Rashad Johnson had already pulled off his jersey and shoulder pads as he made his way off the field Sunday, the Cardinals’ 31-19 win official. The shirt he wore under his jersey for the game, now drenched in sweat? None other than one that proclaimed “9 More” — or the saying the veteran safety uttered back in 2013, after the last time the Cardinals played the Saints and Johnson lost a fingertip.
He was back with the team a couple days later, telling everyone he was fine because he still had nine more fingers.
It was kind of cool that Johnson got the Cardinals' lone interception Sunday — he nearly had a second later on. He wasn't going to get his finger back, but he was able to extract a small revenge.
The offense got gutsy with their playcalls and ended up putting 31 points on the board, but the new James Bettcher defense did a lot of the same things the old Todd Bowles defense did, including stiffening in the red zone to force field goals instead of touchdowns. The defense must be better — as acknowledged by many, way too many yards surrendered on short passes-and-long-runs by running backs — but it was a good enough start.
-- The right knee injury to Andre Ellington was scary-looking. But as we got into the postgame, both Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer sounded optimistic that the injury — Arians said the belief is that Elllington hurt his PCL — wouldn't sideline Ellington permanently.
-- That said, we see where the running back depth makes so much sense. Ellington goes down, and you turn to a veteran who still has a little juice left in Chris Johnson. Then you let speed merchant David Johnson loose on the pass — I was down on the sideline when the rookie blew past everyone, and I have to say I didn't expect that kind of speed — and you figure the Cards can weather an Ellington absence.
-- Bruce Arians said he was "anxious" to make the play call that ended in Johnson's 55-yard touchdown. Which is odd because few do such a thing. ESPN's Mike Sando tweeted this great stat: From 2010 through last season, NFL teams ran 94.8 percent of the time on second down in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter when leading by six or fewer points.
-- Then again, Arians does not lay up. He goes for the pin.
-- There were many upset at the sequence at the end of the first half that ended with two incomplete bombs and a Palmer scramble as time ran out, costing the Cards a field-goal try. But remember, that's the mentality that led to the Johnson touchdown. No risk it, no biscuit. That's B.A.
-- The offensive line did solid. There were hiccups. There always are. But there were not a lot of them and for the most part, there is little to complain about. Earl Watford hung in there at right tackle against the very talented Cameron Jordan. Jonathan Cooper had a rough start but rallied. Most importantly, Carson Palmer was not sacked.
-- Backup center/guard A.Q. Shipley played fullback and was lead blocker on Ellington's touchdown run. Fantastic, and good use of the 46-man active roster on game day.
-- Tyrann Mathieu kept promising his savage season and he was all over the field Sunday. He had a team-high eight tackles and three passes deflected while the Cardinals went heavy with their four safety-packages.
-- I thought Patrick Peterson played well. Yes, he got beat once by Brandin Cooks for a 30-yard gain. But mostly, Cooks — the Saints' best offensive weapon — was a non-factor. And mostly, Cooks was covered by Peterson.
-- It's hard to find a better story or more likeable guy (and the Cardinals' locker room is filled with likeable guys) than tight end Darren Fells. To see him break out is cool, and reinforces what Arians has been saying about his development. There are times when Arians moves into hyperbole with his players, but Fells is proving his coach right on target.
-- Michael Floyd played, and had an 18-yard catch early. Arians said he wasn't on a "pitch count" to hold down his plays, but Floyd certainly didn't play as much as he normally would.
Road game in Chicago next weekend. One down, at least 15 to go.