Glendale, Ariz. - After slumbering for the past two weeks the New Orleans Saints offense roared to life against the Arizona Cardinals' top-ranked defense in a 48-41 victory Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Quarterback Drew Brees and receiver Brandin Cooks had massive days - Brees became the first QB to throw for more than 300 yards against the Cards this season and Cooks had nearly 200 yards in receptions and two long touchdown catches.
The win improved the Saints to 6-8 but they were eliminated from the NFC South title contention when Atlanta beat San Francisco earlier Sunday. The team still has a slight chance of earning a wild-card spot. It was Brees' 100th regular-season win as the Saints quarterback.
The win over the Cardinals (5-8-1) was sealed when the Saints defense forced its second fumble of the day - this time by receiver Brittan Golden with 5:13 to play. Safety Vonn Bell forced the fumble and cornerback Ken Crawley recovered it and the Saints turned the possession into a 2-yard Tim Hightower touchdown run.
Brees was 37 of 48 for 389 yards and four touchdowns while Cooks had seven receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns, one for 65 yards and one for 45 yards, both in the first half.
Cooks' huge game put him over 1,000 yards receiving for the second consecutive season.
Mark Ingram and Hightower combined for more than 100 yards rushing (Ingram had 78, Hightower 37) as the Saints dominated time of possession (37:13) after losing that stat category badly in back-to-back defeats to the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints finished with 488 yards of offense and 33 first downs by coverting 9 of 14 third-down attempts.
The Saints were aided by two Arizona penalties - an offside call on a field-goal attempt that gave the Saints a first-and-goal which they converted into a Hightower 3-yard scoring run - and a roughing-the-passer penalty that kept the Saints' final scoring drive alive after Brees had been sacked.
Arizona made it close with a late touchdown from Carson Palmer to John Brown but the subsequent onside kick attempt went out of bounds and the Saints were able to run out the clock.
The Saints will close out the 2016 season with a home game Saturday, Dec. 24 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a Jan. 1 game at the Falcons.
Saints stat leaders
Drew Brees, 37 of 48 for 389 yards and four TDs
Mark Ingram, 17 carries for 78 yards
Brandin Cooks, seven catches for 186 yards and two TDs
Cardinals stat leaders
Carson Palmer, 28 of 40 for 318 yards and two TDs
David Johnson, 12 carries for 53 yards
Larry Fitzgerald, seven catches for 57 yards