2022 NFL season, Week 7: What We Learned from Cardinals' win over Saints on Thursday

Arizona Cardinals
2022 · 3-4-0
New Orleans Saints
2022 · 2-5-0

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  1. Cardinals’ slow starts are (sort of) not an issue on Thursday. Arizona still has the indignity of having scored only six first-quarter points through seven games, with three of them coming Thursday. But at least the Cardinals solved their second-quarter woes, for one night anyway. The team had been outscored in second quarters by a count of 48-26 coming into the game, but managed to flip a 7-3 deficit into a 28-14 halftime lead, thanks to pick-sixes on back-to-back drives. That won’t happen every week, and the Cardinals did bog down twice early in Saints territory and settle for field goals. It didn’t matter in the end. But this was the kind of semi-laugher that Arizona -- and specifically Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury -- needed. Even if it came against a slaughtered Saints depth chart, the Cardinals moved the ball well all night. Let’s put it this way: Can you imagine the reaction if they hadn’t?
  2. No easing in DeAndre Hopkins. The return of Hopkins came when the Cardinals most desperately needed him. It showed in their usage of him. Hopkins was targeted 14 times, catching 10 passes for 103 yards in an impressive showing. He let a few balls clang off his hands (and helmet), which can be expected for a player who has missed the first 35% of the season. But Hopkins gave Murray a security blanket in longer-yardage situations and was a welcome sight. And his impact went beyond catches and yards. Late in the second quarter, Murray came off the field shouting angrily in the direction of his head coach, and Hopkins was there to mellow Murray out. One play later, the Cardinals ran it in, tying the game on a two-point conversion (which Hopkins had a hand in, drawing a defensive holding call on the first try).
  3. Jameis Winston is getting his job back, we think. Andy Dalton took over for an injured Winston and performed relatively well in his first three starts this season, keeping the turnovers (two) and sacks (four) on the low side. There was even talk that he might have the opportunity to keep the job even after Winston was deemed healthy. Winston was apparently pretty close to starting Thursday. Perhaps Dennis Allen wishes he’d gone that direction. Dalton started out hot, but blew a nearly nine-minute drive with a bad red-zone pick and followed that up with back-to-back pick-sixes. The first wasn’t his fault; the second was affected by pressure. Even still, it was a tough showing for the banged-up Dalton (even in throwing for four touchdowns), and he was never the planned starter to begin with. The Saints absolutely have to find out if Winston has a future there, and time is running out with the team falling to 2-5. Assuming he’s healthy, the Saints have to go back to him.
  4. Saints hit rock bottom in the turnover department. The Saints entered the game tied with the NFL’s most turnovers (13) and dead last in turnover ratio (minus-7). That number hit minus-10 by halftime, completely stalling the early game momentum they had established. Dalton’s first pick prevented the Saints from going up 14-3; a few blinks of the eye later, and they were down two scores. A lot of this clearly is on the Saints’ offense, as the quarterbacks alone have accounted for 10 turnovers through seven games. But the defense could do its part to help out and steal a few balls now and then. After creating three turnovers in the first two games, the unit has only three takeaways in five games since then. Sure, this group was gutted by injuries, especially on the back end. But one or two turnovers created in this game could have changed the script and perhaps kept them in the game longer.
  5. Cardinals need to give Eno Benjamin more chances. There was some quiet buzz in Cardinalsdom prior to last week’s game against the Seahawks with the news that Benjamin might be able to take advantage of his starting assignment after James Conner got hurt. That never materialized, as Benjamin was corralled (15 carries for 37 yards) by what had been a bad Seattle run defense. On Thursday, however, Benjamin was a force. His tackle-breaking run style that he patented just down the road at Arizona State was on full display, as he regularly dragged Saints defenders for extra yards en route to a 12-carry, 92-yard, one-TD rushing performance, along with four grabs. Benjamin has been buried on the depth chart, but he deserves a role, even when Conner is back. He runs hard and with purpose, a no-nonsense asset for a Cardinals offense in need of a clear identity.


Next Gen stat of the game: The Cardinals’ Isaiah Simmons reached a top speed of 20.68 mph on his pick-six of Andy Dalton, the fastest speed by a linebacker as a ball carrier this season. Since 2020, Simmons has reached 20-plus mph six times on plays from scrimmage, most among all linebackers in that span.


NFL Research: Saints WR Rashid Shaheed became only the second player since 1991 to score touchdowns of 40-plus yards on his first two career scrimmage plays. The last to do it? Cardinals WR Marquise Brown, who did it as a rookie with Baltimore.

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