While the New Orleans Saints aren’t happy with their offensive
production, they can take comfort knowing their Super Bowl MVP is
still taking the snaps. The Arizona Cardinals don’t have that
Drew Brees and the defending champion Saints visit a struggling
Cardinals team that is handing its offense over to undrafted rookie
free agent Max Hall on Sunday.
After leading the NFL in points (31.9) and yards (403.8) per
game last season, the 3-1 Saints are averaging 19.8 points and
344.0 yards in 2010.
“We’re not satisfied with the way we’re playing, not putting up
more than an average of 20 points a game,” said Brees, who
completed 33 of 48 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown in last
Sunday’s 16-14 win over Carolina.
“This offense prides itself on big plays, a lot of points,
spreading the ball around and running the ball well, all the things
we haven’t quite done yet to this point.”
That could change Sunday when Brees, who has the league’s
fourth-most passing yards with 1,131, faces a Cardinals team
yielding 29.5 points and 388.0 yards per game.
Arizona’s porous defense could also help New Orleans’ running
game, which has been hampered by injuries. The Saints, who are
among the league’s worst rushing teams with 73.2 yards per game,
will be without Reggie Bush (fractured right fibula) for at least a
few more weeks, while Pierre Thomas could miss a second straight
game with a sprained left ankle.
If Thomas is sidelined, Ladell Betts and rookie Christopher
Ivory will likely get the majority of carries against a Cardinals
defense allowing an NFC-worst 154.8 rushing yards per game. The two
combined for 114 rushing yards last weekend, with Betts running for
47 and catching four passes for 23 yards in his first action since
tearing two knee ligaments in November with Washington.
“I don’t want to be the weak link,” he said. “I don’t want this
offense to not be able to run the plays that they normally run just
because I’m in there. I pride myself on knowing everything that’s
in the playbook.”
The Cardinals (2-2) are hoping Hall can make the same claim.
Looking for a spark with his team averaging 14.5 points and 251.5
yards, coach Ken Whisenhunt will give the 24-year-old Mesa native
his first NFL start in Arizona’s second starting quarterback change
since training camp opened.
Matt Leinart was expected to be the heir apparent to Kurt
Warner, who retired in the offseason after a 41-14 NFC divisional
loss at New Orleans on Jan. 16, but he was released Sept. 4. Derek
Anderson, who was signed in the offseason, took over for Leinart,
but he has been intercepted five times and has the league’s lowest
passer rating at 59.5.
After being picked off twice in the first half of last Sunday’s
41-10 loss at San Diego, Anderson was replaced by Hall, who
completed 8 of 14 passes for 82 yards and no interceptions while
being sacked six times.
“It doesn’t matter who is back there, if we don’t block for the
quarterback … you could put my grandmother back there and she
wouldn’t do well,” center Lyle Sendlein told the Cardinals’
official website. “Not saying she would do well if we did block for
her. (But) she’s pretty athletic.”
With wide receivers Steve Breaston (knee) and Early Doucet
(sports hernia) likely out, Hall will be looking to throw to Larry
Fitzgerald, who has just 14 receptions for 208 yards and two TDs.
The four-time Pro Bowler caught 97 passes for 1,092 yards and a
career-high 13 touchdowns in 2009.
The Cardinals will also be looking for more from their running
game after Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells combined for 43 yards
against San Diego.
Including the postseason, New Orleans has won two straight and
11 of the last 16 meetings in this series. The Saints fell 34-10 in
their last visit to Arizona in 2004.