The New Orleans Saints will be seeking their 6th consecutive victory this Sunday when they return home to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to host the Arizona Cardinals. Kickoff is slated for 12:00 p.m. Central and the game will be televised regionally on CBS. Locally, you can watch on WWL-TV New Orleans Channel 4.
Coming into this game, the Saints have a 6-1 win-loss record and have won their past five games without starting QB Drew Brees, who is still recovering from surgery for a torn thumb ligament on his throwing hand. However, the future Hall of Fame signal-caller returned to practice yesterday and might see action in this contest; he will be listed as a “game-time decision” on the weekly roster.
As of this writing it appears that back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater will once again start in his absence. Bridgewater is undefeated (5-0) since taking over as the starter for Brees back in Week #2.
Drew Brees went into great detail in explaining the importance of being able to grip a football in the wake of his thumb injury. As I’m sure everyone has heard by now, he plans to play Sunday. pic.twitter.com/QzFknEJq6s
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) October 23, 2019
When Drew Brees was asked if he’s playing this week, he said, “That’s the plan.” But he still said he needs to make sure he feels like himself all week. And he said if he tells Sean Payton he’s ready, he thinks Payton will believe him. Brees threw Wednesday and felt good so far.
— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) October 23, 2019
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have a 3-3-1 win-loss record, and have won their last three games under the leadership of Arizona rookie and starting QB Kyler Murray. The diminutive-but-dangerous 5-foot-9 Murray was the Heisman Trophy winner last year at the University of Oklahoma and accordingly was the #1 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Murray has led the Cardinals’ passing attack – which features the new high-powered “Air Raid” offensive scheme employed by 1st-year Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury – to an average of 29 points per game in all three of those victories.
With all of that in mind, here are Big Easy Magazine’s five bold predictions for this Sunday’s contest.
#5. Drew Brees is Made “Active” for the Game and Sees Brief Action in the 2nd Half
Drew Brees targeting to come back next week. 👀 pic.twitter.com/84lHS3W7Qc
— theScore (@theScore) October 21, 2019
As Saints fans are well aware, the 19-year veteran has been eager to return to action. Earlier in the week, Saints head coach Sean Payton told a local New Orleans radio station that if Brees was “100% percent,” he would get to play Sunday against Arizona. Brees returned to practice for the first time yesterday.
But with Bridgewater having gone undefeated and leading the Black and Gold to five straight wins while Brees recovered from surgery, the general consensus is that the team should hold Brees out for one more week. New Orleans will be on their Bye Week next week following this contest.
As a compromise, in this Sunday’s game Payton and Saints’ management will allow Brees to be listed as “active” and dress out in uniform, and although he doesn’t start, Brees will “get his feet wet” and end up seeing limited action during the 4th quarter.
#4. Latavius Murray Tallies Over 100 Yards Rushing for a 2nd Straight Game
Latavius Murray is up for FedEx Ground Player of the Week 🔥
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 22, 2019
Much like Brees, superstar and 3rd-year Saints RB Alvin Kamara has missed time while battling injuries. In his case, Kamara has only missed one game – last week’s 36-25 win at Chicago – after he tweaked his knee the week prior at Jacksonville.
In Kamara’s absence, back-up RB Latavius Murray shouldered the load for New Orleans in the running game against Chicago last week. He carried the ball 27 times for 119 yards and two rushing TDs. It was the second straight stellar performance for the 29-year old Murray, whose physical and power-running style complements the Saints passing attack almost perfectly.
In Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Kamara will be limited to only a few touches as Payton elects to stick with Murray for one more week. Murray responds with a 3rd stellar outing against Arizona, carrying the ball 22 times for 103 yards and a TD, with another 43 yards receiving on 4 catches out of the backfield from Bridgewater.
#3. Teddy Bridgewater Gets One More Start and Has Another Top-Notch Performance Against the Vulnerable Cardinals Pass Defense
Teddy Bridgewater bet on himself, and it’s paying off.
– Turned down opportunity to sign with Miami to compete for starting QB job
– Returned to back up Drew Brees in hopes of succeeding him in the future
– Stepped in for an injured Brees in Week 2
– Improved to 5-0 as a starter pic.twitter.com/cSTLvXaKfs
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 20, 2019
As noted previously, Bridgewater has been solid in his role as the starter in Brees’ absence, and during the five game-winning streak while Brees was out has completed 132 passes out of 195 attempts for 1,370 yards, with nine TDs and two interceptions; and additionally has a passer rating of 98.88 along with two-game winning drives.
While those aren’t exactly numbers that would place him among the “elite-caliber” QBs in the NFL, they’re indicative of just how well he’s played and grown more and more comfortable within the Saints offensive scheme with each passing week. Bridgewater’s outstanding performance has made many fans who were fearful of the team’s future once Brees retires able to breathe a whole lot easier should Teddy decide to remain with the team long-term.
Against the Cardinals on Sunday, Bridgewater will make one last impression on both the Saints’ coaching staff and the Who Dat Nation fanbase alike, completing 22 out of 29 pass attempts for 322 yards and two TDs against a vulnerable Cardinals’ pass defense that has struggled this season and is ranked 25th overall in the League.
#2. The Surging Saints Defense Smothers the Cardinals Offensive Attack and Rookie QB Kyler Murray
With his 9th completion today, Kyler Murray (162) set an NFL record for the most completions by a player in his first seven career games. pic.twitter.com/sLDNpu5fPS
— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) October 20, 2019
After a slow start in his first few games at the helm of the “Air Raid” offense under Arizona head coach and reputed offensive ‘guru’ Kliff Kingsbury, the 22-year-old rookie QB Murray has guided the Cardinals to three straight wins. However, they’ve all come at the expense of less talented opponents Atlanta, Cincinnati, and the New York Giants.
Murray could find success somewhat fleeting in this Sunday’s contest at the Superdome. He’ll be facing a surging Saints defense that has “shut down” the offenses of their last several opponents and is fresh over a dominating win at Chicago. Against the Bears offense, the Black and Gold defense limited Chicago to a meager 252 yards of total offense (235 total passing yards and only a jaw-dropping 17 yards rushing yards on 7 total carries); and forced the Bears’ coaching staff to abandon the running game altogether in what was a superb effort for the ages.
Arizona and the rookie Murray will experience similar conditions in this Sunday’s game, as the surging Saints defense once again rises to the occasion and holds the Cardinals to 292 total yards (212 yards passing, 80 yards rushing) of offense, while essentially “smothering” Kingsbury’s popular and trendy offensive scheme and basically rendering it ineffective throughout the majority of the contest.
#1. The Score is Still Close Late in the 3rd Quarter When Suddenly…
The Saints, leading by a score of 24-17, intercept a Kyler Murray pass attempt intended for WR and 16-year veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald, returning the ball just past mid-field, and taking possession at the Arizona 48-yard line as the 3rd Quarter comes to an end.
On the very next play from scrimmage at the start of the 4th quarter, Bridgewater fires a PERFECT strike down the field to a wide-open tight end Josh Hill, who takes the ball the rest of the way into the end zone for a 48-yard catch-and-run reception and a 31-17 New Orleans lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Saints’ special teams — which was criticized for a “letdown” late in the win over Chicago last week — makes a sensational play when defensive back/special teams ace Justin Hardee recovers a fumble by Cardinals kick returner Pharoh Cooper. Three plays later, Saints RB Latavius Murray breaks two tackle attempts by linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive back Patrick Peterson and carries the ball into the endzone standing up, for a 27-yard TD run to essentially seal the victory for the Black and Gold.
Arizona attempts to put together a drive on their next possession in a futile effort to narrow the 21-point gap before time eventually runs out, but Kyler Murray’s pass attempt to fellow rookie and Cardinals WR Christian Kirk is batted away by back-up CB Ken Crawley on a 4th-down-and-7 play.
Sean Payton then sends Drew Brees to run the Saints’ offense for the final few minutes of the game, and eventually his kneel-down inside the two-minute warning officially “puts the game on ice” as the team heads into their Bye Week with a 6th straight victory.
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 38, CARDINALS 17
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius