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John DeShazier: How the Saints beat the Cardinals

Offense shined against the league's top defense

OFFENSE: It's hard to keep a good offense down, no? After consecutive games of 13 points (against Detroit) and 11 points (against Tampa Bay), the New Orleans Saints managed to do to Arizona what no team had done to Arizona this season. New Orleans sliced the Cardinals for six touchdowns and 48 points, and needed every bit of it in a 48-41 victory. It was as impressive as the Saints have been offensively, perhaps even better than the 49 points and 555 yards accumulated against the Rams in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, because of the locale (a road game) and caliber of opponent (the Cardinals were allowing 21 points and 364 yards per game). The Saints were patient on offense and didn't force anything, and the result was that Drew Breeswas able to dissect Arizona to the tune of 389 passing yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions, while completing 37 of 48 passes. Brandin Cookshad a huge day; images of the back of his jersey and bottoms of his cleats will be burned into Arizona's memory, after Cooks caught seven passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. And the running game was effective behind Mark Ingram(17 carries for 78 yards) and Tim Hightower(11 carries for 37 yards and two touchdowns). It will be a game that the offensive line will be proud of the work it submitted, and the results derived from it, and one that Thomas Morsteadmight appreciate (he punted once). What's wrong with the Saints offense? On Sunday, not much of anything.

DEFENSE: The one number that New Orleans will be happy with defensively is this: two. That's how many turnovers it produced – defensive end Paul Krugerand safety Vonn Bellforced fumbles, which were recovered by linebacker Craig Robertsonand cornerback Ken Crawley, respectively, in the first and fourth quarters. The offense turned both of those short-field opportunities into touchdowns (30- and 29-yard drives) that first, gave the Saints a 10-7 lead and, second, gave the Saints a two-score cushion (a 48-34 advantage). New Orleans didn't force a turnover in its previous two games, against Detroit and Tampa Bay, so taking a couple of possessions away from Arizona was timely and critical (the Cardinals scored on a fumble return). The other numbers weren't be pretty for the Saints; 34 points and 425 yards allowed, after limiting the previous eight opponents to an average of 21 points and holding three of the last four foes to 269 yards or less. But some games take on an offensive tone, and a forced turnover here and there can turn out to be huge. That was the case Sunday, as Arizona got rolling offensively and the Saints produced just enough stops for the offense's 48 points to stand.

SPECIAL TEAMS: We'll take "solid" with this unit until it works its way into becoming more of an asset. No kicks have been blocked, or punts mishandled, or huge returns allowed, in the last three games. That's significant progress because the special teams had been a glaring liability in several games. Kicker Wil Lutzmade 37- and 39-yard field goals and though they weren't the margin of victory, the flawless execution of them has to give him and the field goal unit confidence heading forward. Tommylee Lewislooks like he might be close to popping a big kickoff return but, again, in lieu of that, being solid and holding on to the ball is enough for now. The Saints also haven't allowed a big return, so that standoff is acceptable. Morstead only had to punt once (it went for 30 yards, clearly not one of his best) but the Saints defense responded with a three-and-out stand, so the short punt did no damage.

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