And so it goes, our season is over. Hard to blame the offense, though, as they put up 36 points. If you had told me before the game that Brees would throw for over 400 yards, not turn the ball over once, and lead the offense to a 36 point output, I would have put a lot of money on a positive outcome. A lot of us would have. Heck, most Seahawksfans would have. Hard to blame the offense for how things panned out. I have to say that I was actually impressed with Sean Payton’s balance. Despite a clearly inferior backfield, he dialed up numerous running plays to keep the defense honest, which ultimately made the passing attack more successful. On to the grades… and for those of you that don’t remember, I always start with new GPA’s for the playoffs.
Drew Brees: A (4.00) He probably deserves an A+ if the Saints win the game. Statistically, he was 39 of 60 for 404 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the first time in 13 games he didn’t have a turnover, and it was the highest passing yardage he had this season in a game. Brees stepped up with the highest stakes and delivered a very solid performance. It’s not often that Brees plays like this and the Saints lose. Even without a semblance of a running game, he was able to dissect the Seahawks at will. Even with the Saints in panic mode, he still performed like a superstar and gave the Saints a chance to win. It’s too bad his best game of the season came in a losing effort in the playoffs.
Reggie Bush: C- (1.67) His drop on the opening series of the game on a 3rd down play near the goal line cost the Saints a touchdown. The Saints would settle for 3, so he basically cost them 4 points there. Bush was very shaky running the ball, going for 12 yards on 5 carries. He re-injured the leg he broke at one point in the game and I have no idea how badly he hurt it. Hopefully he’s ok. All I know is the guy is on the hook for $8 million next year and I’d be shocked if the Saints are willing to pay it. Either they’ll come to a resolution and restructure, or it’s not inconceivable that Bush will be gone. The Saints needed him to show up big in a bad way and he laid an egg. To his credit, he converted a couple of a 3rd and longs turning short throws into first downs with his foot speed. He finished with 5 catches for 37 yards. Overall, though, it was his time to shine and he didn’t.
Julius Jones: B (3.00) He hurt his grade with a deadly fumble deep in Saints’ territory. Somehow the defense actually played well the series after that and held the Seahawks to a field goal. Jones actually did a totally adequate job running the ball. Considering he was behind Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, Lynell Hamilton, andLadell Betts in the pecking order over the course of the season, he ran the ball about as well as we could hope for. He finished with 15 carries for 59 yards, including 2 touchdowns. He also contributed in the passing game with 6 catches for 61 yards. He did have a drop or two, but receiving is hardly his forte and he was forced into action with all the injuries. He suffered a concussion himself late in the game. Can you imagine if the Saints had won this game? They’d be going into the Chicago with DeShawn Wynn, Joique Bell and maybe Jonathan Vilma at running back? I’m only half kidding. Jones also hurt his grade with a 4th and inches carry that was stuffed for no gain.
Heath Evans: A- (3.67) I thought Evans blocked extremely well. It was one of his best games of the season. He actually made some plays in the passing game, too. He gave the Saints an early 10-0 lead on a nice play action fake by Brees that left him wide open. Evans waltzed into the end zone from 1 yard out. He finished the game with 4 receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown. His other receptions came late in the game after Bush and Jones had both left the game with injuries. That’s right, Evans was running the routes Bush usually runs as a receiving back. That’s how depleted we were. In his defense he showed good hands and decent agility for a big man.
Marques Colston: B (3.00) He made a lot of plays early in the game and then kind of disappeared. I’m sure the Seahawks made an adjustment at halftime to cover him better because he was hot early. As the game wore on he became less of a factor, though it did open opportunities for other receivers. He finished with 4 catches for 66 yards. Early on it looked like he was going to have a monster performance. That knee injury he had that forced a scope just 2 weeks ago showed no ill effects whatsoever.
Robert Meachem: B- (2.67) Nothing special, but he finished with 3 catches for 39 yards. He replaced Devery on kickoff returns, too, but didn’t do much better averaging 23.3 yards.
