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Wild Thursday night ends as Arizona Cardinals snap home losing streak with win over New Orleans Saints

Howard Balzer Avatar
October 21, 2022


Four days short of a calendar year is 361 days. That’s how long it had been since the Cardinals had won a game in front of their fans at State Farm Stadium. It was on Oct. 24, 2021, against the Houston Texans.

All that kept it from being a full year was the fact this game was on a Thursday night instead of Sunday, and the 86 points scored in the 42-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints was more than double the total of 40 points scored in the previous two Thursday games.

And while it wasn’t pretty in a lot of ways, the Cardinals made plays when they had to on offense and defense, while building a 42-24 lead after falling behind 14-6.

Most important, in a conference where only four teams had winning records entering Week 7, the Cardinals avoided falling to 2-5 and could conceivably be a half-game out of first place after Sunday’s games.

The 3-3 Rams are off this week, while the 3-3 49ers are at Kansas City and the 3-3 Seahawks visit the Chargers.

Also significant is that there won’t be more questions, at least in the short-term, after the eight-game home losing streak ended.

“I’m excited for the guys; no doubt,” embattled coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It’s definitely been something they’ve had to answer about for a long time, and especially to do it coming off a couple of losses and going into a longer time off before the next game; I think it came at a good time.”

Despite seeing the Saints total 494 yards and average 7.0 yards per play, the defensive heroes were cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton and Marco Wilson, along with linebacker Isaiah Simmons.

Hamilton had an end-zone interception in the first quarter with the Saints leading 7-3 and facing third-and-8 from the 10-yard line on a possession that lasted 15 plays and took 8:48 off the clock.

The Cardinals followed with a red-zone failure of their own and settled for a Rodrigo Blankenship 28-yard field goal early in the second quarter after he had a 50-yarder on the team’s first possession of the game.

New Orleans answered with a touchdown that was fueled by a 64-yard run-and-catch by wide receiver Kevin White, who had been elevated from the practice squad before the game. The Saints led 14-6.

The entire complexion of the game then changed in the second quarter with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins beginning to assert control after catching one pass for five yards in the team’s first two possessions.

Taking over on their own 25-yard line with 10:29 to play in the half, running back Keaontay Ingram galloped 24 yards on a pass to the 49 and then Hopkins went to work. He had receptions for 18 and seven yards and then another for seven after quarterback Kyler Murray lost four yards on first down at the 13. A third-and-7 pass to tight end Zach Ertz left one yard to go and Murray then ran for two yards on fourth down.

Ingram scored from the 2-yard line and running back Eno Benjamin ran for the 2-point conversion to tie the game with 2:28 remaining in the quarter. The drive ran 8:01 off the clock.

By the time the half ended, the Cardinals scored 22 points in 102 seconds. Wilson snared a pass that bounced off the hands of receiver Marquez Callaway and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. Blankenship missed the extra point, but five plays later on third-and-10, Simmons one-handed a pass intended for wide receiver Chris Olave and bolted into the open, racing 56 yards for the score. A pass to Ertz for two points made it 28-14 at halftime. Dalton was hit by rookie outside linebacker Cameron Thomas, who was lined up on the defensive line on the play, and that changed the trajectory of the throw.

Kingsbury said, “Ham made a great play in the end zone to keep them out and then those back-to-back (scores) really turned the tide. For the first time this season, we could really play with the lead and lean on it. It definitely helped.”

Meanwhile, this is the fourth consecutive season that the Cardinals have won a game with Andy Dalton as the opposing quarterback and all came on different teams with the Bengals, Cowboys and Bears being the previous three.

Last season, the Cardinals intercepted Dalton four times, and scored three touchdowns and a field goal after taking possession at Chicago’s 28-yard line twice, as well as the 12 and the 15.

Here’s the history:

2019: Cardinals 26, Bengals 23. Dalton: 27-38, 262 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 107.6 passer rating.

2020: Cardinals 38, Cowboys 10. Dalton: 34-54, 266 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, 65.8 passer rating.

2021: Cardinals 33, Bears 22. Dalton: 26-41, 229 yards, two touchdowns, four interceptions, 54.9 passer rating.

2022: Cardinals 42, Saints 34. Dalton: 30-47, 361 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions, 89.1 passer rating.

Total: Cardinals 139, Dalton’s teams 89. Dalton: 117-180, 1,118 yards, nine touchdowns, nine interceptions. 78.0 passer rating.

But back to the present. When Simmons was asked if he realized he had caught the ball, he said, “You see me take off? I knew I had it for sure. I was actually talking to Ham about how that ball looked like it was floating a little bit, like there’s not a lot of zip on the ball. He said, ‘Yeah, it’s floating a little,’ so I knew I was going to have my chance at a ball sometime in that game. I thought I was close on one earlier in the day, but I knew it would come around, if not to me, someone else.”

