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New Orleans Saints Blast Arizona Cardinals, NFC Championship Awaits

NFL News - January 17th, 2010 - Written by John

saintsAmong the many questions heading into Saturday's divisional round opener in the NFL Playoffs was whether or not the New Orleans Saints would be able to battle back if it faced a little adversity.

The answer? A resounding yes.

After Arizona's Tim Hightower raced for a 70-yard touchdown on the game's first play, which seemed to be a terrible hangover from the end of the regular season, the Saints stormed back for 21 unanswered points, then knocked Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of the game. That was all that was needed as New Orleans advanced to it's second conference championship game since 2006.

"So much for being rusty," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "That bye week was critical, getting guys healthy. ... I knew we were ready, the way we worked all week and we were confident in what we were going to do."

Reggie Bush had +125 NFL odds to score a touchdown, according to Bodog, and he did it twice in sparkling fashion. His dazzling, spinning, veering run in the second quarter that left most defenders on tripped up and on their backs gave New Orleans a 21-7 lead in the first quarter. He then iced the game with a monstrous 83-yard punt return.

"I knew I was going to get a lot of opportunities today to make plays and just be a difference-maker for my team," Bush said. "I just tried to make the most of it every time I had the ball."

Bush finished with 217 total yards, including 109 in the return game.

After starting 13-0 this year, New Orleans loudly made claims that they wanted to have a perfect year. But the pressure seemed to thicken and the Saints buckled under adversity when the Dallas Cowboys took a big lead in Week 15, and broke the undefeated streak. They lost the final two games, and it was presumed there would be hiccups in their first game in two weeks.


Hightower's dash couldn't have made New Orleans fans feel better.

But Drew Brees responded with a surgical 10-play, 72-yard drive that ended in a one-yard run by Lynell Hamilton, that tied it, and the Saints never looked back.

On Arizona's very next play, Randall Gay forced a fumble and New Orleans turned it into a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey.

"There's no fan base that deserves a championship more than New Orleans and the Who-dat nation," Brees said. "Just the bond that we have with them is special. They give us strength. They give us motivation, and we want to do it for them."

Brees would round out the day with two more touchdown passes, one to Devery Henderson and one to Marques Colston, on his way to 247 yards passing.

It was not such a storybook ending for Warner, who said he was pondering retirement before the game. He said after beating Green Bay in a memorable wild card game that he would not make rash decisions to stay after a big win or go after a bad loss. Saturday was definitely in the latter, and it may be hard for him to ignore.

His passer rating plummeted to 32.8, and he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in his postseason history. He was also dazed for a moment when he was leveled by Bobby McCray on a Will Smith interception return.

"It didn't end the way we wanted it to," Warner said. "It wasn't nearly as competitive as we wanted it to be, but sometimes you have those days. Today was one of those days for us."

He is now 0-3 in postseason games in the Super Dome, losing once before to the Saints while he was with St. Louis, and then losing to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2001.