GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) A pair of late coaching decisions loomed large in the Arizona Cardinals' 31-19 win over the New Orleans Saints.
With just under two minutes to play on Sunday, the Saints had the ball fourth-and-six from their own 7-yard line and coach Sean Payton decided to punt it away, figuring they could hold Arizona and get the ball again.
On the ensuing drive, with the Saints expecting Arizona to keep it on the ground to try to run out the clock, Carson Palmer threw short to David Johnson, who scooted 55 yards for a score that clinched the win.
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''Coach Arians' car doesn't have cruise control,'' Larry Fitzgerald said.
Arians said the play was designed for a first down, not a touchdown.
''I love playing offensive offense,'' Palmer said.
Payton said that considering the field position and the time remaining, punting was the logical thing to do.
''I think we had two time outs and the situation we had, two minutes, it's something we would normally do,'' he said. ''I think most people would.''
Drew Brees reluctantly went along.
''It was one of those tough ones,'' he said. ''There was certainly a big part of me that wanted to go for it. We both agreed at the end of the day to punt.''
Palmer, in his first game since tearing an ACL 11 months ago, threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He directed a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive after the opening kickoff, throwing 10 yards to John Brown for the score. His other two came in the fourth quarter, 17 yards to tight end Darren Fells and the big one to David Johnson.
Palmer improved to 14-2 in his last 16 games and became the first Cardinals quarterback since Jim Hart to win seven consecutive starts.
Brees threw for 355 yards and a touchdown with one interception as New Orleans settled for four field goals from Zach Hocker.
Here are some things to take from Sunday's Arizona win over New Orleans:
ELLINGTON HURT: Running back Andre Ellington was carted off the field with a right knee injury in the second half. Arians said he believed it was a posterior cruciate ligament injury but won't know more until further tests.
Palmer sounded optimistic.
''It's hopefully a day to day thing with Andre,'' Palmer said. ''I thought it was a lot more serious with the way he went down. But it looks like he's going to be ok, hopefully.''
BREAUX'S TOUGH DAY: The Saints were called for three penalties on one play, two of them on cornerback Delvin Breaux, thrust into a starting job in the injury-plagued secondary. One of them was a pass interference call that Arizona accepted, leading to Ellington's one-yard scoring run. Breaux, who came from the Canadian Football League this season, had a couple of other penalties as well, in addition to having to deal with the Arizona receivers.
But he also knocked the ball away, too.
Breaux said he learned to just keep ''moving on to the next play.''
''They make the calls,'' he said.
FITZ STILL HAS IT: Larry Fitzgerald caught six passes for 87 yards.
But he had to smile about one play that didn't work, when he was wide open deep down the field and Palmer overthrew him.
''I'm not 22 anymore. I need it to be close,'' Fitzgerald said. ''He's spoiled throwing it to J.J. (Nelson) and Smoke (John Brown). He can throw it as far as he wants, those guys will run underneath it.''
HOCKER'S KICKS: Hocker beat out Dustin Hopkins for the kicking job in the preseason and showed it was a wise choice.
He was 4 for 4 on Sunday.
''Of course you have a little bit of nerves running through you,'' Hocker said, ''but once that first one was in I just felt confident the rest of the night.''
TIGHT ENDS: Fells, a basketball player at UC-Irvine, caught four passes for 87 yards, the most yards receiving by a Cardinals tight end since 1989.
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