Dissecting the Arizona Cardinals' 'Five Things'
The Minnesota Vikings are coming to town in a week and it is time to see what the Saints did right to get to where they are. If they're going to defeat the Vikings then we've got to look at what the black and gold did to stop the strengths of their last opponent.
In preparation, last week for the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals' game; Cards' Examiner Scott Jones and myself did a collaborative piece on what everyone needed to look out for on Saturday.
We each had our own opinions as to what our respective teams could do in order to win the Divisional Round playoff game and what the other teams should be wary of.
Well the game has now come and gone with the Saints walking away with a commanding 45-14 victory in the raucous Louisiana Superdome. Drew Brees and his offensive company went up and down the field as if the Cardinals weren't even there. After the first play of the game, the Saints' defense looked like they did at the beginning en route to winning the first 13 games of the season.
Scott had five main points that all needed to be on the lookout for when the Saints played the Cardinals. They ranged from the offense to the defense and even I'm going to take them all one-by-one and see what worked and didn't work for Kurt Warner and the red birds.
1.) A balanced offensive approach
This COULD have worked had the rest of the game played out like the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage. Tim Hightower went right and made a cut or two and was gone for 70 yards and a touchdown virtually untouched. After that, the Saints had built up a 21-7 lead and the Cardinals went on to abandon the run. Kurt Warner got a lot more work on his shoulders as panic seemed to set in for Arizona. Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower became totally nonexistent while the offensive output fell solely on Warner's arm.
Check out this stat if you don't believe me. After the 70-yarder from Hightower? Arizona only had 13 more rushing attempts for 31 yards. 36 passing plays and a total of only 15 rushing plays (one by Warner for no gain). That surely doesn't look like a balanced offensive approach to me.
2.) More pressure on the quarterback
Here is something else that really didn't work at all. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and forced into a lot of mistakes. The Cardinals only got 3 hits on Brees the entire game and none of them resulted in a sack. Brees at times looked like he had all day to throw the ball and could have set up a picnic in the pocket his offensive line gave him.
Take a look at the play which was the touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. Brees took a step or two in the pocket, but he was standing there with enough time to peruse the entire field two or three times. Hardly ever did any member of the Cardinals' defense get into the backfield at all they only had 2 tackles for losses as well. A fantastic performance by the Saints' offensive line kept Brees upright and allowed him to master the field.
3.) Win the turnover battle
This is actually a really easy point to take apart. The Cardinals had 2 turnovers while the Saints had none. Jerheme Urban fumbled away a nice pass and gain from Warner that was recovered by Darren Sharper. Later on, Warner threw an interception that Will Smith grabbed out of the air while Warner was getting leveled by Bobby McCray. Both turnovers led to scores for the New Orleans Saints with the second making the score 35-14 and putting the game out of reach.
We can't forget that the Cardinals also had two more fumbles which they were lucky enough to recover. Also, Darren Sharper had an interception taken away from him due to a "roughing the passer" penalty which could be considered questionable but also understandable. Warner got hit on the helmet with a brush of a hand but then there was a slight grab at his facemask. After the call that Green Bay's Rodgers didn't get last week, I'm surprised this one was called.
If anything, it should have been called a facemask penalty and not a roughing call, but none the less it wiped out the interception and gave Arizona the ball back. That drive finished off with a Cardinal touchdown and ended all scoring for them for the rest of the game. No big deal.
4.) Keep Anquan Bolden on the bench
Alright, so they did something right. The wide receiver didn't practice all week except for a little bit on Friday and really would not have been ready for the game. It was in his best interest that he stay on the sidelines and the Cardinals seemed to think so as well. Early Doucet had been doing a very adequate job in filling in for the star pro bowler. I congratulate Arizona for this move because if he really wasn't ready and healed up enough then a few hits could have made his injuries even worse.
Good job here Cards.
5.) Keep their momentum
Initially I thought the Cardinals were going to come out and try to break the game open from the beginning. I expected them to ride that 51-point outing against the Packers and think they were going to come into the Dome and light up the scoreboard. Both Scott's and my assumptions seemed correct after Hightower busted through the Saints' D-line like it wasn't even there and ran straight down the field for a score within 19 seconds of the coinflip. Their momentum ended there and shifted sides from white and red to black and gold.
The Saints came back with a great opening drive that tied up the score at 7, but it was the strip by Randall Gay and recovery by Sharper that truly made momentum jump from one side of the field to the other. Throw on top of that the play of Reggie Bush who was finally running with power and aggression and you've got ol' Mo sitting pretty with fleur-de-lis all over him. The Cardinals tried to hold onto it, but that looked to be their third turnover of the day.
I'll be back with how my five things for the Saints fared later in the week.
Scott finished off with a prediction for the final score and looked at a Cardinals' of 31-28 due to playoff experience. He also expressed time and time again that the Saints would be held under 30 points. Funny how our boys in black and gold didn't seem to care about playoff experience and simply played with heart, soul, determination, talent, and rest.
But Scott's prediction was right in a half and half sort of way. The Saints did finish with only 28 points...but it was by the end of the first half, not the second.
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Re: Dissecting the Arizona Cardinals' 'Five Things'
Now if the Viks plan goes just as wrong.....
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