Anytime you drub a team 34-3, there’s no going to be a ton of things to pick from from a negativity standpoint. The grades overall are solid. Very strong showing all around by theSaints. The 34 point output was the highest scoring day the Saints have had so far this season. Below are the grades.
Drew Brees: B+ (2.67) Brees’ statline was somewhat pedestrian for him, finishing 27-43 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception. He was inaccurate on a few throws, but he was also victimized by a number of drops and the interception was not his fault. His passer rating may have been just 84.7, but he was effective on 3rd downs making accurate throws to move the chains. He had good control of the offense and was smart with the football. He was sacked just once but knocked down 8 times. Carolina threw the kitchen sink at him bringing numerous different looks. Between a 3 man rush zone drop back and a safety blitz (which was dialed up at least 5 times), Brees managed everything the Panthers threw at him. When nothing was there he scrambled out of the pocket and made good decisions. Once again his presence and footwork in the pocket should not go overlooked, as no one in the NFL is better.
Julius Jones: B (2.45) I think this grade is pretty generous, but I’m in a giving mood. His 54 yard run on the first play of the game was a thing of beauty. Ultimately, I’ve been so craved for a long run/big play in the running game that that run alone game him his B. Other than that run, he looked like he still had some toughness as speed. Ultimately he finished with 68 yards on 6 carries, which means he had 5 other carries for 14 yards. Nothing too impressive. I was disappointed that Sean Payton didn’t pound Jones a little bit more after he got off to such an amazing start. In the passing game, Jones was terrible. He finished with 2 catches for -6 yards, one which ended on a third down screen play that lost 9 yards. Jones had a chance at a touchdown on a wheel route, but did a very poor job of keeping his feet in bounds. Too bad, because he made a nice catch. That was a vintage play designed for Reggie Bush. Overall, Jones made a big play for the Saints and showed he can still play.
Chris Ivory: B- (2.28) Ivory was unspectacular but he was solid. He ran hard between the tackles and around the edge, and at times he had that battering ram ferociousness that made us love Mike Bell so much last year. He had 50 yards on 12 carries for a respectable average of 4.2 yards per carry. He did a good job converting a couple short yardage situations. My concern with this guy used to be his ball security, but I’ve decided his durability is much more of a problem. He just keeps getting injured. This time he separated his shoulder. He’s shown promise but if he can’t stay healthy eventually that will cost him some opportunities.
Ladell Betts: B- (2.17) I’ll give him credit, he ran for a very hard yard and got himself a touchdown. It was nice to see, the guy deserves it. If you score, you usually get a decent grade. He finished with 31 yards on 13 carries, getting the bulk of the reps at the end of the game. He didn’t light the world on fire by any means, but he was a nice change of pace to give Ivory/Jones a breather. He also had a reception for 1 yard, and had mixed results in blitz pickup assignments.
Heath Evans: B (2.67) He played a lot more than I was used to seeing. The Saints ran the ball 32 times, which is usually synonymous with them scoring more points. Clearly that was the gameplan, which meant more time on the field for Heath. His lead blocking, overall, was very good and reliable. Still looks a step slow compared to prior to that knee injury to me, but that’s to be expected.
Jeremy Shockey: B (2.70) He had just one catch, but it was a big one on a 3rd and goal play that would give the Saints a 7-3 advantage early thanks to his 7 yard touchdown. He took a hard shot to the ribs which knocked him out of the game on that play. Give him credit for holding onto the football. Hopefully he’ll feel better in a couple weeks in time for the Seahawks.
David Thomas: B (2.59) His blocking was exceptional, I thought, and he made a number of plays in the passing game. He finished with 4 receptions for 45. He had a big 22 yard game right before halftime to set up a field goal, but he wasn’t head’s up about getting out of bounds. The clock almost ran out on the Saints even though Thomas had a clear shot to kill the time by going out of bounds. Instead, he elected to run upfield and get about 5 more yards which was totally unnecessary. Not very head’s up. Overall, though, I thought he was a playmaker for the offense that moved the chains.
Jimmy Graham B+ (2.92) He was big in the passing game. He finished with 3 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown, and we’ve definitely not heard the last of him. He was also pretty solid blocking for the Saints. He scored his first touchdown beating the Panthers’ safety on a 19 yard play. He also converted a big third down making a spectacular grab off his shoetop on a low throw by Brees. The guy obviously has great hands, but he did drop a high throw by Brees just after that completion. Brees will get him more involved in the offense I’m sure, especially if Shockey is out for any length of time.
