The New Orleans Saints fell 31-19 to the Arizona Cardinals yesterday but they showed signs of improvement despite the overall bad performance. Obviously this team has a lot of work to do if they want to win games but they flashed a good level of play at times in Glendale.
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As expected the Saints’ defense suffered early in the game, failing to bring pressure on the line of scrimmage and allowing Carson Palmer to find open receivers all over the field, who led the Cards to a 14-3 lead after a couple of drives. The first Saints touchdown was also the first score of young wide receiver Brandon Coleman and after another field goal the teams went to halftime with a one-point gap, 14-13.
When the Saints’ defense began to make successful adjustments, the offense failed to deliver in the red zone. The consequent momentum shift towards the home team brought the Cardinals back into the game, especially the Cards’ defense.
After a pair of Saints field goals and a questionable punt from deep in their own territory with under two minutes in the game and the score at 24-19, the Cardinals killed the game with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to rookie running back David Johnson on a beautifully designed play.
It might be hard to find bright spots in a loss like this, especially because after a disappointing 2014 season Saints fans were hoping for a quick rebound. Don’t forget that the Cardinals were one of the best teams in football last season before Palmer’s season-ending injury and their defense is still a top-five unit in the league.
Don’t lose your faith just yet, Saints fans. Here’s what I liked about yesterday’s game which is also what the Saints have to start from and improve from there, starting next week.
- WR Brandon Coleman is taking advantage of his opportunities and will quickly pass Marques Colston in terms of number of targets, if Colston keeps playing like he did against Arizona.
- WR Willie Snead’s lone reception went for 63 yards: if Cooks gets shut down Brees has another big-play guy to target. Those plays are momentum-changing plays and we all saw how bad the Saints need those.
- RB Mark Ingram looked sharp in the passing game but his 2.7 ypc wasn’t good enough – but to be fair, the Cardinals’ front-seven was exceptional against the run.
- The pass protection was pretty good but Brees was unable to find receivers downfield simply because of the very good coverage by Cards’ defensive backs that forced him to play short/intermediate routes all day long.
- As Saints reporter Nick Underhill wrote earlier, the Saints were indeed able to bring some pressure – they just weren’t able to finish. This is a cause for concern since Palmer isn’t exactly the most athletic QB out there and yet he still managed to escape from the pocket with ease but the Saints have the potential to improve in that area, especially with all the rookies in the rotation of the defensive line who are still adjusting to the NFL game.
- DE Cam Jordan had a good game that could’ve been a great game but he missed on several opportunities to get his first sack of the year. He finished the game with two tackles, two batted passes, two QB hurries and one QB hit. Keep playing like that and sacks will arrive.
- As for sacks, the Saints missed on a couple of interception opportunities too. Again, with a little bit of luck and better concentration this defense should be able to bounce back before it’s too late.
- OLB Hau’oli Kikaha and ILB Stephone Anthony made a couple of very nice plays and if they continue to get better the whole defense will benefit a lot from their performances.
- New Saints kicker Zach Hocker went 4/4 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points. Finally the Saints seems to have found a reliable kicker.
Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman (16) celebrates a 12 yard touchdown during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Next week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a much easier one for the Saints to handle. Hopefully we’ll see some improvements already.
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