Devery Henderson: B (3.00) Henderson is hard to grade because I thought he actually did a great job as a receiver. He finished with 7 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came late in a rallying effort that was killed when Hartley butchered his onsides kick attempt. His kickoff returns were atrocious. He had 4 returns for a 15 yard average. Twice he slid feet first to avoid big hits. Seriously, if the guy is scared to get hit, he shouldn’t be returning kicks. I realize both Meachem and Henderson are fast, but neither had the slightest clue how to handle a kick return. No concept of making a cut, no concept of finding a lane. They both ran with fear. Those guys just aren’t return men. I think the Saints made a mistake picking up a guy like Kawika Mitchell or Joique Bell when they could have signed a return specialist to fill in for Courtney Roby. Henderson was not up to the job. Give him credit for his job as a receiver, though. He made a huge 40 yard play at one point and stretched the defense.
Lance Moore: C+ (2.33) He had 4 catches for 49 yards, but he was targeted 9 times. Not ideal results. He also had two punt returns for 11 yards and looked a little bit like Reggie Bush with his dancing.
Jeremy Shockey: C+ (2.33) He looked ok out there despite the injury and showed his usual hands and grit. He had 2 catches for 24 yards, being targeted 4 times. Brees missed him on a couple of those.
David Thomas: A- (3.67) I thought Thomas’ blocking was outstanding. Any time he was in the game and the Saints had a big run, he was a major reason for it. Twice he provided seal blocks off the edge to allow runners to get to the second level. He had some kind of tear in his knee, but it sure didn’t look like it. Thomas played a very solid game throughout. He also contributed 4 catches for 38 yards in the passing game.
Jermon Bushrod: C (2.00) He had his hands full with Chris Clemons and did a reasonable job, but he gave up a tremendous amount of pressure off the edge. Per usual, he benefited from the Saints chipping to his side, double teams, and Brees’ amazing ability to feel pressure, move around the pocket with his terrific footwork and his quick release. Bushrod is lucky to block for a guy like that, because a guy like Ben Roethlisberger could make him look very very bad. Going into next season the Saints will have to ask themselves if they want to invest in Bushrod long term as their left tackle. He’s not a bad player, but he’s arguably the weakest link on the line. That’s not usually what you want out of your left tackle. It seems like the Saints are focusing on helping him out a little too much.
Carl Nicks: B- (2.67) Most notable was the 4th and short run by Jones, where Nicks got pushed far into the backfield and tripped Jones before the run could even develop. Pass blocking wise he did well, and he was the one helping Bushrod out with Clemons so much. He set up nice lanes for Jones on both touchdown runs.
Jonathan Goodwin: C (2.00) He and Brees fumbled an exchange which baffled me. You wait until the playoffs to make a mistake like that? How long have they been playing together now? Seriously? You go all season without doing that and you do it in the playoffs? To his credit he took the blame for it even though it easily could have been on Brees. As for his run blocking, it was fine but he didn’t get the kind of push we are used to seeing.
Jahri Evans: B+ (3.33) He had a false start penalty, but his blocking was impeccable. Too bad he had his hands full with the interior, because Stinchcomb sure could have used his help with double teams. I wish the Saints had bailed out the right side more so than Bushrod.
Jon Stinchcomb: D- (.033) Raheem Brock ate him alive and beat him like a drum repeatedly. Most notable were a sack that he gave up and a holding call that he was flagged for, but he was struggling all game long. Neither his pass blocking or his run blocking were of any impression whatsoever. I think the interior part of the line is perfect, but the Saints need to reconsider going into next season if they’re happy with the Bushrod-Stinchcomb tackle tandem. I’m not saying they shouldn’t stay. Both players have had their moments and they’re capable guys. The Saints did spend a 2nd round pick on Charles Brown this year, though, and Zach Strief is a capable player that’s never really gotten a chance. The offseason will be interesting. I felt that the line play overall this season was way down, mostly because of spotty tackle play and a lot more penalties.
Zach Strief: D+ (1.33) He had a nice edge block on Brees’ 30 yard strike to Colston on the opening drive of the game. That was textbook pass protection. After that, though, he was horrible. On the 5 other plays he played in, the Saints totaled 8 yards. That’s 1.6 yards per play when he was in the game if you take away that one pass to Colston. Now granted, he’s not solely responsible for the play being successful when he’s in the game, but his poor blocking didn’t help the run game at all.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees