Tale Of The Tape: Arizona Cardinals At New Orleans Saints
- QuarterbackCarson Palmer is savoring the chance to lead an NFL offense. Palmer knows how to keep his cool after mistakes. He demonstrated that in Week Two vs. the Lions when he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter and came back to lead the Cardinals to a win.The Saints have not played stellar football in the first two weeks of the season, but they are 2-0 and that’s a good sign. Drew Brees did not have his best game against the Bucs, completing 26-of-46 passes for 322 yards with one TD and two interceptions, yet he made the throws down the stretch that allowed Garrett Hartley to kick the game-winning field goal. Brees should only get better from here.
- OffenseThe Cardinals had to be thrilled that Rashard Mendenhall ran for 66 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in their come-from-behind victory over the Detroit Lions. Mendenhall has the ability to give the Cardinals a power-running game that can take a lot of pressure off of Palmer. Larry Fitzgerald is still one of the best receivers in the game and can almost always get the best of one-on-one coverage.The Saints would like to have a running game that could take the pressure off of Brees, but they don’t at this point in the season. Pierre Thomas can’t seem to get untracked. That means that tight end Jimmy Graham is the focus of the offense and he is sensational because he can get open and make great runs after the catch. Marques Colston is still a valuable third-down weapon.
- DefenseThe Arizona defense has a chance to develop into an excellent unit before the end of the season. Karlos Dansby is a tackling machine who is not going to let ball carriers slip away. Patrick Peterson is one of the best cover men in the game and the Cardinals like him so much that they are using him on offense and special teams as well. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu is on the verge of becoming a solid defensive back.The Saints lack consistency on defense, but they make up for some of the mistakes they make because they play hard on every snap. That should be a given in the NFL, but it is not. Defensive end Cameron Jordan had a sack against the Bucs and he has the speed to get around the corner. Linebacker Curtis Lofton is a solid tackler who has excellent instincts for his position.
- Special TeamsPeterson has gamebreaking speed and is capable of providing game-changing returns in clutch situations. Placekicker Jay Feely has become one of the most dependable at his position and he was 4-of-4 on FG attempts against Detroit. Dave Zastudil is a plus punter who can help Arizona win the field-position battle.Garrett Hartley is a middle-of-the-pack kicker, but he was good enough to kick the game-winning field goal vs. the Bucs in Week Two. Thomas Morstead is one of the better punters in the league. He dropped four punts inside the 20 against Tampa Bay and that’s a regular occurrence for him. Darren Sproles is a good return man, but he appears to have lost a half-step.
The Saints are trying to rebound after last year’s disastrous season and they have taken the first two steps. However, they are not cohesive and they could find themselves victimized by an opportunistic Arizona team. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor