Maybe a little rest was all Drew Brees and Reggie Bush needed to shift the Saints’ league-leading offense back into overdrive.
That, and a visit from Arizona’s porous defense.
Brees threw three touchdown passes, Bush scored on an 83-yard punt return and a spectacular 46-yard run, and New Orleans overwhelmed the defending NFC champion Cardinals 45-14 in their divisional playoff game Saturday.
“We came off a stretch where we had all the advantages of being rested,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “We played with a lot of energy.”
One win from the Super Bowl, the Saints will host an NFC title game for the first time in franchise history next weekend when they play the winner of Sunday’s game between Dallas and Minnesota.
“There’s been a lot of firsts since Sean Payton has been here in the organization and we want to keep that going,” Brees said. “We want to bring this franchise a championship.”
Jeremy Shockey caught a touchdown pass in his return from a three-game absence. Devery Henderson and Marques Colston also had touchdown catches, and Lynell Hamilton had a short touchdown run for the Saints.
Coming off its 51-45 overtime win over Green Bay in the wild-card round, Arizona wound up yielding 90 points in the postseason, the most ever allowed in consecutive playoff games in one season.
Even the Saints’ sometimes soft defense played well, forcing two turnovers, harassing Warner often and knocking Arizona’s 38-year-old quarterback out of the game briefly when, during Will Smith’s interception return, he was blind-sided by Bobby McCray’s block.
Warner was 17 of 26 for 205 yards, but was unable to move Arizona consistently. The Cardinals punted twice and missed a long field goal in the first half before heading into halftime down 35-14. Arizona punted twice more in the third quarter, with Bush scoring on the second to make it 45-14.
The victory wound up being so easy for New Orleans that Payton began pulling his regulars early in the fourth quarter and going with basic run plays to chew up the clock.
It was more like what Saints fans had gotten used to in the first 12 weeks of the season, when New Orleans was blowing out opponents en route to a 13-0 start.
Tribune News Services
Read the original article from WGN Radio Chicago.