October 3, 2004

Cardinals Humiliate Saints in Desert: Saints dominated by underdogs; Cardinals and Smith run for 34-10 win

An embarrassing day for the New Orleans Saints as the underdog Arizona Cardinals had little trouble running over the Saints defense and the Saints' offense was played by mistakes. The game finally ended with the score a lopsided 34-10, the Cardinals totally dominating all but the first few minutes of play.

The game actually started off looking like the Saints would have their way in the desert. Aaron Brooks and the Saints opened in the no huddle offense and took the opening kickoff down to the Arizona one-yard line, taking over six minutes on an 11-play drive that reached within inches of the Cardinal goal line. On third down, Brooks scrambled and was leveled within inches of the goal line by linebacker James Darling. On fourth and inches, Brooks fumbled the snap on his attempt for the quarterback sneak. The Cardinals recovered in the end zone and took over on their own 20-yard line.

It was all down hill from then.

The Cardinals offense took a while to get started, going three-and-out on the first three drives. After Arizona punter Scott Player's punt was partially blocked by Mel Mitchell, the Saints took the ball at their own 49-yard line. Mike McCarthy called for a wide receiver reverse, but Aaron Stecker and Donte Stallworth fumbled the exchange. Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson scooped up the ball and raced 35 yards for the touchdown and a lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter.

The Saints would add a field goal in the first half but Emmitt Smith would score a touchdown when Emmitt Smith rolled right and lobbed a touchdown pass to a wide-open Obafemi Ayanbadejo in the end zone to give the Cardinals a 14-3 halftime lead.

The Saints scored in the third quarter and got as close as 14-10 when Steve Gleason blocked the Cardinals' punt on the first drive the second half. Mel Mitchell fell on the ball in the end zone for the score. It would be the tightest the game would get.

The Cardinals ran away from the Saints in the second half, scoring on their last four possessions as the afternoon rolled on. The Saints were practically exhausted at halftime and showed their fatigue in the fourth quarter when the Cardinals ran on almost every play and still ran up the score. Smith, who tied Walter Payton's record with 77 career 100-yard rushing games, scored a touchdown as well as his past and current backup Troy Hambrick in the fourth quarter. Smith finished with 127 of the Cardinals' 211 rushing yards. Josh McCown, who had been turnover prone and even benched so far this season, completed 12 of 18 passes for 157 yards.

The Saints were terribly mistake prone. 12 penalties on the day plagued all three phases of the game, including an offside penalty on a punt that gave the Cardinals a first down, a holding call on Montrae Holland that eliminated a Kijana Carter touchdown scamper, and Victor Riley's and Wayne Gandy's weekly drive stalling false start penalties. Gandy nearly gave the Cardinals a safety when he was guilty of holding in the end zone, but the referees ruled that Gandy had been holding his pass rusher since they were outside the end zone.

The Saints did catch a break when Emmitt Smith fumbled inside the Saint five-yard line. LB Derrick Rodgers, who finished with nine total tackles, stripped the ball and reserve CB Fahkir Brown emerged from the pile with the ball at the Saint one-yard line. On the previous play, Tebucky Jones egregiously leveled Cardinal WR Bryant Johnson, a 36-yard penalty that set up the Cardinals in scoring position. Jones went on to lead the team in tackles with ten, regularly the first to make contact with a Cardinal runningback.

QB Aaron Brooks was frustrated by a sticky Cardinal defense and an exhausted supporting cast. He completed 24 of 40 passes for 242 yards. He was sacked once, and scrambled three times for 13 yards.

Aaron Stecker, making his second start without Deuce McAllister, was the Saints' leading rusher and receiver, finishing with a mere 23 yards on eight rushing attempts and six catches for 71 yards. Joe Horn had six catches for 47 yards and Stallworth finished with five catches for 45 yards. WR Jerome Pathon missed the game with a hamstring pull suffered in practice during the week. WR Michael Lewis played and recorded three catches for 38 yards and rookie WR Devery Henderson also saw his first playing time as a Saint. Boo Williams, a frequent down field target for Brooks, finished with four catches for 41 yards.

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