Cardinals-Saints Preview

BY foxsports • September 20, 2013

Coach Sean Payton has the New Orleans Saints back to their winning ways, but his usual high-scoring offense isn't where he'd like it to be quite yet.

The Arizona Cardinals certainly won't be as dangerous if Larry Fitzgerald can't recover from a hamstring injury.

The Saints hope to get their offense headed in the right direction against the Cardinals on Sunday when they try to start 3-0 for the first time since their 2009 Super Bowl-winning season.

Following Payton's 2012 suspension for the bounty scandal, New Orleans won its 10th straight regular-season game under the head coach dating back to 2011 with Sunday's 16-14 victory at Tampa Bay.

The Saints have averaged 32.6 points and 471.1 yards during that streak, but have scored 19.5 and gained 395.0 per game in 2013.

New Orleans managed one offensive touchdown Sunday, and Drew Brees was intercepted twice and sacked four times.

"We've got a lot to fix. We've got a ton of football to play,'' Payton said. "Obviously, we've got to be better at scoring and I've got to do a better job."

New Orleans has converted only one of seven red-zone chances into touchdowns. That 14.3 percent conversion rate ranks last in the NFL.

"We've certainly had some opportunities and just haven't taken advantage of it yet,'' Brees said. "Eventually, that will bite us if we don't get it fixed.''

Despite the team's scoring slump, Brees seeks his eighth straight 300-yard passing game after completing 26 of 46 for 322 yards with one touchdown in Week 2. His primary target has been tight end Jimmy Graham, who had 10 catches for 179 yards - including a 56-yard score.

Running back Darren Sproles and wideout Marques Colston have also been key contributors with a combined 21 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown.

Now they'll face an Arizona team that has allowed St. Louis' Sam Bradford and Detroit's Matthew Stafford to complete 68.9 percent of their passes for 577 yards and four touchdowns. The Cardinals (1-1) have only one interception and one sack.

Arizona hopes to have Fitzgerald as it tries to build on Sunday's 25-21 home victory over the Lions. The seven-time Pro Bowler had two catches for 33 yards before aggravating his hamstring injury in the second half.

He practiced on a limited basis Friday and was listed as questionable.

Kerry Taylor, promoted from the practice squad, had three late catches for 40 yards - his first NFL receptions - while Jim Dray led the Cardinals with five catches for 31 yards. Veterans Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd, however, combined for six catches for 58 yards.

Carson Palmer has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 575 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, though both his scoring strikes to receivers have gone to Fitzgerald. While with Oakland, Palmer went 22 of 40 for 312 yards with two touchdowns and two picks in a 38-17 loss to the Saints last November.

If Fitzgerald can't play, Arizona may have to lean more heavily on running back Rashard Mendenhall, though he also practiced for the first time this week Friday and is listed as questionable with a toe injury. Mendenhall has rushed for 126 yards on 31 carries (4.1 ypg) with one touchdown, and New Orleans has given up 124.0 rushing yards per game - 27th in the NFL.

The Saints, however, have been much improved defensively under new coordinator Rob Ryan after yielding an NFC-worst 28.4 points per game and a league-record 7,042 yards last season.

They've given up the sixth-fewest points (31) and the 11th-fewest yards (640).

"We are flying pretty high as a defense,'' linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "Last year is last year, that's in the past. This is a new team, new defense, new defensive coordinator, so we moved way past that.''

New Orleans, which has produced four turnovers and four sacks, suffered a blow to its depth in the secondary Sunday when cornerback Patrick Robinson was lost for the season with a right knee injury.

The Saints have won six of seven home meetings, last hosting the Cardinals in a 45-14 win in the 2010 divisional playoffs.

share story