New Orleans, LA - The Saints advance to 7-1, and winners of the last 6 games heading into the bye week after defeating first overall pick Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals 31-9 Sunday afternoon in New Orleans.
The Saints wasted no time introducing Drew Brees to the Superdome crowd in his return from thumb surgery that kept the future hall of fame quarterback out five consecutive weeks. On the first drive of the game Brees went 6 of 7 for 45 yards as the Saints drove into Cardinals territory, but settled for a 47-yard field goal attempt from Wil Lutz. Lutz missed the attempt and has failed to execute three field goals in the last 2 games.
On the ensuing drive, rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury called a trick play that gained 47 yards on a throw back to rookie quarterback Kyler Murray who sent it down field setting his team up in the red zone. The Saints defense "bent but did not break" as K Zane Gonzalez gave the Cardinals the lead after splitting the uprights on a 31-yard field goal.
Without Alvin Kamara, for the second straight week, RB Latavius Murray’s workload was again elevated, and he positively responded on the Saints’ first scoring drive. Murray gained over 30 yards on the 12 play, 68-yard drive that ended with a redemption chip shot field goal from Wil Lutz that knotted the game at three a piece.
Following a three and out by the Arizona offense, the Saints took the lead for the first time as Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas marched down the field connecting on two plays resulting in gains of 28 yards and 16 yards. Thomas’ receptions sparked the 7 play 71-yard drive that off by a Latavius Murray 8-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the season.
Kyler Murray then showed the capacity crowd why he was the number one overall pick, slinging back-to-back passes of 15 or more yards as the Cardinals found themselves inside the red zone for the second time. Murray dropped a dime to longtime NFL wideout Larry Fitzgerald in the endzone however, Fitzgerald could not toe tap the sideline and the Cardinals settled for a second field goal to make it 10-6.
After stalls for both sides, the Saints began a two-minute drill inside their own 25-yard line. Brees found receivers in each of his first three passes of the drive, all resulting in first downs. Unfortunately for the Saints, a Terron Armstead holding call negated a Brees to Arnold touchdown and time expired in the first-half. The Saints headed into the locker room with a 4-point lead, with Brees completing 20 passes for 197 yards in his return to the gridiron. Latavius Murray also found himself with an impressive stat line with nearly 100 total yards at the half, and the game's lone touchdown.
Coming out of the tunnel, Murray and the Cardinals went three and out, giving the ball back to Brees’ offense. The Saints picked up three first downs, two going to Michael Thomas, prior to All-Pro Cornerback Patrick Peterson’s first interception of the season. This was only Peterson's second game of 2019 after serving a six game suspension.
The turning point of the game came on the next Cardinals drive. After Cameron Jordan’s eighth sack of the season, Kyler Murray connected with former Texas A&M teammate Christian Kirk to set up a third down and one. On third down, Murray rolled out right off the play action fake and threw incomplete looking for his running back Chase Edmonds. The Cardinals then went for it on fourth down at their own 30-yard line. On fourth down, they were stuffed by DT David Onyemata for a loss on the play, setting up the Saints to start the drive 10 yards from the red zone.
New Orleans punched it into the end-zone on the drive that started 30-yards from pay dirt. It was return specialist Devonté Harris who found himself in the slot, picking up a first down on third down. Harris’ efforts set up a 15-yard touchdown reception for Latavius Murray on an option route from Drew Brees, his first touchdown pass since week one vs Houston.
Trailing the Saints, 17-6, after converting on 4th down, the Cardinals needed to find points and answer the Saints scoring drive with one of their own. After Kyler Murray gains a first down, running back Chase Edmonds limped off the field, leaving the Arizona offense with newly signed running back, and former Saints running back, Zach Zenner. Zenner was active for the Saints vs. Chicago but then cut by the Saints earlier this week. Charles Clay reeled in a 20-yard reception after a "Houdini" like scramble by Murray. The drive stalled again and Gonzalez booted a 50-yard field goal to cut the lead to 8 points.
With an eight-point lead Sean Payton’s offense began to open up the throttle on the Cards defense. After large chunks of yardage coming from Ted Ginn Jr. and Josh Hill, Brees hit the “Swiss Army Knife” Taysom Hill for a 5 yard touchdown. This was Hill’s third touchdown grab of the year and Brees’ second touchdown pass of the game as the Saints took a 24-9 lead.
After three and outs by both teams, Kyler Murray saw his last drive of the game. The drive began with back-to-back 13-yard gains through the air to Zenner, and Kirk. The Cardinals found themselves inside Saints territory following a 19-yard pick up on an end around to Christian Kirk, but then turned the ball over on downs after Murray could not connect with future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
The next Saints drive was the dagger. On three plays for 73 yards, which started with a run of 28 yards by Latavius Murray, and a 36 yard reception by Taysom Hill, Brees smelled blood. His pass to Michael Thomas capped off the drive for a touchdown. Thomas was targeted 11 times and had 11 receptions for 112-yards and a touchdown. The Saints went up 31-9 after a Lutz extra point. Murray's day in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was over, and so was Drew Brees' day.
The Cardinals and Saints then played their backup quarterbacks for their last drives of the game. Former Packer Brett Hundley entered for the Cardinals and went three and out. While Saints fans gave backup Teddy Bridgewater a rowdy round of applause and chants of “Teddy, Teddy", Sean Payton took his foot off the gas and ran the football. The Saints fans showed their appreciation for the former Rookie of the Year after guiding the Saints to a 5-0 record in the absence of Drew Brees.
Drew Brees threw for 373 yards,3 touchdowns and a Quarterback rating of 116.4 in his return. Latavius Murray was the Saints leading rusher with 102 yards on 21 carries, his second straight game with 100+ yards rushing with Alvin Kamara nursing knee and ankle injuries. Michael Thomas continued his league dominance with 11 receptions and 112 yards. The Thomas versus Peterson matchup was not a contest and never in doubt in Thomas' favor.
Cameron Jordan collected his eighth sack of the season, and the Saints have now not allowed a one-hundred-yard rusher in 30 straight regular season games.
New Orleans improve their record to 7-1 on the season and head into their bye week before hosting the Atlanta Falcons on November 10th. The Cardinals are now 3-4-1 as will host the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football on Halloween.