Cardinals open 2015 season with victory over Saints

The Arizona Cardinals kicked off the new season with a win over New Orleans

Bob McManaman

Jeremy Beren, Editor-in-Chief

After tying the franchise record for wins in a season in 2014, Bruce Arians and his Arizona Cardinals got back to work Sunday.

The Cardinals kick-started a return to the postseason with a 31-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. The season-opening win marked the Cardinals’ 14th win in 16 games at University of Phoenix Stadium.

That impressive run stretches back to the 2013 season.

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 307 yards and three scores in his first official game back from the knee injury that cost him most of 2014. Palmer, now in his 13th season, will need to stay on the field if the Cardinals are to take that next step and challenge for the National Football Conference championship. The Southern California signal caller’s performance Sunday showed how productive he is when fit.

A dependable veteran and a second-year standout served as Palmer’s favorite targets against the Saints. Palmer targeted perennial Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald eight times and he responded with six catches for 87 yards. However, John Brown did what Fitzgerald did not: find the end zone. The former Pittsburg State star made four catches for 46 yards and opened the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.

The Cardinals allowed 355 yards through the air, but Saints quarterback Drew Brees could manage only a single touchdown pass. The run defense did its job, as the Saints accrued a paltry 54 yards on the ground. Elsewhere, Tyrann Mathieu led all players with eight tackles and three pass deflections, and Rashad Johnson intercepted a Brees pass in the third quarter. Linebacker Alex Okafor sacked Brees twice.

However, not every development Sunday proved positive for the Cardinals. Third-year running back Andre Ellington suffered a knee injury of his own early in the fourth quarter. Injuries are not a new phenomenon for Ellington. The former Clemson Tiger suffered foot and hip ailments in 2014, the latter of which ended his season. Ellington and Chris Johnson teamed up to rush for 106 yards on 22 carries Sunday, an average of 4.8 yards per carry.

The Cardinals will notch a second consecutive 2-0 start with a win in Chicago on Sept. 20.