Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints: Live Grades and Analysis for Saints

James Ermilio@jimmyermilioCorrespondent IIISeptember 22, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 08:   Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Saints rolled the Cardinals en route to their first 3-0 start since their championship 2009 season.

Final Score:

Arizona Cardinals: 7

New Orleans Saints: 31

Check below for our halftime and postgame grades and analysis!


Final Analysis

Pass Offense:  Drew Brees wasn't perfect, but he finished a strong game with a 63 percent completion rate, 7.4 yards per attempt and three touchdowns.  Sean Payton's offense relied heavily on Brees today, and the veteran QB delivered as he always has for Big Easy fans.  Jimmy Graham led the charge with 134 yards receiving and a pair of TDs, while Colston added five catches for 71 yards of his own.

Run Offense:  The rush offense picked up 107 second-half yards when the Saints needed to put the game away.  They didn't come from the expected sources, with Khiry Robinson knocking out a 21-yard rush and Drew Brees scrambling for an eight-yard score.  Still, it's encouraging for the Saints that their usually defunct rushing offense can put the game away when they need it to.

Pass Defense:  Yet again, the Saints passing defense was phenomenal. Carson Palmer completed just 51 percent of his passes and was picked twice (by rookie Kenny Vaccaro and Keenan Lewis). Cameron Jordan recorded a pair of the Saints' four sacks.    

Run Defense:  The Saints defense registered a huge game, holding the Cards to just 247 total yards, including 86 on the ground.  The Cardinals had to largely abandon the rush in the second half as they were down big, but the Saints still deserve credit for allowing just 29 rush yards after the break.

Special Teams:  Darren Sproles had a 28-yard punt return and also registered another 18-yard punt return that was called back by holding.  Garrett Hartley hit his only field-goal attempt (a chip-shot 31-yarder) and Morstead was solid on his four punts.  

Coaching:  There's very little on which you can fault the Saints in this game.  They were disciplined (just four penalties), took care of the ball (one turnover—a pick by Brees) and dominated on offense and defense.  Saints fans have to be encouraged by this thorough 60-minute effort, and that starts with an excellent game plan by the Saints on both sides of the ball.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints reacts to a sack against the Arizona Cardinals during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 22, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Halftime Analysis

Pass Offense: After a less-than-vintage Drew Brees performance in Week 2, the Saints QB was sharp in the first half, completing 64 percent of his passes and racking up a pair of touchdowns.  Jimmy Graham once again looked strong in the first half, hauling in four catches including a 16-yard scoring strike from Brees.

Run Offense: The Saints did nothing on the ground in the first half, rushing just three times for minus-five yards (all with Pierre Thomas).  They didn't attempt to establish something remotely resembling a running game, but they didn't have to due to Brees' effectiveness.

Pass Defense:  The Saints pass defense was once again surprisingly effective. They held Josh Freeman to just 32 yards passing in the first half of Week 2, and they've held Carson Palmer to just 90 yards in the first half of Week 3.  Cameron Jordan managed two of the Saints' three first-half sacks, and Palmer completed just 50 percent of his 24 passes. 

Run Defense: The Saints can't run, but they stop the run effectively enough that it hasn't been a problem thus far. Alfonso Smith managed a 21-yard run, but the Cardinals had just 36 other rushing yards in the half.  The hobbled Rashard Mendenhall managed just 2.8 yards per carry on six rushes in the half. 

Special Teams: Thomas Morstead had an impressive 49.5 yards per punt and Darren Sproles managed a 16.0 yards per return.  Travaris Cadet did negate an 18-yard return by Sproles with a holding penalty.

Coaching: Sean Payton decided to run out of the spread deep in his own territory with less than two minutes remaining in the half, and it didn't quite work—the Saints went three-and-out and gave the Cards good field position.  That could have backfired, but the Saints were able to hold Arizona out of field-goal position.

Overall, Payton's decision to abandon the running game was relatively effective for New Orleans as they put up 14 points in the first half.  He recognized that his team had the advantage in the passing game and took advantage of it by nearly doubling his opponent's passing yards (167-90).