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Saints Advance To NFC Championship Game, Stomp Cardinals 45-14

Kurt Warner (#13)

The New Orleans Saints, especially after the past few weeks, needed the rest to recharge their batteries and learn some lessons from the last couple regular-season games as they were flat, so to speak.

I think it is safe to say that during Saturday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, they were able to revert to their normal selves. Drew Brees threw 3 touchdowns and Reggie Bush scored twice, enabling New Orleans to advance to the NFC Championship game, annihilating Arizona 45-14.

It wasn’t very promising for the Saints on the opening kickoff as the Cards’ Tim Hightower burst through a seam, cut left and dashed unscathed for a 70-yard TD run, giving Arizona an early 7-0 lead. But New Orleans would have plenty of time to make up for that quick strike as Brees led his team down the field, capped by a 1-yard TD run by Lynell Hamilton, tying the game at 7 with 9:17 remaining in the first quarter.

The Cardinals’ next possession would find Kurt Warner connecting with Jerheme Urban on a pass, only for Urban to get stripped by the Saints’ Randall Gay; the ball would bounce to Darren Sharper, who would run the fumble back to the Cards’ 37. Shortly thereafter, Brees would throw a 17-yard TD strike to Jeremy Shockey with 7:02 left in the period, extending New Orleans’ advantage to 14-7. Four and one-half minutes later, Bush would score on a 46-yard run, pushing the Saints’ bulge to 21-7.

Arizona would strike back as they went on a 9-play, 80-yard drive when Beanie Wells’ 4-yard TD dash put the Cardinals to within 21-14 with 9:40 left in the first half. The Saints would push their lead to 14 on a 44-yard fleaflicker TD pass from Brees to Devery Henderson and would go up by three touchdowns with 1:10 remaining in the second quarter when Brees connected with Marques Colston on a 2-yard score. New Orleans would go to their locker room at halftime ahead 35-14.

The Saints would remain hot in the third quarter as a 43-yard Garrett Hartley field goal would increase their advantage to 38-14 and Reggie Bush would add the punctuation mark to the Saints’ victory with an 83-yard punt return for a score.

Brees had his usual decent effort, going 23-of-32 for 247 yards and 3 TDs while Warner went 17-of-26 for 205 yards and an interception; Leinart came in to relieve Warner, going 7-of-10 for 61 yards. Bush led all Saints rushers with 84 yards on only 5 carries with a rushing and punt return TD while Pierre Thomas rushed for 52 yards on 13 carries; Hightower led the Cardinals’ rushing attack with 87 yards on just 6 carries and a score.

Colston led the Saints receivers with 6 receptions for 83 yards and a TD while Henderson caught four for 80 yards and a score; Larry Fitzgerald led all Cardinals receivers with 6 catches for 77 yards while Early Doucet caught eight for 68 yards; Steve Breaston caught four for 52 yards in a losing effort.

New Orleans (14-3) advances to the NFC Championship game, awaiting the winner of Sunday’s winner of the Dallas-Minnesota game while Arizona goes back to Phoenix empty-handed.

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