Two teams in desperate need of a win kicked off Week 7 with one of the highest-scoring games of the 2022 NFL season to date, featuring nine combined touchdowns. Both teams were in search of their third victory of the season as they fought to contend within the NFC and their own divisions, and it was the Arizona Cardinals who got the win by a score of 42-34 over the New Orleans Saints.
Are We Sure This Was Thursday?
The last two weeks of Thursday Night Football featured some terrible football. Last week featured a 12-7 Commanders win over the Bears where Washington barely broke 200 yards of offense. The week before featured a 12-9 Colts win over the Broncos where there was not a single touchdown scored. Mercifully, Week 7’s game wasted no time in providing the excitement, offense, and big plays that had been missing from the week’s opener the last two renditions.
Every single drive of the first half ended in either points, a turnover, or both. Over the course of the entire game there was not a single series that ended with a punt. The 42 points scored were more than the two previous Thursday night games combined. It took the Saints just four plays to connect on a touchdown—a 53-yard pass from Andy Dalton to Rashid Shaheed (the second career touch and touchdown for Shaheed).
10 points with over 10:00 to play in the 1st quarter??? Thursday Night Football is BACK BABY
— trey wingo (@wingoz) October 21, 2022
But it was the Cardinals’ defense at the expense of Dalton which really showcased the excitement this week. The unit had already picked off Dalton in the end zone in the first quarter but the real excitement came when the Cardinals closed out the half with back-to-back pick-sixes courtesy of Marco Wilson and Isaiah Simmons, which took a tie game and made it 28-14 in favor of Arizona.
frame it, give it to your mom for Christmas or put it on the fridge.
we don't care, as long as you have it. pic.twitter.com/Y4yuqPkMLC
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 21, 2022
All it took was 10 points in the third quarter to make it the highest-scoring Thursday night game of the season. And though nothing in the second half quite matched the one-two pick-six punch the Cardinals’ defense delivered to end the first half, there were still moments to help replace the images people went to bed with the prior two Thursdays. The teams combined for four touchdowns and another 34 points after the break, including three straight series that finished in the end zone in the final quarter. The 76 combined points in the game make it the third-highest scoring game of the 2022 season so far.
Reinforcements Have Arrived
While the Cardinals played Thursday night without starting running back James Conner, Arizona did get an important offensive piece back with the return of DeAndre Hopkins. The three-time All-Pro was suspended for the first six weeks of the season, but looked good in his 2022 debut.
Hopkins led the Cardinals with 10 receptions for 103 yards. It was a strong start for the third-year Cardinal, coming off a disappointing 2021 where he failed to reach 600 yards and missed time with an injury. The return happened at an opportune time for the Cardinals: Arizona lost Marquise Brown for at least a month with a foot injury, and had already acquired Robbie Anderson from Carolina in an effort to fill that void.
Hopkins’ performance led Arizona’s offense in the team’s biggest win of the season. Eno Benjamin, in his second game filling in for Conner, nearly had a 100-yard effort on the ground with a fourth-quarter touchdown that made it a three-score game, and Kyler Murray contributed 204 passing yards and a touchdown to Greg Dortch. Behind those efforts, Arizona scored 40 points in a game for the first time since the finale of the 2016 season, snapping the longest drought in the NFL.
Head for the Hill? What About Jameis? Or Stay on the Rocket?
It’s easy to point out that life after Drew Brees has not been smooth for New Orleans at quarterback. A combination of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill got New Orleans to 9-8 last season, but those two are part of an unsettled quagmire at the position so far in 2022.
It was a third name, Andy Dalton, who spent Thursday night and the three weeks prior as the man piloting the New Orleans offense. Dalton has led the team to its highest-scoring performances of the season, and tonight he tossed four touchdowns on 30-of-47 passing for 361 yards. It was his first four-touchdown game since he was Cincinnati’s starter in the 2019 season, and the most yards for a Saints’ QB since Brees himself threw for 370 in the 2019 opener. But he also threw three first-half interceptions, leaving some less than impressed and calling for a change.
Time for a QB change with the Saints!!!
— Rich Gannon (@RichGannon12) October 21, 2022
The loss drops Dalton’s record to 1-3 this season as New Orleans’ starter. In his three games to open the year, Winston had a 1-2 record, but he was also the quarterback the Saints tabbed as the starter to replace Brees (and got off to a 5-2 start last year before a season-ending injury). It is possible the team goes back to Winston when he is fully healthy.
Will the Saints continue with Dalton? Will it go back to Winston, who had 858 yards, four touchdowns, and five interceptions in his three games? Or could the team even turn to Taysom Hill, who has operated mostly as a tight end this season but has a 7-2 record as the team’s quarterback from 2020-2021, and had a four-touchdown game two weeks ago?