The New Orleans Saints rode the play of its dominant defense and the brilliance of quarterback Drew Brees to a 31-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The victory improved the Saints to 3-0, their best start since the 2009 season.
Brees was under more pressure than usual but used his savvy and great pocket awareness to pick apart the Arizona secondary. He was 29 for 46 for 342 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception. He also scrambled seven yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to help put the game away. It was the eighth consecutive game Brees has thrown for more than 300 yards, one short of his own NFL record. It was the 70th time he has passed for more than 300 yards; only Peyton Manning with 74 has more.
Brees' multiple TD game was the 101st of his career, tying him with Fran Tarkenton for fifth all time in NFL history.
Tight end Jimmy Graham was Brees' favorite target for the second consecutive week as the 6-foot-7 tight end hauled in nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Marques Colston caught five passes for 71 yards and Robert Meachem hauled in a 27-yard TD pass in the first quarter, his first score since re-joining the Saints earlier this month.
!(http://www.neworleanssaints.com/media-center/photo-gallery/New-Orleans-Saints-vs-Arizona-Cardinals/5cd85909-dfc4-44e4-a8ed-6dcb1d2a716e "saints action")But the Saints' defense was just as big of a factor Sunday as Brees. For third consecutive game the defense held its opponent under 20 points and consistenly harassed Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who was 18 for 35 for 187 yards. Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette enjoyed strong performances with Jordan registering two sacks and Galette one. Glenn Foster also had a sack.
"It's early but we are pleased with the start," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "We had two close games to start and this one we handled the second half well. It was good for us to keep our defense off the field. I haven't seen time of possession yet but it's a good start."
Rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro, starting in place of an injured Roman Harper, made the first interception of his career in the fourth quarter to end a Cardinals drive. And cornerback Keenan Lewis, a New Orleans native who was the team's top free-agent signing, also intercepted Palmer in the fourth quarter.
"That was good winning the turnover battle," Payton said. "We value it obviously. It's important. It was great to see two interceptions and the guys were able to handle the football."
After surrendering an 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game, the Saints' defense held the Cardinals (1-2) to 167 yards the rest of the game. The Saints have allowed just 38 points in the first three games of the season. Only the 1992 team, which allowed 28 points in the first three games, has gotten off to a better start in franchise history.
The offense struggled to run the ball early Sunday and the Cardinals were able to apply consistent pressure on Brees, sacking him four times and forcing him to scramble on a few others. He finished with 23 yards rushing on four carries, including the touchdown. Khiry Robinson came in late to close out the game with four carries for 38 yards.
The Saints will have an extra day of prepation before facing the Miami Dolphins next Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Dolphins play the Atlanta Falcons later Sunday.