Despite a sloppy start that included alarming mistakes, laziness, lack of focus and penalties, the Saints scored 42 points. The offense is that good. To be able to overcome some of the glitches to put up a point total like that is amazing. Granted, they didn’t exactly play the best defense in the world, but I think the most encouraging thing we saw was that this was one of the more comprehensive wins the Saints have had as a team. Right now Brees is so good I’m not sure the Saints can be beaten. The Monday night affair against the Falcons will be a huge test, but at this point in the season the Saints have to feel extremely good about their chances at a 2 seed, and perhaps a run at another title. On to the grades…
Drew Brees: A+ (3.52) It’s funny, he does almost everything so flawlessly I have to point out the things he does poorly because it’s more notable. He did miss Robert Meachem on a poorly thrown deep ball, he almost threw a pick going to Graham on a 3rd down play as the route was jumped, and that’s really about it. When you consider he threw the ball 40 times, that’s not much at all. I could write all day about how amazing he was… he’s just operating on a different level than even we as Saints fans are accustomed to. Right now he’s playing better football than he did in 2009. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that. The most impressive things he did in my mind, though, weren’t passes. His footwork in the pocket was a masterpiece. He absolutely abused Jared Allen all day long with his mastery at feeling edge pressure. Allen continually whiffed at him after repeated attempts in pass rushing situations. We’re talking about the best rusher in the NFL, and Brees made him look like a fool. Also, on De La Puente’s horrid snap, Brees chased down Everson Griffin and made a textbook athletic shoestring tackle to save a touchdown. He finished 32 of 40 for 412 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s now 6 straight games with a touchdown pass away from tying Johnny Unitas’ record and he’ll break Dan Marino’s yardage in a season record most likely next week against the Falcons. He’ll also be throwing for 40 touchdown passes this season. After this performance and the Packer loss, Brees has re-inserted his name into MVP contention and I now believe he’s got a realistic shot at it depending on how the last two games play out. It’s funny, Tim Tebow is getting all the media attention right now, but Brees is the one walking on water.
Darren Sproles: B (3.14) Sproles was oustanding for the most part in the passing game, save a pivotal drop early that hurt the Saints badly by costing them an easy first down that would ultimately force them to punt. In the run game and return game, though, he was mostly mediocre. He struggled to find holes and break tackles. On screens, though, the Vikings were gashed by him. He finished with 8 carries for 33 yards, 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, and averaged 25 yards per kick return and 15 yards per punt. That sounds better than it is, though, his special teams play was overall disappointing. His kickoff returns haven’t been impressive for a while.
Pierre Thomas: A (3.07) He was always falling forward, never allowing the first tackler to bring him down, setting up his blockers perfectly, and criminally underutilized. When he’s playing this well I really think the Saints should use him exclusively. That’s not how they roll, though, I get it. He turned 2 screen receptions into 41 yards and he rushed 8 times for 44 yards and a touchdown. I think he should get the ball more. He’s quietly having an excellent season. He was also exceptional in pass blocking and called to do so often.
Chris Ivory: B+ (2.67) He was somewhat one dimensional in his role, not surprisingly, but he ran the ball pretty well. He’s start to round back into game shape. He finished with 74 yards on 18 carries.
Jed Collins: D (2.69) I’ll give him his due- he had a 2 yard run on a 3rd and inches and he got another first down on a passing play that went for 12 yards. Unfortunately, that doesn’t overshadow his recent penchant for grabbing a handful of jersey in blocking situations. This time he cost Meachem and the Saints a 40 yard touchdown reception as well as a 13 yard run by PT cruiser. As if Thomas got enough touches to spare as is without some of them getting wiped away by penalties. Weak. Korey Hall played at fullback a bit late in the game and I actually wasn’t sure if that substitution was due to the score, or a benching due to the ridiculous amount of penalties Collins has gotten the past two weeks. This is his second straight D, by the way, so his previously solid GPA is getting destroyed.
