The New Orleans Saints defense didn’t have much time to account for deception.
If the Arizona Cardinals offense wasn’t in hurry-up mode, then, at least, it was in a don’t-let-the-defense-catch-its-breath frame of mind. So when Arizona lined up at fourth-and-1 from its own 30-yard line, trailing just 10-6 with more than half (7:36) of the third quarter remaining, the Saints made no assumptions that it would be a ploy to draw them offside.
That turned out to be smart thinking.
Because it wasn’t at all a ploy or gimmick. After opting to throw on third-and-1 from the same spot – an incompletion by rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, because the Saints sniffed it out and forced a poor throw – Arizona chose to run on fourth down. And the Saints were ready.
Running back Chase Edmonds, the target on third down, was the recipient of the handoff on fourth down. And the attempt wasn’t any more successful then than it was on the previous down.
The Cardinals tried to run off left guard, but they weren’t able to move Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata an inch. New Orleans swarmed the area like a hive, with Onyemata beating his man to meet Edmonds in the hole to stone him for no gain with 7:32 left in the quarter.
It was the first of two fourth-down stops for New Orleans, and far and away the more important of the two. This one forced Arizona to turn over the ball on downs, gave the Saints a short field to work with, and helped set up a 30-yard touchdown drive that culminated in Drew Brees’ 15-yard touchdown pass to running back Latavius Murray.
New Orleans’ lead expanded to 17-6, and the Saints outscored the Cardinals 21-3 in the second half to take a 31-9 victory Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But the jump-off spot was Onyemata’s stop, an on-your-toes play that gave the Saints a boost that triggered their blowout victory.