FULL BOX SCORE
- The Cardinals’ slow starts are (sort of) not a problem on Thursday. Arizona still has the indignity of scoring just six first-quarter points in seven games, including three on Thursday. But at least the Cardinals solved their second-quarter problems, for one night anyway. The team had been outscored in the second quarter by a 48-26 count before the game, but managed to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 28-14 halftime lead, thanks to picks of six on consecutive discs. It won’t happen every week, and the Cardinals got bogged down twice early in Saints territory and settled for field goals. It didn’t matter in the end. But it was the kind of half-laugh that Arizona — and more specifically Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury — needed. Even though it came against a battered Saints deep board, the Cardinals moved the ball well all night. Let’s put it this way: Can you imagine the reaction if they hadn’t?
- No easing to DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins’ return came when the Cardinals desperately needed him. It showed in their use of him. Hopkins was targeted 14 times, catching ten passes for 103 yards in an impressive performance. He let a few balls snap his hands (and helmet), which is normal for a player who missed the first 35% of the season. But Hopkins gave Murray safety cover in longer distance situations and was a welcome sight. And his impact went beyond catches and yards. Late in the second quarter, Murray ran off the field angrily yelling at his head coach, and Hopkins was there to soften Murray up. A play later, the Cardinals threw it, tying the game on a two-run conversion (in which Hopkins had a hand, drawing a defensive hold call on first down).
- Jameis Winston gets his job back, we think. Andy Dalton took over from an injured Winston and performed relatively well in his first three starts this season, keeping turnovers (two) and sacks (four) on the low side. There was even talk of him having the option of keeping his job even after Winston was deemed healthy. Winston was apparently set to start on Thursday. Maybe Dennis Allen wished he had gone that way. Dalton started hot, but blew nearly a nine-minute drive with a poor red-zone pick and followed that up with straight-six picks. The first was not his fault; the second was affected by pressure. Even still, it was a tough performance for the stoned Dalton (even throwing for four touchdowns), and he was never the intended starter to start. The Saints desperately need to find out if Winston has a future there, and time is running out with the team falling to 2-5. Assuming he’s healthy, the Saints should get back to him.
- The Saints have hit rock bottom in the turnover department. The Saints entered the game tied for the most turnovers in the NFL (13) and dead last in turnover rate (minus-7). That number hit minus-10 at halftime, completely stalling the early game momentum they had established. Dalton’s first pick kept the Saints up 14-3; a few blinks later, and they lost two points. Much of that is clearly down to the Saints offense, as quarterbacks alone have accounted for 10 turnovers in seven games. But the defense could do their part to help out and steal a few balls once in a while. After creating three turnovers in the first two games, the unit has just three takeaways in five games since then. Of course, this group has been gutted by injuries, especially at the back. But one or two twists created in this game could have changed the storyline and maybe kept them in the game longer.
- The Cardinals need to give Eno Benjamin more chances. Ahead of last week’s game against the Seahawks, there was some quiet excitement in Cardinalsdom with the news that Benjamin might be able to enjoy his starting assignment after James Conner was injured. That never materialized, as Benjamin was correlated (15 carries for 37 yards) by what had been poor Seattle run defense. On Thursday, however, Benjamin was a force. His tackle-busting running style he patented just down the road at Arizona State was on full display, as he routinely trailed Saints defenders for extra yards en route to a 12-carry running performance , 92 yards and a TD, as well as four catches. Benjamin was buried on the depth chart, but he deserves a role, even when Conner is back. He runs hard and with a purpose, a no-frills asset for a Cardinals offense that needs a clear identity.
Next Gen Game Stats: The Cardinals’ Isaiah Simmons hit a top speed of 20.68 mph on his pick six of Andy Dalton, the fastest speed by a linebacker as a running back this season. Since 2020, Simmons has hit over 20 mph six times on scrimmage plays, the most of any linebacker in that span.
NFL Search: Saints WR Rashid Shaheed became just the second player since 1991 to score 40+ yard touchdowns in his first two career plays from scrimmage. The last to do so? Cardinals WR Marquise Brown, who made it as a rookie with Baltimore.
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