Marques Colston: A (3.22) Other than a drop on a Chase Daniel pass, he was solid throughout and consistently moving the chains. The only thing missing was a touchdown. He finished with 8 catches for 91 yards. Solid blocking day too. He also drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone that gave the Saints the ball at the one and set up a touchdown.
Lance Moore: A (3.00) He finished with 5 catches for 91 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first touchdown was an outstanding catch where he really got up high to come down with it. For a little guy he’s really got some serious leaping ability.
Robert Meachem: B (2.43) He was wide open twice deep and got a bit unlucky. The first was called back after he scored and the second was grossly underthrown and one hopped to him by Brees. Not his fault and he easily could have had a couple touchdowns. He finished with 2 catches for 22 yards and a reverse that went for 4 yards before he fearfully got out of bounds to avoid a hit. Not the first time.
Devery Henderson: C- (2.31) Once again a non factor in the offense. 1 catch for 4 yards.
Jimmy Graham: B (3.24) At times it really doesn’t seem like he tries too hard. That’s both maddening and impressive depending on which way you look at it. There is no question he’s a man among boys out there when he wants to be. It almost comes to him too easy. He is impossible to stop with single coverage. He did have a critical fumble early that really hurt the team and he seemed too eager to try for a one handed grab at times. You can’t deny his positive impact, though, yet again. 7 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
John Gilmore: A- (2.33) Time to get the big fella his due – he blocked well and he caught a two yard touchdown pass, the first of his season.
Jermon Bushrod: C+ (2.69) You look at Jared Allen’s stat line: 2 tackles and one QB knock down, and you think to yourself “wow, Bushrod was awesome”. He wasn’t though. The main reason for Allen’s struggles was Drew Brees continually stepping into a clean pocket. If a different quarterback plays for the Saints, like say Christian Ponder, there’s a good chance Allen would have ended with at least 3 sacks. So Bushrod benefits from a quarterback with superhuman feel and a ridiculously quick release. While Allen did give Bushrod fits over the edge, give him credit for dealing with it with reckless abandon. Bushrod was flagged once for false start.
Carl Nicks: A- (2.74) He was dominant for the majority of the game. He was beat once on the interior on a play that turned into negative rushing yards, and he was guilty of a hold once, but other than that he was dominant in the trenches. His forceful run blocking caused major problems to the Vikings and his interior blocking was nothing short of stellar. A big part of the reason Brees enjoyed a clean pocket with Allen coming around the edge was Nicks’ performance.
Brian De La Puente: F (2.42) He was flagged for a chop block that was declined, a 15 yard facemask and he snapped the ball out of the shotgun while Brees was calling an audible that caused a scary turnover. He can thank Brees for making that tackle, and the defense for getting a huge stop, because otherwise that was 7 points all on his own. He blocked well at times, but I have to fail him. Two personal fouls and a fumble that resembles the days of Aaron Brooks is unacceptable. He’s got to clean up those mental errors because they have the power to kill his team and affect the outcome. He’s got to be kicking himself for this performance, especially that snap. Playing with a reserve lineman all season finally came back to bite the Saints. Hopefully he can pull it together for the playoffs.
Jahri Evans: A (3.19) He was fantastic in run and pass blocking as he continues to build on his excellent season. As far as I’m concerned, Jahri Evans is a shoe in for the Pro Bowl. His pulling and blocking on screen passes was devastating to the Vikings. He was solid in all areas and physical in the trenches. Most impressive is how well he moves for a big man, especially after he came back from what looked like a knee injury.
Zach Strief: B (2.92) He looked banged up briefly, as did Nicks… so the Saints at different points had three linemen go down. Luckily all three of them returned, so hopefully they can use the extra day to heal up and get ready for the Falcons on Monday Night. I have a feeling the injury report might be extensive this week. He didn’t always make a major difference but his pass blocking was largely solid and the only real negative was his stiff movement at times.
Pat McQuistan: B- (2.07) His size was useful off the edge, per usual.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees