The Arizona Cardinals play in Glendale in a stadium named for the University of Phoenix. They live in the Valley of the Sun and play in a beautiful four-year-old building with a retractable roof that's seldom opened because the sun is too bright for the spectators' comfort.
So with all those contradictions in play before Sunday's contest even began, it was somehow fitting that the game would feature more than its share of oddities as well:
That the Cardinals' first offensive touchdown in two weeks would be scored by their left tackle; that that score would be upheld after the Saints' challenge was denied - a challenge contending the quarterback didn't fumble the ball that Levi Brown scooped and scored for the first touchdown he had ever scored at any level; that the three Arizona touchdowns they would score in the game would come from an offensive tackle, a safety, and a cornerback; that the Cardinal who would be accused of running up the score in the victory -- and who gloatingly admitted to doing so -- would be that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who could have taken a knee and ended the game with ten seconds left but instead returned his interception of Drew Brees 28 yards for a touchdown.
His rationale: pay-back for the Saints 45 - 14 playoff win last January when, according to the cornerback, "Them boys embarrassed us and I was trying to make a statement."
He made a statement all right as the Saints have increasing questions to answer.
- How to score touchdowns in the red zone where they were just 1 of 4 Sunday? For the time being there is no Reggie Bush to run around and away from tacklers on his way to a touchdown dive inside the pylon. There is no Pierre Thomas to run through tacklers on his way to pay-dirt with a hand-off or a screen pass.
- How to score touchdowns at all? A year ago the Saints were 5-0 and averaging over 38 points a game. Today they are 3-2 and averaging about half that per game.
The Saints squandered another opportunity to make their record look far better than their performance would verify.
Through just five games this season there are no more unbeaten teams in the NFL. The widespread belief is that there are no "super teams" out there this season.
That should give the Saints encouragement on one hand because it seems every other team in the league has its share of concerns at the moment as well.
But it should bring discouragement on the other hand because the Saints' performance has contributed greatly to that perception.