Marques Colston: B (2.93) He had 8 catches for 65 yards, and took a lot of hard shots. Give him a lot of credit for being a reliable target over the middle. He did drop one pass on 3rd down that he should have caught in traffic, but again he was lit up. As always he provided a big target for Brees. I bet he’s very sore today.
Lance Moore: B+ (2.63) He finished with 6 catches for 77 yards, but he’s starting to become the most reliable receiver in the offense. The guy just runs pristine routes and has terrific hands. The two plays that stood out were a 3rd down conversion where he did a terrific job of keeping his feet in bounds on the sidelines, and a pass down the sideline just before halftime that he went up and just beat the corner for. That catch was just sick, and he made Brees look very good. There’s no question his role in the offense is prominent at this point. He also had 3 punt returns for 15 yards, and I look forward to someone else giving that role a try.
Devery Henderson: D+ (2.18) Something is going on here because Brees is refusing to throw the ball his way. Both targets at Henderson weren’t even close to him and they were as much throwaways as anything else. Twice I saw Henderson wide open on a play and Brees electing to go elsewhere to a more covered receiver. I have to give Devery some credit, he’s still trying out there. He’s blocking well downfield, he’s running his routes hard, and it’s not like he’s giving up. He’s still stretching the field. The guy is a true professional, but he had no involvement whatsoever in the offense. He’s struggled with some drops this year and maybe Brees has lost confidence in him. Whatever the reason, I hope to see him back and making plays because right now Henderson is a complete afterthought. I think part of that is Henderson’s performance, but part of that is on Brees/Payton for not getting him involved. The guy is a burner that can hurt defenses if you get him involved. That’s just not happening right now. He’s been misused all season.
Robert Meachem: D+ (2.29) Despite being targeted 5 times, he had 2 catches for 15 yards. Like Henderson, people are deathly afraid of getting beat over the top by them, so they’re keeping a deep safety to avoid the long touchdown pass. It’s just too bad that their games are being rendered mediocre. I guess Colston and Moore are benefiting from the deep safety because there’s less traffic on shorter routes in the middle of the field where they excel. Meachem had a horrible drop that bounced off him and resulted in Brees’ lone interception. The worst part is that play took points off the board as it was at the Carolina 5 yard line, and it was returned deep into Saints’ territory.
Jermon Bushrod: C- (2.37) He did an ok job on Tyler Brayton but did allow some pressure off the edge. Brayton was able to knock down Brees twice. Bushrod was flagged twice for false start penalties, once inside the Panthers’ 5. That’s just inexcusable. His run blocking wasn’t great either.
Carl Nicks: A (2.78) Here’s the Carl Nicks I’ve grown to love. The Saints had more success running to the right, but what would happen is big Jahri would get that good initial push, and the Nicks would get to the second level and just destroy people. He had so many pancakes in this game that I honestly lost count. Late in the game the Saints ran off the edge with Betts and Nicks just absolutely obliterated someone. Call the infirmary. Nicks was busy mauling anyone who stood in the way in this game. His run blocking was mean and nasty, and his pass blocking was very solid. He always gave Brees a nice little pocket to step into. He was awesome, and he blew up a lane for Jones on that 54 yard run. The Saints also ran a counter right behind him on Betts’ touchdown and he provided the necessary space.
Jonathan Goodwin: B (2.70) His pass blocking was very good. His run blocking has seemed a little less physical recently. I know he’s been in and out of practice with some sort of injury, I wonder if that’s slowing him down a bit? Overall his performance was solid, save a snap transmission issue that preceded the Drew Brees interception. Something happened on that exchange and it threw the whole timing of the play off.
Jahri Evans: A- (2.74) Like Nicks, he was very very good. The push he got at the initial line of scrimmage was always apparent and consistent. Evans was more about solid and effective blocking. Nicks was just out there to hurt someone. While Evans didn’t have quite the nasty streak out there, he showed great technique and he managed to go another whole game without getting penalized. I thought he liked the yellow flag? Give him credit for impeccable pass blocking, and opening up the original hole that Julius Jones took advantage of on his way to a 54 yard run. On the next play, Chris Ivory ran behind Evans for 11.
Jon Stinchcomb: C+ (2.30) His pass blocking was fine for the most part. He did allow some pressure at times but benefited as always from Brees’ great awareness and release. On running plays he didn’t get anywhere near the kind of push the Saints got on the interior. I wish the Saints had run more up the middle instead of off tackle.
Zach Strief: C- (2.14) He played a good amount late and honestly looked a little disinterested. I didn’t really see the big blocking off the edge he usually provides, and he was responsible at least once for Betts getting stopped dead in his tracks.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Carl Nicks