I totally spaced and failed to post the grades in time last week, that’s on me. The Saints responded to my transgression by having their best day all season on offense. Statistically they had better days, and you may argue the eye test was better against Carolina, but one of hallmarks of a great offense is versatility. What made the 2011 offense the greatest in league history was their ability to not only to enact their will on the opposition, but also to be able to adjust and attack them in whatever way fit best. They were great because they could force you to play their game, they were unstoppable because they didn’t have to. On Sunday the Saints offense finally showed that ability. Certainly they aren’t even remotely close to the greatest offense in league history, but the Saints executed in all phases and showed every element an offense should have. They were 3 bad plays from this being likely a 40 point victory. The offense finally seems to be figuring out who they are and what makes them tick.
Now….on to the grades:
Drew Brees was two passes away from an A+ in this game. Drew missed Ted Ginn on what would have been a 60 yard TD, and he nearly threw what would have been a pick 6 by forcing the ball to Michael Thomas. Take those two plays out and Drew was practically flawless and he surgically moved the ball around the field, never forcing throws and simply making the defense pay at will. If the bomb to Ginn had been completed this game likely is the Saints biggest statement of the year (it was anyway), but his connection with Ginn later in the game for a 36 yard TD helped serve further growth of their chemistry. If the two can continue to get on the same page its going to open this offense up a lot. The vertical passing game is really the element the Saints offense hasn’t had all year, but Drew has done an excellent job the last couple of weeks of not forcing it. (also…he overthrew Ginn by about 7 yards on the bomb so take that arm truthers)
Offensive Line: A
I want to be a stickler and dock them for giving up a sack to a terrible pass rush, but the Saints were down to 3 backups for large parts of this game and didn’t miss a beat on the ground or through the air. The offensive line has done a remarkable job as a unit of working together to fight against adversity and help the offense keep running (literally). No player on the line deserves more credit for their performance than Andrus Peat as the sometimes maligned first round pick was dominating on the interior and at left tackle. Peat is really coming into his own and his ability to fill in when needed has allowed the Saints to be very cautious with Terron Armstead and not forcing him to play through nicks and bruises. The Saints offensive line has absolutely maxed out their ability to absorb injuries, but credit to them and the coaching staff for holding down the fort. They have been as big of a part of the victories the last 6 weeks as anything, the holes they create in the running game have been instrumental.
Wide Receiver: B-
The unit deserves a B as they weren’t great, but weren’t bad either. Ginn helped to boost the grade and would have done more if Drew didn’t miss him on a bomb, but the minus is entirely because of Willie Snead. During a part of the game where the defense is nearly pitching a shutout and the offense has a great chance to put the game away Snead muffed a fair catch punt. This is another item on a long list of reasons why this is the worst season of Snead’s career. I hope its not true because I like him a lot, but if the miscues continue Snead might be playing his way off the team next year. Brandon Coleman and Michael Thomas on the other hand did an excellent job of filling their roles of moving the chains and blocking for the running backs. Thomas has still yet to have a game over 100 yards or to truly take over, but the Saints seem to have found a great role for him in the offense and he’s giving consistent steady production. Never underestimate the value of that.
Tight Ends: C
Another game, another average performance for the tight ends. That could be interpreted as a way of bashing the tight ends but its really not. They are doing exactly what is asked of them, but the tight end position isn’t being asked to do a lot in the passing game right now. They have done a very good job of blocking and assisting the run game, but a position that is designed to be based on the ability to be effective in both phases of the offense having severe limitations at one restricts your grades. No complaints on the unit though, just wish they could give a little more in the passing game.
Running Back: A+
Mark Ingram had a great bounceback game as he got a lot of tough yards and kept the ball secure. I was tempted to dock Alvin (Chimera) Kamara for another fumble, but the kid got over a hundred total yards, had two touchdowns, and converted a screen pass that dropped all of our jaws to the floor. Kamara and Ingram form a fantastic duo as their complimentary skillsets allow Sean Payton to manipulate defenses constantly. Both have ideal versatility for the position and provide a reliable weapon in all phases, but their different specialties allow the Saints to create unique matchups and attack opponents in a variety of ways. The running backs are only second to the corners as the ‘strength’ of this football team through their first 6 games.