See below for the grades of the Saints offensive players vs. Falcons. The grade represents the player’s individual performance in the game, the GPA behind it in parentheses represents the player’s cumulative performance for the season.
Drew Brees: B (3.14) If you looked at his stat line you’d think he was mostly masterful, but Brees struggled at times. He had a period in the second half where he was uncharacteristically inaccurate, he underthrew a wide open Devery Henderson on the interception, and held on to the ball too long on the sack and fumble that cost his team 7 points. He was bailed out by a shady defensive holding call on 3rd down on the Saints’ last touchdown drive. Still, he made the plays when it counted and put his playmakers in a position to excel. Brees was 25 for 33 for 308 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception and a lost fumble.
Reggie Bush: B- (2.29) The two things that stuck out for me with Bush today was he put his head down and fought for extra yards instead of finding refuge in the sideline, and late in the game he helped his teammate Marques Colston who was being tackled by four Falcons. He’s starting to understand he’s not a superstar and he’s playing his role on the team. He had a decent punt return, for once, but it was negated by a penalty. His stats were pathetic: 2 rushes for 3 yards and a touchdown, 2 catches for 11 yards and 1 punt return for 1 yard. That said, he had a 9 yard punt return and a nice run both called back for penalties. Still, I thought Bush played an ok game and he found the end zone.
Mike Bell: C- (3.07) Bell’s grade plummeted as the game wore on. In the first half he was his usual bruising self, finishing runs hard and gaining lots of positive yardage. In the second half, though, he was stuffed on almost every running opportunity. His fumble at the end of the game was inexcusable. Like the MNF crew said, the only responsibility in that scenario is ball security. Just 49 yards despite 17 carries for Bell. One thing I haven’t liked about Bell is that every time he is in the game the Saints run the ball. That’s more the staff’s fault for predictable play calling, but it would be nice to see them run a play action with Bell just to keep the defenses honest.
Pierre Thomas: B+ (3.20) Take his fumble away, which was also inexcusable, and he had a great game. He finished with 14 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown, and redeemed himself the drive after the fumble with a 1 yard touchdown reception that sealed the victory. He ran with very impressive speed, which was a little surprising, and he also showed off his customary shiftiness, balance and grit. Give him credit for the number of tackles he broke on a 3rd down run that ended up resulting in a 22 yard touchdown run.
Marques Colston: A- (3.14) Colston made some of his more impressive grabs in traffic of the season. His touchdown was a thing of beauty where he used his massive size and leaping skills to outplay two Falcons to the ball. He finished with 6 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. His catches were always at useful times and he showed excellent body control and soft hands throughout the contest. This guy may be destined for a 2009 trip to the Pro Bowl.
Lance Moore: C- (2.50) Another quiet day for Moore, just 2 catches for 11 yards. He’s not playing as many snaps and it just doesn’t seem like he’s as useful with the other targets performing.
Devery Henderson: B (3.09) Henderson hauled in a circus catch down near the goaline and he showed terrific hands all game. It’s been so cool to watch his transformation as a player. He’s gone from having the stonehands with speed label, to being a truly complete receiver. His blocking skills should also be commended. He ended with 4 catches for 46 yards, and had a nice tough grab down to the 1 which set up the game winning touchdown. Too bad on the interception that Brees underthrew the pass because Henderson was wide open and it would have been a touchdown.
Robert Meachem: B- (2.87) Meachem made the most of a couple touches. That’s been his calling card, making plays the few times he’s called upon. 2 catches for 47 yards.
Jeremy Shockey: A- (3.43) Shockey performed once again at a very high level. He gets a pass for his drop because the Saints got an offsides penalty on the play. He finished with 5 catches for 72 yards, none bigger than the ridiculous one handed catch he made downfield on an overthrown ball by Brees late in the game. It didn’t matter who was covering him, they couldn’t stop him. He should have been targeted more.
David Thomas: C+ (2.00) He had a bad drop, but he also looked pretty good on his 2 catches for 27 yards. All in all, whether it was bad passes or good coverage, Brees looked his way entirely too much for my taste. He was terrific run blocking, including blocking downfield on a couple of Pierre Thomas’ longer runs. His grade is hurt because he gave Atlanta a chance to come back late by muffing the onsides kick attempt and allowing the Falcons a chance to recover the ball.
Jermon Bushrod: C+ (2.67) Average game for Bushrod. To be expected, Abraham is about as tough of an assignment as you can get. He was caught holding once, and he was allowing pressure to come from his side often. Brees was hit numerous times from the blindside after releasing the football. His run blocking was hit or miss.
Zach Strief: C- (2.52) He came in a few times on running downs to give the Saints more size off the edge. In past games it’s been successful, but the Saints ran the ball poorly when he was in the game. Again, I think it’s a dead giveaway when he’s in the game that the Saints are running. Atlanta sold out to stop the run, and so plays with Strief in the game were less successful. I’d like to see the Saints be a little less predictable.
Carl Nicks: C (3.00) Nicks was quite poor in pass blocking. He’d gotten off to such a hot start this year, we’ve seen him regress a little the past two games. Both sacks Atlanta got, including the forced Brees fumble/TD came from his side. Run blocking was fine.
Jonathan Goodwin: B (3.05) When he can get a full steam ahead of him pulling lead blocks, he’s fun to watch. He was able to do that a couple of times on Thomas runs, and on a Thomas screen pass play. Goodwin did a good job blocking on the interior, too, when Brees would step up in the pocket. Hopefully his injury isn’t serious because the Saints need him.
Jahri Evans: B (3.38) The Saints had their best rushes mostly from the right side of the field. A quieter game than usual from Evans, but he did well.
Jon Stinchcomb: A- (2.95) This was, in my opinion, by far Stinchcomb’s best game of the season. Brees saw literally zero pressure from Stinchcomb’s side for the entirety of the game, and he was solid run blocking. When he doesn’t have to face a speed rusher with tremendous quickness, Stinchcomb really gets a chance to show off his superior technique and skill. It was on full display. He may not be the most powerful tackle, but he’s a reliable and sound player.
Darnell Dinkins: C- (1.67) For a “blocking tight end”, his blocking was pretty average in this game. Dinkins was involved a lot in the second half with the amount of running plays the Saints called, and that was when they had the least success. Can’t say I saw what kept him on the active roster all those weeks he was hurt. He was also flagged for a penalty.
Kyle Eckel: C- (1.67) Eckel didn’t really play enough to merit much of a review, but I noticed he just didn’t have the authority in his blocks that Evans had. The Saints tried many scenarios at fullback, with mixed results. Nothing stuck out as excellent.
Offensive Player of the Game: Marques Colston