Doucet for 12 yards total. Timeout Arizona. First down Cards at their own 32-yard line with 32 seconds left and one timeout remaining.
Morstead kicks a touchback. Matt Leinart in at quarterback for the Cards. 1:10 to play in the half.
Saints overcome the penalties and score yet another touchdown. Drew Brees hits Marques Colston on a 2-yard touchdown pass. Point good and it is 35-14 Saints with 1:10 to play in the half. Brees hit Colston for 15 yards to set up the touchdown. Easy. Taking candy from a baby. Offense looks tremendous for New Orleans. 8 plays, 27 yards, 4:38 off the clock on the drive.
Warner has a chest injury--he has been taken to the locker room. He is questionable to return. That would be devastating to Arizona.
Saints hurting themselves with penalties--Mike Bell scores from 7-yards out but a holding call on Carl Nicks negates it. That came after a false start on Stinchcomb after the Saints had reached the Arizona 2. Ball at the 17 now, 1st and goal. 2 minute warning. 28-14 Saints on top.
Will Smith intercepts Warner and returns to the Arizona 27-yard line. Bobby McCray crushes Warner with a block on the return and Warner is hurt. Looks like his head.
Cards to start from their own 28-yard line with 6:42 to play in the half. 28-14 Saints.
Brees is 11 of 15 for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns.
On the next play, the Saints and Sean Payton go to the gadget play. Brees hands off to Thomas, who pitches back to Brees, who connects on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson. Point good. 28-14 Saints with 6:48 to play in the first half. Great call. Great execution. Nice catch by Henderson. 6 plays, 83 yards, 2:53 off the clock.
Brees passes 26 to Colston to the Arizona 44.
Antrell Rolle has a head injury and is questionable to return. That means two secondary members for the Cards are hurt. Rodgers-Cromartie went down earlier. Brees licking his chops. Time to take advantage and answer. The Saints better.
Great coverage on the kickoff by Arizona. They stop Roby for an 12-yard return at the New Orleans 17-yard line. 9:35 to play in the first half. 21-14 New Orleans.
Wells touchdown was easy. Big hole. Untouched.
Cardinals reach the end zone. Beanie Wells runs it in from 4-yards out. Point-after good. 21-14 Saints with 9:40 to play in the 2nd quarter. The penalty on Shanle was a turning point. Remember it. 9 plays, 80 yards, 5:07 off the clock. Warner heats it up after the penalty. He was 5 of 6 for 57 yards on the drive. Game on.
Cards driving, at the Saints' 20.
Big play negated--Warner pressured, throws an interception to Sharper but a personal foulblow to the head by the Saints. Penalty on Shanle.
Morstead punts 66 yards for a touchback. Arizona ball at their own 20 with 14:47 to play in the half and the Saints on top 21-7.
Rodgers-Cromartie with a left knee sprain. Doubtful to return. Brees throws incomplete for Moore and the Saints are stopped for the first time and have to punt.
First quarter ends with the Saints leading Arizona 21-7. Saints play a 3rd and 8 from the 33 yard line. 184 total yards for the Saints, 111 yards for Arizona. Conversion down coming. Saints with 11 first downs to 1 for Arizona. Saints are 2 of 2 on 3rd down. Brees is 9 of 11 for 93 yards and a score. Bush with 3 carries for 64 yards and a score rushing. Saints had the ball 10:40 to 4:20 for Arizona in the first down.
Bush returns a 51 yard punt 15 yards to the Saints' 31 yard line.
Saints defense forces another 3 and out by Arizona, Graham to punt. Ellis sacked Warner on 1st down.
Rodgers-Cromartie carted off the field.
Cards start at their own 27.
Tremendous run by Reggie Bush. He starts left, breaks two tackles, cuts back and outruns everyone 46 yards for a score. Best Bush has looked running the ball...EVER. 21-7 Saints with 2:31 to play in the first quarter. It's the longest run from scrimmage by a Saints' player ina postseason game. 5 plays, 77 yards, 2:54 off the clock.
Rodgers-Cromartie is their best corner. Has 6 picks on the year. Adams in for the Cards.
Brees hits Devery Henderson for 16 yards and a first down at the Arizona 46. Cardinal down hurt, hit by his own man. It is corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Would be a big loss.
2 runs by Thomas and a first down. Shockey back in.
Bush fair catch at the New Orleans 23.
Saints defense gets a stop--3 and out. Cards punt. Bush deep.
Warner fumbles and recovers for a loss of 3, passes incomplete on 2nd down and takes a hard hit from Scott Fujita. 3rd and 13--timeout Arizona with 6:13 to play in the first quarter. 14-7 Saints.
Shockey getting attention from the Saints training staff on the bench.
Cards start at their own 31 with 6:54 to play in the first quarter and the Saints on top 14-7.
21 points scored in the first 7:58 of this game. About what everyone expected!
And the Saints take full advantage of the turnover with Drew Brees hitting Jeremy Shockey on a 17-yard touchdown pass. Extra point good and it is 14-7 Saints with 7:02 to play in the first quarter. 4 play drive, 37 yards, 1:58 off the clock. Brees is 6 of 7 for 72 yards and a score.
Saints burn a timeout out of the dead ball change-of-possession. The gain was 28 yards to Urban prior to the fumble which Sharper returned 9 yards.
BIG PLAY by the Saints defense. Warner completes a pass to a wide open , Jerheme Urban, who beat Randall Gay. Gay then caused the fumble and Darren Sharper recovers and returns it to the Arizona 37.
Cardinals' Stephens-Howling returns to his own 18-yard line after fielding a high, deep kickoff from Morstead 5-yards deep in the end zone. Cards ball with 9:12 to play in the opening quarter of a 7-7 game.
Saints tie the game as Lynell Hamilton scores from one-yard out to make it 7-7 with 9:17 to play in the opening quarter. The Saints drive 10 plays, 72 yards in 5:24. Brees was 4 of 5 for 43 yards on the drive. Shockey caught 2 balls, both for first downs. Reggie Bush with 2 very good, hard runs, one of 7 yards and another of 11 yards. 9:17 to play in the first quarter and it is 7-7.
Brees to Shockey--1st and goal at the 5.
Saints on the move, at the Arizona 29.
Roby returns 25 yards to the New Orleans 28.
Worried about Saints leaky defense? Tim Hightower runs right behind an unbalanced line and races 70 yards UNTOUCHED for a touchdown on the first play of the game. Arizona leads 7-0 just 19 seconds into the game. They ran right at Bobby McCray. He was blocked. So was everyone else. Hightower cut back and no one was home.
Stephens-Howling returns 32 yards to the Arizona 30.
Morstead to kick off, LaRod Stephens-Howling deep to receive.
Arizona wins the toss and elects to receive. Saints will kickoff and defend the Poydras Street end zone.
Who Dat chant prevalent. Brees, Will Smith, Troy Evans and Jonathan Vilma are the Saints captains.
National anthem done. Captains to meet shortly at the 50.
Deuce leads the Saints on the field to a rousing ovation.
I've seeen it all now. The Marine band is shimmeying and boogeying in the pre-game on the field.
Saints Hall of Famer Dalton Hilliard signed autographs at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum today. The line was as long as ever as over 3,000 fans made their way through the museum in the pre-game.
Since the NFL moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, #1 seeds in the NFC are a robust 17-2 (89.5%) in the Divisional Playoffs. However, the NFC top seed has lost in the Divisional round in each of the past two seasons.
For the Cardinals, Steve Breaston starts for Anquan Boldin while Monty Beisel starts at inside linebacker for Gerald Hayes. No starting lineup changes for the Saints.
Saints wearing black jerseys and gold pants, Cardinals in their road whites. New Orleans has worn black on black, white on black and white on gold this year. Huge reception when team came up for pre-game warm-ups with Deuce McAllister in sight of the fans.
2:18 - INACTIVES ARE IN:
Saints' inactives: QB C. Daniel, RB D. McAllister, FS C. Reis, LB A. Waters, OL J. Nesbit, TE D. Dinkins, TE T. Humphrey and DE P. Spicer.
--Good news for New Orleans with Lance Moore active. It gives the Saints the ability to use 4-receiver sets if they choose/need to against a vulnerable Arizona secondary. Spicer and McAllister (honorary captain) were signed earlier in the weeky. With Spicer inactive, look for Anthony Hargrove to see snaps at both defensive end and tackle.
Cardinals inactives: QB B. St.Pierre, FB N. Broughton, S R. Johnson, LB G. Hayes, WR A. Boldin, G H. Johnson, DE J. Clark and TE S. Spach.
-- The loss of Hayes is the big one for the Cards. His presence at middle linebacker will be missed and should provide the Saints a better show at success via the run. Boldin has not practiced or played since the start of the postseason, so it is no shock he is again inactive. Arizona did not miss him last week with the play of Early Doucet, the former LSU Tiger who had 2 receptions for scores against the Packers.
THE RUNDOWN: It's simple. The Saints will either take advantage of their NFC-best regular season or end their year on a 4-game losing streak. The Cardinals enter the Superdome off of the most exciting shootout in Wildcard history ending in a 51-45 overtime win over Green Bay in Glendale.
Many of the analysts favor the Saints to win including yours truly. But both teams have the offensive firepower to come out on top.
New Orleans has brought back Deuce McAllister to the roster, but the all-time leading rusher in franchise history will not be actice today. He is an "honorary captain" to help inspire the team and pump up a Dome crowd even more than they already are considering the anticipation of this postseason by Who Dat Nation following the Saints' 13-0 start to the season.
Re: GAME BLOG: New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals in NFC Divisional Playoff
What a game. Better then I couod have imagined AND really better after that first play from scrimmage
Re: GAME BLOG: New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals in NFC Divisional Playoff
After watching this game against, in the very least, the fourth best team in the NFL and sixth to eighth best team in the league...
Can we reasonably doubt coach has been sitting on Bush all season?
And with that in mind, in consideration of the salary cap hit, is there much room to doubt coach intends to deal him to another team for a higher draft pick?
Personally, I think to Seattle (especially now that Pete Carroll is coach) since they have two first-round picks...
And since Bush provides that lagniappe Coach Payton likes...
Can we question whether-or-not coach would probably spend a second-round pick on Bush's replacement...
...and to get that higher pick...
Coach is going to increase Bush's value as much as possible?
Therefore, my prediction is yesterday's game for Bush was only a glimpse of things to come...a post-season (Super Bowl!) MVP is LIKELY since we will have such a balanced offense and Brees' value is unquestionable
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