Brees leads Saints past Cardinals, 48-41
GLENDALE — Drew Brees’ two-game funk ended with an offensive eruption in the desert.
The New Orleans quarterback threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns, leading the New Orleans Saints past the Arizona Cardinals 48-41 Sunday in the highest-scoring game in the NFL this season.
“It’s good for him, it’s good for the coach, too,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Brees, who had no TDs and six interceptions his previous two games, completed 37 of 48 with no picks.
“It wasn’t anything earth shattering this week,” he said. “ It wasn’t a wholesale change of anything. We just got back to our stuff.”
It was Brees’ 21st career game with at least four TD passes and no interceptions, tying Tom Brady for most in NFL history.
Brandin Cooks caught seven passes for a career-best 186 yards for the Saints (6-8), including touchdown plays of 65 and 45 yards .
“Knowing they (the Cardinals) were the No. 1 defensive team in the league, as a competitor you want to accept those challenges and bring it on,” Cooks said. “As a team, that is what we did.”
David Johnson rushed for 53 yards and caught four passes for 55 yards for Arizona (5-8-1). The second-year back became the first player in NFL history to have at least 100 yards from scrimmage in the first 14 games of a season.
“As impressive of a stat that is, you kind of expect it,” Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said. “That’s how good of a player he is.”
Johnson rushed for two touchdowns, giving him 17 TDs this season and 30 in the first 30 games as a pro.
Palmer threw for 318 yards and two scores in a game that clinched the first losing season for the Cardinals in Bruce Arians’ four years as coach. Arians praised the play of his makeshift blocking unit, but its strong game wasn’t enough.
“I’m extremely proud of the guys on the offensive line,” he said, “and shocked that we gave up that many points.”
The teams amassed 913 yards, 488 by New Orleans, 425 by Arizona, which finished 4-3-1 at home.
“That’s a very good offense with a great quarterback, a great play caller, a lot of weapons, very good offensive line,” Palmer said of the Saints. “You don’t expect to come in and play the field position game and kick field goals. You have to come in and score touchdowns, and they outlasted us.”
The teams traded touchdowns on four possessions in the second half before Brees put New Orleans ahead for good, 41-34, with a 4-yard scoring pass to Michael Thomas with 5:33 to play.
A moment later, the Cardinals’ Brittan Golden fumbled and Ken Crawley recovered for the Saints at the Arizona 29. That led to Tim Hightower’s 2-yard touchdown run that made it a two-score game with 3:27 remaining.
Palmer threw 30 yards to John Brown for a score with 2:19 left, but the onside kick try went out of bounds and the Saints ran out the clock.
Brees threw for three touchdowns in the first half, including the two long passes to Cooks.
His only bad moment came when Marcus Golden stripped the ball out of his hands and Calais Campbell grabbed it out of the air. The 6-foot-8 lineman rambled 53 yards for a touchdown.
Campbell also had two sacks in what could be his final home game for Arizona.
“It’s just the harsh reality that it could be,” he said. “I really hope it’s not, but we’ll see how that goes.”
His two sacks made him the only player in franchise history to have at least six sacks in seven different seasons.
But the 30-year-old lineman is a free agent after this, his ninth NFL season. And there’s wide speculation the Cardinals won’t re-sign him, opting to devote their resources elsewhere.
FITZGERALD MOVES UP
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald caught seven passes to give him 1,116 career receptions. He passed Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,115) for the most catches in a player’s first 200 games in NFL history.
Fitzgerald and his good friend and former teammate, Anquan Boldin of Detroit, each played his 200th game on Sunday.
Arizona lost cornerback Marcus Cooper to a back injury early in the second half.
Saints: Host the Buccaneers on Saturday in the final home game of the season.
Cardinals: Visit Seattle on Saturday, a rematch of NFC West foes who tied 6-6 earlier in the year, a far cry from this 89-point affair.