TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)—Old man Emmitt isn’t ready for the rockin’ chair yet.
Emmitt Smith earned another NFL record with his 77th 100-yard rushing game— and threw the first pass of his 15-year pro career. It went for a touchdown, no less, in Arizona’s stunning 34-10 beating of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
The NFL’s career rushing leader had his best game since leaving Dallas two years ago, gaining 127 yards on 21 carries to help give Dennis Green his first victory as Cardinals coach.
Smith, six months past his 35th birthday, tied Walter Payton’s record for most 100-yard games in an NFL career.
“It means more to win right now than anything,” said Smith, who has seen the Cardinals go 5-15 since he signed with them as a free agent before the 2003 season.
It was his first 100-yard game since Thanksgiving 2002, when he did it for Dallas against Washington.
“Growing up in Texas and watching the guy my whole life, just to hand the ball to him was awesome,” Arizona’s Josh McCown said. “It was an honor, and hopefully there’s more of that to come.”
Smith is the first NFL player to gain more than 100 yards past the age of 35 since Marcus Allen for Kansas City against Oakland on Dec. 3, 1995.
“So much is said: ‘He doesn’t have this left. He doesn’t have that left,”’ McCown said. “You could have fooled me today.”
Smith passed the 100 mark Sunday with a 29-yard touchdown burst up the middle to seal the victory with 5:02 to play.
“Nothing out there but open grass? All I have to do is run?” Smith said. “I just picked up my wheelchair and pushed myself on into the end zone.”
But it was his wobbly 21-yard touchdown pass to fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo with his gloved hand late in the first half he probably will remember most.
“I don’t want to throw the ball ever again,” Smith said. “If I throw another pass, I want to throw to my son and let him catch it.”
Smith ran right, then pulled up and lobbed a pass to Ayanbadejo, who fell across the goal line for the score that put Arizona up 14-3 at the half against the mistake-prone Saints (2-2).
The Cardinals (1-3) rushed for 211 yards, all but two in the final three quarters in their most onesided victory since beating the Los Angeles Rams 38-10 on Dec. 5, 1993.
Troy Hambrick, who became the Dallas starter when Smith left and is his backup again, gained 79 yards on 16 carries, including an 11-yard TD run Sunday.
After the first quarter, Arizona outgained New Orleans 369-147.
“I think the offense is starting to show some signs of putting four wheels on the ground,” Green said.
With temperatures in the mid-90s, and the Saints playing outdoors for the first time this season, Smith thought the Cardinals wore the visitors down.
“You’re making these guys run around and chase you. By the third or fourth quarter, you should have the big runs that you saw Troy and myself have,” Smith said.
New Orleans’ Mel Mitchell blocked one punt, and recovered another for a touchdown. It was the first time the Saints had turned a blocked punt into a TD in 27 years. But otherwise it was an ugly day for the visitors.
The Saints won a week ago in the deafening Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, but they were awful in mostly empty Sun Devil Stadium, where 28,109 tickets were distributed for Sunday’s game. New Orleans was penalized 12 times for 104 yards, many of them costly.
“The offense, I thought, was bad all day,” coach Jim Haslett said, “killing us with penalties, and then we had three or four dropped balls by receivers.”
Aaron Brooks completed his first four passes as the Saints drove from their 20 to inside the Arizona 1 to start the game. On third down at the 9, Brooks scrambled and was drilled at the goal line by James Darling. On fourth-and-goal, Brooks attempted a sneak, but he lost the ball and Arizona’s Gerald Hayes recovered for a touchback.
“I tried to dive in very quick because the linebacker was playing real off,” Brooks said. “I mishandled it. I take the blame.”
The Saints’ history of inconsistent performances are taking a toll on Brooks, who hinted he was about fed up with the organization.
“I know that I’m the leader of all of this, but I’m tired of it,” he said. “I have to sit back and re-evaluate my situation here in New Orleans. I am going to keep fighting until that change comes.”
Asked what he meant, Brooks declined to elaborate.
The Cardinals’ offense started moving when tackle L.J. Shelton and guard Jeremy Bridges were substituted into the game on the right side of the line. … Arizona kickoff return specialist Josh Scobey left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. … Saints wide receiver Jerome Pathon was inactive with a hamstring injury.