GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — New Orleans had the top-ranked offense in the NFL going into Sunday's action. Arizona had the No. 1 defense.
Something had to give.
Turns out, it was the Arizona 'D.'
Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints offense came alive after a two-game hibernation and New Orleans beat the Cardinals 48-41 in the highest-scoring game in the NFL this season.
"To lose after scoring 41 is tough," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.
Brees completed 37 of 48 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer rating of 127. It was the 21st time he had thrown for at least four scores with no interceptions, tying Tom Brady for most in NFL history.
And his big game came on the heels of a pair of not-so-good ones for the standout quarterback. In the previous two contests, both New Orleans losses, Brees had thrown for zero touchdowns with six interceptions as the Saints scored a combined 24.
New Orleans (6-8) had lost four of five games going into Arizona.
"Guys know the talent we have on this team," said Tim Hightower, who ran for two New Orleans scores. "We know the character that we have. Not once do you feel like guys have checked out."
The Cardinals (5-8-1) are assured of having the first losing season in Arians' four years as coach. It is a stunning reversal for a team that went 13-3 a year ago.
"Given our potential and given how good we were last year," Arizona's Tyrann Mathieu said, "the guys that we added to this team, the guys that came back, all the veterans we have all the superstars — to be sitting way below .500, it's frustrating for everyone right now."
Here are some things to consider from New Orleans' wild win over the Cardinals:
COOKS COOKIN': Brandin Cooks gave the Arizona secondary fits all afternoon. He was targeted eight times and caught seven of them for a career-best 186 yards, including touchdown plays of 65 and 45 yards.
"He took advantage of some real big throws and opportunities," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said.
Cooks again topped 1,000 yards receiving for a season.
"It's not where I want to be. There's a lot more room for improvement," he said. "Don't get me wrong, it's a blessing to be able to get that. Knowing where I want to be as a player, I'm far from it, so there won't be a sit-down reflecting on it as a good thing. It's going to be a sit-down reflecting on how I can get better and to make sure that it's a lot better than what it is now."
JOHNSON HITS 14: Arizona's David Johnson ran 12 times for 53 yards and caught four passes for 55 yards, making him the only player in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the first 14 games of a season.
"It means a lot," he said. "No one else has ever had it, so this is probably my favorite thing that I've accomplished that has to deal with football. From everything that I've been through, this means the world."
Johnson has his eyes on an even bigger stat. He wants to join Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only players to top 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.
He needs 200 yards receiving in the last two games.
RUNNING SAINTS: The Saints' big passing day was helped by an effective ground game.
New Orleans outrushed Arizona 130 yards to 116. Mark Ingram led the way with 78 yards in 17 attempts.
"They ran the ball better than I thought they would against our front," Arians said.
FITZGERALD AT 200: Larry Fitzgerald played in his 200th career game and reached another milestone in the process. The wide receiver caught seven passes to give him more than any player in NFL history in his first 200 games.
Fitzgerald has 1,116 career receptions, one more than Jerry Rice had in his first 200 games.
Fitzgerald has caught a pass in 193 consecutive games, third-longest streak ever in the NFL.
LOOKING AHEAD: The season will soon be over for the Cardinals and Saints, but both will go against teams that have much to play for next week.
Arizona plays at Seattle on Christmas Eve. The Seahawks have clinched the NFC West title, but are only a half-game ahead of Detroit in the race for the second-best record in the conference and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it.
New Orleans returns home to face Tampa Bay on Saturday in the Saints' final home game. The Buccaneers are in the thick of the fight for the NFC South title and a wild-card berth.
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Posted on Mon, December 19, 2016
by BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer