The Associated Press
The Meridian Star
NEW ORLEANS —
New Orleans Saints players often wore T-shirts with the phrase, "Be Special," printed across the front during the season in which they won the Super Bowl.
Between coach Sean Payton's return from his bounty ban, his morale-boosting hiring of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and quarterback Drew Brees' continued prowess in the passing game, the Saints are starting to have that look of a special squad again.
After a pair of narrow victories over NFC South Division rivals to open the regular season, the Saints rode their surprisingly suffocating defense and Brees' play-making to a convincing 31-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
In securing their first 3-0 start since their Super Bowl season of 2009, the Saints took particular satisfaction in their fourth-quarter dominance, a goal Payton set leading up to the game.
"We won the first two weeks in nail-biter situations," Brees said. "We talked all week about finishing. ... We were successful in that regard."
The Cardinals, who beat Detroit a week earlier, looked like a formidable foe when they marched 80 yards on the game's opening possession, capping the drive with a 3-yard run by Alfonso Smith for a 7-0 lead. After that, however, it was all Saints.
Brees was 29 of 46 for 342 yards and three touchdowns — two to tight end Jimmy Graham and one to recently reacquired receiver Robert Meachem.