What We Saw: Saints at Cardinals

The Cardinals defense rolled out back-to-back pick-six plays to earn their team an important win over the Saints in Arizona.

Saints @ Cardinals

Final Score: Cardinals 42, Saints 34

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

Two 2-4 teams looking to kickstart their seasons met on Thursday Night Football in the desert. Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals came into the contest misfiring on offense after a number of close defeats. Denis Allen‘s rotating quarterback situation has hampered the New Orleans Saints so far in 2022 but they could easily be a winning team if missed field goals hadn’t cost them in near every game. The games on Thursdays have been dreadful this year…this wasn’t one of them. 42 points and no punts at half time, yikes! How did it all end up? Let’s find out.

Andy Dalton got the start in this one for the Saints and the “Red Rifle” decided to start the fireworks early – this beautiful 53-yard bomb to undrafted rookie speedster Rashid Shaheed for six set the tone for the night.

 

On the Saints’ next drive, Dalton was cooking again and led the team into the Cardinals red zone thanks to three productive connections with Chris Olave. However, as has plagued him during his career, he got greedy and threw a pick into tight coverage to blow a big chance to go up by two touchdowns early in the game.

 

Dalton did get his second touchdown pass soon after, finding Taysom Hill on a designed screen play that the multifarious Hill took into the end zone by driving his legs through multiple tackles.

 

Kyler Murray needed to make something happen for his team after another lacklustre start. He answered by scrambling for a key conversion on fourth down in the red zone after a creative 13-play, 75 yard drive that unheralded running back Keontay Ingram finished off by battling through tackles at the goal line.

 

Murray was fired up on the sidelines, remonstrating with Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury as both showed passion and the desire to win under the gaze of doubters.

 

Murray was even happier watching the next two drives as this well-coached Arizona defense inflicted back-to-back pick-sixes on a hapless Dalton. The first was thanks to Saints receiver Marquez Callaway juggling the ball up for cornerback Marco Wilson to take to the house. A bad mistake from the depth receiver.

 

The second was just a terrible throw from Dalton just before half time. The Saints quarterback forced the ball down the middle once again and failed to spot star all-over-the-field former first-round pick Isaiah Simmons, who was waiting to steal it away and run it back. What a turn around!

 

The second half was a more muted affair with the Saints offense failing to move the chains to drag themselves back into the game in the third quarter. After punting twice and settling for a field goal despite being first and goal from the Cardinals 9-yard line, Allen then had to watch as his team went further behind after Murray orchestrated a brilliant 12-play, 85-yard drive which Greg Dortch finished off with a grab on a basic slant.

 

Down by three scores, there was a sense of inevitable defeat in the Saints’ play  towards the end even though there was plenty of time left. They responded by reducing the deficit to 11 points thanks to a short-field drive that saw Dalton connect with Juwan Jennings, who shrugged off a poor tackle to walk the ball in.

 

However, the Cardinals marched right back down the field with a mix of Eno Benjamin running hard and the returning DeAndre Hopkins proving to be a difference maker on the outside. Benjamin extended to ice the game midway through the half.

 

An entertaining game finally, and a great win for the Cardinals, who needed it and now look back in the picture in the open NFC West. The Amazon coverage also produced one of the most iconic shot’s of the season so far, bravo – desperate disappointment followed by pure elation.

 

New Orleans Saints

 

Quarterback

 

Andy Dalton: 30/47, 361 Yards, 4 TD, 3 INT | 4 Carries, 21 Yards

Taysom Hill: 2/2, 48 Yards | 3 Carries, 9 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 3 Yards, TD

 

Great for fantasy, horrific for football – it was the Andy Dalton experience at its peak. After an encouraging opening couple of drives for Dalton, everything changed once he threw his first pick in the end zone at the end of the first quarter. Dalton had shown accuracy at every level until he forced a pass on third down into the arms of the Arizona secondary. From there he made the same mistake twice more and was punished severely. Still, down big provided the perfect game script for fantasy as Dalton threw the ball a season-high 47 times, completing 30 for over 350 yards and four TDs to go along with his three turnovers. Taysom Hill added another 46 yards through the air and the majority of passes from both went to exciting young rookie Chris Olave.

 

Still, touchdowns were thrown to people who were unlikely to be on fantasy starting lineups this week. Emerging tight end Juwan Johnson was the beneficiary of two late score as the Cardinals gave up easy yards in an attempt to drain the clock. Dalton amassed 26.54 fantasy points, his best return of the year and the majority were thanks to two touchdown throws to Johnson. It was only fitting for National Tight Ends Day!

 

Dalton remains off the fantasy radar despite this showing and with the impending return of Jameis Winston, it is safe to say the Saints will officially move on from the Red Rifle immediately once Winston is healthy.

 

Running Back

 

Alvin Kamara: 11 Carries, 49 Yards | 9 Targets, 7 Receptions, 56 Yards

Mark Ingram II: 4 Carries, 6 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 16 Yards

 

A night of missed opportunities for Alvin Kamara, who started off well seeing eight touches for 44 yards on the opening two drives of the game, including three straight red zone touches. However, after Dalton imploded and the plan was torn up in favor of the aerial catch-up route, Kamara only saw four more carries the entire game after the first quarter. Pain!

