GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals‘ defense changed the game with pick-sixes of quarterback Andy Dalton on back-to-back drives just before halftime, and the team continued to pour it on in the second half to beat the New Orleans Saints 42-34.
The Cardinals’ 42 points are their most in a game since Week 17 of 2016 and the most under coach Kliff Kingsbury. The win breaks a streak of eight straight home losses for Arizona, which had been tied for the team’s longest home losing streak since 1940.
The Cardinals needed this win in the worst possible way. They were off to a 2-4 start, their offense was anemic and they were on the brink of an early-season tailspin.
And then they put together this performance on national TV behind an impressive defensive showing, highlighted by two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The two pick-sixes — one by cornerback Marco Wilson followed by one by linebacker Isaiah Simmons on consecutive drives — put the Cardinals in command of a game that was tied at 14 before the first pick-six.
Thursday night could be defining game of the Cardinals’ season. DeAndre Hopkins made an impact in his first game back from suspension. He had 103 yards on 10 catches, reacclimating to the offense as well as the Cardinals could have hoped. But the defense finding its rhythm against the pass, while complementing an offense that found its own rhythm, was what the Cardinals needed to potentially turn the season around.
Describe the game in two words: Pick-sixes. The two interception returns for touchdowns at the end of the first half gave the Cardinals a commanding two-touchdown lead and set them up for the win.
Bold prediction for next week: With 10 days between Thursday night’s game and the Cardinals’ next game, which is at the Minnesota Vikings, Robbie Anderson will have plenty of time to get the playbook down and understand his role so he can have a bigger part in the offense. — Josh Weinfuss
Underrated statistic to know: The Cardinals had 28 points in the first half. Coming into the game, they had 29 first-half points in their first six games combined.
Next game: at Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Oct. 30)
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have vowed to fix the turnovers, the bad tackles and the ill-timed penalties. They’ve repeatedly stated there’s still a lot of season left to go.
But after their fifth loss in six games, the Saints seem to be getting worse. Dalton gave up 14 points by himself with the two pick-sixes, and the Saints’ defense didn’t help matters, as the unit that used to be the strength of the team has struggled this season.
Injuries certainly played a part in the outcome, with wide receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry out and three cornerbacks down (Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo and now Bradley Roby). The injuries have been just a part of the problem, though, as the same mistakes have followed the Saints from Week 1.
QB breakdown: Dalton and prime-time performances just haven’t mixed well. Dalton came into the game as the only quarterback to lose five straight prime-time games by at least 17 points since 1970. He didn’t add to that streak after the Saints scored some late touchdowns to close the gap, throwing four total touchdowns, but back-to-back pick-sixes (one bobbled by receiver Marquez Callaway) certainly didn’t improve his prime-time reputation. With Jameis Winston starting to get healthy, this was the worst possible time for Dalton to throw a clunker of a performance if he wanted to keep the starting quarterback job.
Troubling trend: The Saints came into the game with the worst turnover differential in the league and didn’t help that stat. Their defense didn’t take the ball away once, and the offense gave it away three times. The Saints have been extremely turnover prone this year and have had penalties at the worst times. Saints coach Dennis Allen has said multiple times that the team would work on some of those problems, but so far, there have been no signs of fixing them.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Saints’ playmakers seemed to disappear at odd points in the game. Rookie receiver Rashid Shaheed, who made his NFL debut last week and scored touchdowns on his first two career catches, did not have a touch again after a 53-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Taysom Hill, who had one target which resulted in a touchdown catch, spent a large part of the fourth quarter on the sideline. The Saints are already short-handed on offense, so unless it’s injury related, it seems odd not to try to utilize some players who have been bright spots this year. — Katherine Terrell
Underrated statistic to know: Saints quarterbacks have thrown six pick-sixes since the start of last season, tied for the NFL’s most over that span with the Los Angeles Rams.
Next game: vs. Raiders (1 p.m. ET, Oct. 30)