This was by far the Saints' best offensive performance from an offensive line and running game standpoint. It's odd that it happens to coincide with such a bad game from Brees and Graham. Graham was by design, but Brees was just way off. It's just too bad because this offense needed just one first down to kill this game on the final two drives and couldn't make it happen. While there are some positives to take from this, it's disappointing this offense couldn't finish the game. On to the grades…
Drew Brees: C- for the game (3.00 for the season) He was 17 of 36, which has to be the worst completion percentage I've maybe ever seen from him, for 236 yards, 2 touchdowns and a horrible interception deep in Saints' territory. The pass to Stills was incredible, but otherwise he was just really off most of this game. He had a 16 yard scramble that was nice, and a bootleg late sniffed out by Chandler Jones that went for a 5 yard loss. I actually liked that play call, consider me in the minority… I'm really surprised Jones' didn't break containment and pursue the backside of the play there. Bad luck for the Saints on that one. He forced way too many balls into tight coverage and seemed predictable in his reads. He's not trusting some of the other playmakers not named Sproles and Graham at his disposal enough. It wasn't all on him, though, as there were some killer drops. Most disappointing, though, was just poor general play clock awareness.
Pierre Thomas: B+ (2.61) He had 11 carries for a tough 51 yards and added a screen pass reception for 29 yards. He customarily got the job done quietly. He also had a tackle on the pick.
Darren Sproles: C (2.89) He had 6 catches for 58 yards, but that was on 12 targets. At times he was missed by Brees, other times he was well covered and he was lit up late. He had 5 carries for a quiet 15 yards. He continues to struggle to make a real impact in the return game.
Khiry Robinson: A- (2.83) 7 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. He made a major impact in the running game and deserved more touches.
Travaris Cadet: B (2.33) He had a tackle on special teams and played a bit as a receiving back with the offense. He added a big 3 yard touchdown reception.
Jed Collins: A- (2.56) Excellent day from Collins lead blocking when he was in. He also had a three yard reception for a 1st down and a 1 yard carry to convert a short yardage situation into a first down.
Marques Colston: C- (2.61) Just one catch for 11 yards from Colston. He also had another big reception that was called back due to a penalty. In general he just got no separation whatsoever and didn't seem to play as much as usual. Is he hurt? Disappointing showing from him when Graham was so invisible. I'm shocked Brees didn't look his way more often.
Kenny Stills: A- (2.39) Stills' best game of the season. Obviously the 34 yard touchdown reception to give the team a 24-23 lead was epic, but he also seemed to be one of the few guys on the offense that came up with a play when the offense was stuck in neutral. He had 3 catches for 64 yards and the score.
Nick Toon: C- (2.00) He was mostly covered and didn't get open, but Brees did miss him once wide open near the end zone which would have been the easiest TD ever. Bad pass by the Saints' passer there. Toon had a nice catch on another bad pass by Brees that was way too high for a 7 yard reception. His routes were poor and Brees doesn't seem to look his way, even when he's open.
Robert Meachem: D (1.73) Brees had a beautiful throw on the run deep downfield to Meachem that went right through his breadbasket. That was his lone target. That's just a ball he has to come up with.
Jimmy Graham: F (3.00) I hate to do this, but Graham gets the team's first F of the season. It wasn't so much that Aqib Talib owned him all game, it was that he was so out of it. I don't care how good Talib is, no one can stop Graham when he is at his best. For Graham to be held catchless is on him and no one else. He had two bad drops in traffic that are just balls he has to come up with. And his effort on the interception was just poor. I realize he was hurt but this isn't the first time his effort has been lackluster. When Talib went out with an injury, it's not like Graham started to play better. Graham stopped himself more than anything the Pats did. Surprising to see him play so bad given the run he was on. Hopefully his leg/ankle injury will be fine after the bye week.
Ben Watson: B+ (2.61) The Saints should have taken advantage of him in the passing much, much more in this one. He had numerous good matchups and he didn't play enough. He had 3 catches for 61 yards and hurt the Patriots badly when he was targeted.
Charles Brown: B- (2.00) He was roasted by Chandler Jones once, giving up a sack, and he was called for a clear hold another time. Besides those two, I thought he did a decent job. He got some push in the run game and Chandler Jones is no slouch. Brown handled himself pretty well overall against him. The jury is still out on Brown but he's been decent.
Ben Grubbs: A- (2.11) Finally Grubbs showed up to play. He was more physical than usual in the trenches, and showed his trademark technique in pass protection that was the reason he was so good last season. Maybe he's bouncing back.
Brian de la Puente: A- (2.39) Arguably the best lineman on the day, and he would've gotten an A if it weren't for holding penalty in the red zone that could have hurt the Saints badly (this was before the pass to Stills). He was very physical and showed tons of effort. A very good performance.
Jahri Evans: A (2.40) Do yourself a favor and re-watch the game and check out a perfectly timed blitz by Brandon Spikes (#55). Spikes doesn't show blitz till there was 1 second left on the play clock and Brees didn't recognize it and alert his line for the pick up. Evans saw him come just in time, stonewalled him, pushed him sideways as Spikes was coming full speed and then pancaked him. It was seriously one of the most dominant and awesome things I have ever seen by a guard. The perfect blend of intelligence, strength, quickness and body leverage. Suffice to say he kicked ass in this game. No way I am docking his grade for the "false start" on 4th and 1 either. He reacted to encroachment and I would want him to do the exact same thing again next time. He just got screwed by the refs. Great game by Jahri who is looking healthy again. I have some optimism for how he'll play now post bye week with more time to heal.
Bryce Harris: B+ (2.27) A very good showing by Harris overall. He wasn't dominant but he was very solid, especially in pass protection. This reminded me a bit of when Jon Stinchcomb's time was up and Zach Strief came in for him. Strief had so much time behind Stinchcomb to learn and Strief was fortunate that Stinchcomb was such a good teammate willing to help. By no means am I saying Strief is done, but likewise I think Harris is fortunate that he's had a great teammate ahead of him that's a good leader and communicative. Strief has helped Harris improve the last two years, and he stepped in at right tackle and was ready. That's why guys like Strief are so valuable to your team, not just for his performance on the field, but for what he brings to the guys on the roster you're trying to develop. Harris did give up one big pressure to Rob Ninkovich but otherwise kept him in check.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Jahri Evans