 

However, he did end up with plenty of targets out of the backfield and notched seven of those for 56 yards to at least give PPR fantasy managers some respectability. Still, it could have been a monster day for the explosive running back if it hadn’t been for his quarterbacks indiscretions.

Mark Ingram II remains a clear backup for Kamara if he needs to step out for a play or two. He made little impact in this one.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Chris Olave: 14 Targets, 7 Receptions, 106 Yards

Kevin White: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 64 Yards

Tre’Quan Smith: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 59 Yards

Rashid Shaheed: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 53 Yards, TD

Juwan Johnson: 5 Targets, 5 Receptions, 32 Yards, 2 TD

Marquez Callaway: 6 Targets, 2 Receptions, 20 Yards

 

Chris Olave is making a play for Offensive Rookie of the Year after his second 100+ yard receiving game of the season. Olave was all over the field making plays in this game, using his elite speed to create separation and manufacture catch-and-run situations through the game. He had only three catches for 40 yards at halftime but with the Saints playing from behind he benefitted from the game script.

 

Olave participated in 75% of offensive snaps for the fourth time in his six-game career and seems to be quarterback-proof, which is beneficial in this Saints system. He is the must-have fantasy asset in this receiving room. He was a key contributor on third downs also, being the one the team went to in third and long situations like this one.

 

The Saints had a heavy rotation of back-up receivers in the absence of Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, so there were limited opportunities for a host of wideouts and tight ends. Juwan Johnson took his chances though, the former receiver-turned-tight end showing his ability in contested situations and as an effective weapon out of the slot. He could be a sneaky options at tight end if he shows the safe hands in the red zone like he did last night.

Young undrafted sensation Rashid Shaheed wasn’t targeted after his opening drive deep touchdown catch, and Tre’Quan Smith was also underused, seeing the majority of his work in the fourth quarter as the Saints pushed back from a big hole. Taysom Hill had his usual gadget role and notched a touchdown despite only three carries and one catch across the contest. We are not investing in this offense outside of Kamara and Olave right now.

 

Arizona Cardinals

 

Quarterback

 

Kyler Murray: 20/29, 204 Yards, TD, 2 Sacks | 7 Carries, 30 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

 

If Dalton’s inflated fantasy output masked his error-prone performance, Kyler Murray‘s underwhelming 16.16 fantasy points far from told the story of a composed, clinical performance that fully deserved more in terms of output. Murray enjoyed having Hopkins back and peppered him with 14 of his 29 passes to the tune of 103 yards. All that was missing was for the two to link up for a touchdown. Murray generally stayed short-to-intermediate with his throws, working the sidelines and giving his receivers chance to catch and run. Rondale Moore got the offense going early.

 

Murray also moved the sticks with his feet as he is accustomed to do when the defense restrict space in the secondary. Murray added 30 yards on seven carries, including this key fourth down conversion on the Cardinals game-tying score in the second quarter.

 

Murray added the second half touchdown pass to Greg Dortch to add to his fantasy haul but the performance warranted much more.

 

Running Back

 

Eno Benjamin: 12 Carries, 92 Yards, TD | 5 Targets, 4 Receptions, 21 Yards

Keaontay Ingram: 9 Carries, 14 Yards, TD | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 23 Yards

 

What a night it was for these two later round young running backs, who both hit pay dirt and provided meaningful contributions throughout the contest. Eno Benjamin has led this backfield outstandingly well in the absence of James Conner, the former Arizona State back broke off a big 45-yard run to make his presence felt in the first quarter.

 

However, takeaway that run and he combined with Keaontay Ingram to register just 61 yards on 20 carries for the rest of the game. Ingram was a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and he spent the first month as a healthy scratch, however he notched career highs in rushes and receptions in addition to his first career touchdown. Ingram also had a second score called back after replays showed he was down a yard short. It was this run out of the backfield that caught the eye, though.

 

With Conner slated to return in a couple of weeks, Benjamin is still a nice fantasy asset through these bye weeks. Expect him to have some value depending on Conner’s longer term outook.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

DeAndre Hopkins: 14 Targets, 10 Receptions, 103 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

Rondale Moore: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 31 Yards

Zach Ertz: 4 Targets, 2 Receptions, 21 Yards

Greg Dortch: 1 Carry, 1 Yard | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 5 Yards, TD

Robbie Anderson: 1 Target

 

He’s back! DeAndre Hopkins returned to the Cardinals team after serving his six-game suspension for PEDs and immediately became the clear focal point of the offense, aiding Murray where he has been lacking in recent weeks, namely throwing the ball on the outside to move the sticks. Hopkins notched 10 catches on a healthy 14 targets (no other receiver had more than four), and dominated outside of the hashes all night.

 

He should be in line for a monster rest of the season as the Cardinals look to run the table in the NFC West. With only Rondale Moore and Zach Ertz genuine cogs in the offensive wheel, Hopkins could feed off his promising chemistry with Murray. It also helped that Hopkins was going up against rookie second-round corner Alontae Taylor, who covered well enough but was no match for Hopkins’ skillset.

 

Veterans A.J. Green and newly acquired Robbie Anderson were afterthoughts in this game and little tells us that is going to change going forward. Outside of Hopkins, there isn’t much fantasy value in this receiver room.

 

Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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