He admitted to being more impressed with the catch than the run for good reason.

Simmons said, “For whatever reason, me and my dad (Victor Sr.), we’ve been talking about this since my rookie year that if I catch the ball in the open field, I better score. I hate that he couldn’t … He goes to every game and he couldn’t make this game and I hate that he couldn’t make it, but I know he’s in Kansas going crazy.”

Meanwhile, with running back James Conner inactive for the second consecutive game, Benjamin made several big plays. With the score 28-17 in the third quarter, he had a 16-yard run on third-and-3 that moved the ball to the Saints 38-yard line. After two receptions by Hopkins for 26 yards and an 11-yard run by Ingram to the 1-yard line, Murray hit wide receiver Greg Dortch for a 5-yard touchdown and a 35-17 lead that overcame a bad snap from center Billy Price, who played instead of Sean Harlow.

“We liked what we’ve seen in practice,” Kingsbury said of Price, who was signed off the Raiders practice squad on Oct. 4. “(He’s) very conscientious, very smart, picks it up quick and practiced at a high level. So we went ahead and went with him tonight.

“The one snap, you can’t have that happen down there obviously and lose those yards, but I like the way he works. I liked how quickly he’s picked things up and it seemed like most of the operation was really smooth out there.”

But back to Benjamin. With the score 35-24, he had a 15-yard run on third-and-8 and then scored on a 5-yard run with 6:22 remaining for a 42-24 lead.

He finished the night with 92 yards on 12 carries to go with another 21 yards on four receptions for 113 yards from scrimmage. That bettered Saints back Alvin Kamara, who totaled 105 yards on 49 rushing (11 carries) and 56 on seven receptions.

Murray said, “He’s one of those players, he got drafted late, but he’s always been a great football player. I’ve been familiar with Eno since high school, growing up in Texas. He’s been a great football player ever since I can remember.

“I’m not surprised by anything that he’s accomplished or will accomplish in the future. He runs hard, always falls forward. He can catch the rock. He’s a good football player.”

Still, here we are, having dissected so many aspects of this game, and there have been only a handful of mentions of Hopkins and what he contributed.

After not having played a game since last December and not practicing since August, all Hopkins did was catch 10 passes on 14 targets for 103 yards and draw what’s believed to be three defensive holding penalties with several others that could have been called.

Asked about Hopkins’ impact, Kingsbury said, “I mean, you saw it, right? It was a different looking deal out there with him and the confidence that other guys around him play with. It’s good to have him back. I think once he really gets in shape, gets back into running routes, and is comfortable in the offense, he can really do some things.”

Did he think about holding him back?

“No. No, he just kept going,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t know where he’s been or what he’s been doing, but it worked.”

Considering how many snaps he played (61 of 66 for 92 percent), Hopkins said, “I spent a lot of time in the offseason preparing for this moment. I obviously knew what I was up against when they announced this game. Big thanks to everybody who had a hand in me coming out and being able to perform.

“It takes a team. Trainers, rehab people, nutritionists. I think today was a success and the main goal is to win. For me if I had 10 catches for 10 yards and if we won the game, I would still be very ecstatic.”

But, DeAndre, how do you feel now?

He said, laughing, “I feel like I need 10 days to recover. I’ve been in the NFL for a long time, but I feel great. I feel real good. I think I could’ve played another two or three quarters if I needed to. I wasn’t winded. I played most of the snaps. So for me I think today was a good day as far as my body.”

New arrival Robbie Anderson played 12 snaps and did not catch his one target. Meanwhile, A.J. Green did not play as Rondale Moore played 59 and Dortch 35.

Murray couldn’t be happier about having Hopkins back.

“It was great,” he said. “His energy; he is as talented as ever. Just having him out there; it didn’t look like there was any rust. He knocked it off if he had any. Just his communication, his feel for the game, all of that. You can’t put a price tag on him.”

Mostly, Murray, as is everyone, was glad to get a win and put the previous two weeks in the rearview mirror. After the loss to the Eagles, he sat at his locker for an hour and was still in full uniform before talking to the media.

It was a smiling, upbeat Murray that was available Thursday shortly after the game ended.

“It feels really good,” he said. “I take it for what it is. I think there are a lot of things that we could have done better out there, but going without a (home) win in 360-plus days is crazy. It feels good to get a win.

“It’s more so going home. On the drive, driving home after a win. It’s definitely a better feeling going home than after a loss. You just say, ‘What the hell,’ and you think about everything that transpired in the game that you should have done better.

“This time, just being able to reflect that it was a win. We get a 10-day break before we play a good Minnesota team. It’s definitely a better feeling.”

The Red Sea would surely agree.

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me:

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