This was about as balanced and solid of an offensive performance as we’ve seen from the Saints offense this season, and it came at the hands of the #1 scoring defense in the NFL – coached by none other than Gregg Williams. The Saints put up 555 yards, 49 points and the only bad play was a Brees fumble inside their own red zone that gifted the Rams 7 points. The Saints proved once again that it doesn’t really matter who they face, they can move the ball and score on anyone. Below are the grades:
Drew Brees: A+ (3.21) Another game over 300 yards, over 70%, and over 100 QB rating. Ho hum. And he got hit A LOT. Eight times, to be exact. Give him credit for taking a beating and continuing to get up and victimize the Rams secondary. Even with the fumble, I’m giving him an A+ because he put up 49 points on the league’s best defense. He was 28 of 36 for 310 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a 4th and 1 leap for a rushing score. If the Saints run the table, I think he has a decent shot at the MVP award.
Mark Ingram: A+ (2.73) Limited snaps due to a concussion last week did nothing to slow him down. The Rams had no answer for him. He was fast, powerful, quick hitting his holes, and physical at the second level. One of the better games of his career. He had 14 carries for 146 and a score. His 61 yard run to start the second half was huge because it really took the wind out of the Rams’ sails to start the second half. And if there was any doubt after that run, he scored on a 3rd and 17 screen pass which served as the crushing blow from which the Rams defense would not recover. That was his lone reception from 21 yards out.
Tim Hightower: B- (2.55) A real boom or bust type game for Hightower. Too often he was brutalized in the backfield short of the line to gain. He just didn’t run with the same purpose as Ingram. He had 51 yards on 15 carries, but 39 came on two runs. Give him credit for a fantastic block on a long pass to Hill where he absolutely blows up Cory Littleton. He also had two catches for 54 yards, 50 of which came on the touchdown throw from Willie Snead. A good game overall considering the huge run, the huge block and the huge reception – but there was a lot of less exciting stuff otherwise.
Travaris Cadet: C- (2.00) Played very little and wasn’t used on returns. His lone catch was a good effort but it was wiped out by a penalty. On special teams he had an opportunity to make a tackle inside the 15 but was blown up by a nice block. Was part of a poor kick coverage unit.
John Kuhn: B (2.82) An excellent day blocking and yet another short yardage conversion. His lone carry went 4 yards for a first down. He also had a catch in the flat for 3 yards but wasn’t able to break the tackle. Excellent day overall was mitigated only by one penalty.
Brandin Cooks: C (2.82) I can’t really blast him or give him too bad of a grade, because it’s not like he made any major mistakes. True, he had no targets or catches. Very odd for an NFL player in his class. But the offense put up 49 points and he did plenty to create opportunities – especially for the tight ends – by being a decoy drawing the defense. The fake to him on the jet sweep was enough to leave Coleman wide open on the TD.
Willie Snead, IV: B+ (2.90) Very physical game underneath for Snead that was a bit hit or miss. Took a shot at the end zone that resulted in an incomplete 50-50 ball in the zone. Finished with 5 catches for 38 yards, almost exclusively underneath. The big play was a perfectly thrown 50 yard touchdown pass to Hightower on a trick play. I wouldn’t mind seeing him throw the ball again down the road – that was impressive.
Michael Thomas: A+ (3.06) He drew the Rams in with his trademark physical short catches that he turned into yards by running over smaller corners. Then, he embarrassed them over the top. What you won’t see on the stat sheet, too, was a 3rd and very long where he draw the interference call by blowing past his defender. 9 catches for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 targets. The Rams couldn’t stop him. A monster performance.
Brandon Coleman: B (2.53) He’s a solid and underrated blocker on a number of run plays. And recently, he’s made the most of his limited targets, making sure they usually result in important plays. His lone catch was a 3 yard touchdown.
Tommylee Lewis: C- (2.24) His returning was ok (one kickoff for 18 yards and two punts for 8 yards) but another fumble/muff the Saints were fortunate to recover. Another special teams disaster. On offense, he was targeted twice without a completion. One ball was tipped. He also took an end around for 7 yards. A poor day overall.
Coby Fleener: B+ (2.39) Caught the ball extremely well and did a good job with ball security through contact. He had 4 catches for 59 yards on 4 targets. His best play was a 31 yarder down the seam where he showed terrific concentration making a tough high catch in traffic.
Josh Hill: A (2.67) On 6 targets he had 6 catches for 74 yards. That might be the best stat line of his career minus the scores. His blocking was pretty solid in several key spots and he also had a tackle on special teams. He’s quietly having another really solid season.
John Phillips: C+ (1.89) Missed a block that got a Hightower run blown up. Also threw a critical block on a counter play that opened up a huge lane for Ingram to gain 15 yards.
Terron Armstead: C+ (2.94) Gave up a sack to Robert Quinn that was largely due to Brees not climbing the pocket enough and hanging on to the ball too long. Did a pretty good job overall. Left the game with yet another injury that seems to be the same re-occuring knee/quad problem.
Andrus Peat: C+ (2.77) His game was kind of like Hightower’s in that there were times he made big mistakes and times he looked flat out awesome. He was responsible for the sack that led to the lost fumble. He was also beaten badly on a couple of run blocks. What can you say about Aaron Donald, though? The guy is clearly amazing. Peat has some nice moments, though, most specifically on a number of plus running plays where he owned people.
Max Unger: B (2.94) Donald and Brockers are a handful but Unger did a good job overall in pass protection. He seemed to clean up his low snap issues from a week ago.
Jahri Evans: C (2.67) He struggled against Donald quite a bit. He got Brees hit a couple of times, was called for a hold and was beaten badly on a running play that was blown up. There was lots of positive too, though. I think a lot of times we only notice the negative with offensive linemen. It was a neutral performance.
Zach Strief: A (3.12) Another awesome performance. He’s playing the best ball of his career. He was physical and made great plays in the run game, the screen game, and locked it down in pass protection.
Tim Lelito: B- (2.47) Had a couple jumbo edge blocks were he did a good job. Also got in a post extra point scuffle showing a mean streak I can always appreciate.
Senio Kelemete: B+ (2.70) He’s been in and out of the starting lineup so many times and every time he’s called on he responds with a solid, tough performance. It doesn’t matter if he starts or not, he’s been critical to the offensive line all season long. And since the Armstead injury issues will carry into each game he plays, his flexibility is a huge asset. He came in and played well.
My offensive player of the game: Michael Thomas