Check out below the player grades for the Saints' offense at Tampa. The letter grade represents the player's performance in the game, and the GPA represents the cumulative performance for the season.
Drew Brees: A- (3.04) Brees wasn't flawless, but considering the amount of pressure the Bucs got with their four man front, it was impressive he managed to go the whole game without turning the ball over. He was also never sacked despite getting knocked to the ground 5 times. There were a couple of close calls, but Brees' final stat line was impressive enough: 19-29, 187 yds, 3 TD's and 0 INT's. Brees was victimized by a couple of drops on 3rd down passes, and got his best results throwing to Marques Colston and David Thomas.
Mike Bell: A- (2.92) Bell ran with his usual aggression and authority. At one point in the game my wife said to me "I don't think I've ever seen him go backwards." She's right, the guy is a human wrecking ball. In fact, I think that should be his new nickname. Anytime he gets a full head of steam behind him (or any steam for that matter), there is no way you are hitting him for a loss. Bell got in the end zone twice and finished with 75 yards on 13 carries. He also caught a 5 yard pass where Ronde Barber popped him pretty good and it looked like Bell aggravated the knee he's had problems with. Luckily he was able to come back and be very effective.
Pierre Thomas: B+ (3.12) Thomas somehow ran the ball over better than Bell. I remember watching the game thinking Bell had grossly outperformed him, but Thomas ended with 92 yards on just 11 carries (8.4 yard average). Thomas also caught 3 passes for 11 yards. He helped the Saints move the chains constantly and was tough to bring down. Only negative: he did slip and fall on a 3rd and 1 early in the game, forcing the Saints to punt.
Lynell Hamilton: C+ (2.67) Hamilton came in for mop up duty and converted on a 3rd and short, and ran with authority. Keep in mind he was playing behind mostly backups and the Bucs knew the run was coming. Still, he was able to move the chains once. He finished with 19 yards on 9 carries. He also have a nice carry in the second quarter that went for 4 yards.
Marques Colston: B+ (2.80) Most of Colston's stats came on three consecutive plays on the Saints' last drive before halftime. They were all big plays as the Saints moved within scoring distance, and ended the drive by taking a 17-7 lead before halftime. It was nice to see Colston back to his old form. He made nice catches and proved tough to tackle. 5 catches for 74 yards.
Devery Henderson: D (2.93) Henderson was invisible all game. He finished with just 1 catch for -2 yards. On that play, Meachem completely whiffed on Ronde Barber which allowed the veteran to make a tackle before Devery had any room to run. Hard to blame Devery for that one. Otherwise, Brees didn't look his way at all. His grade could have been an F or a D-, but I had to give Henderson some love for throwing good blocks downfield at the second level.
Robert Meachem: B+ (2.96) Meachem, per usual, is making the most of his touches. Just 2 catches for 10 yards, but he scored both times. Meachem did have the terrible block aforementioned, but he also had a great block on a Pierre Thomas scamper in the second half to make up for it. He was also interfered with on a long pass downfield. The side judged threw a flag, but it was somehow mysteriously waved off even though the replay clearly showed contact. The refs get that call right and the Saints could have put it out of reach sooner.
Jeremy Shockey: C (2.97) Just 2 catches for 17 yards for Shockey today, who was targeted much less than backup David Thomas. In fact, Thomas has been more targeted for two weeks now. He was uncharacteristically quiet compared to what we're all used to seeing. He seemed tweak his ankle on his second reception, and I know he's been struggling with ankle problems, so it's entirely possible Shockey isn't operating at 100%. That would explain his limited snaps. Though Ronde Barber broke up a 3rd down pass intended for Shockey, it looked as though Shockey could have still come up with that ball.
David Thomas: A- (2.33) Back to back stellar performances by Thomas after starting off the season a little slow. He finished with 4 catches for 66 yards and his first touchdown as a Saint. He had a key 37 yard reception on the Saints' first scoring drive which would later tie the game at 7. More impressive than his stats, though, were the repeated terrific blocks on the edge and at the second level which aided the running game significantly.
Jermon Bushrod: C- (2.71) Bushrod was benched in favor of Zach Strief, but oddly came in for a couple of series at left tackle in the first half. While he was in the Saints ran the ball poorly to his side, and he was abused at least once by Stylez White which forced an incomplete pass. Based on the limited action it's hard to give Bushrod much worse of a grade, and he did come in for mop up duty and handle himself fine.
Zach Strief: C- (2.42) I was excited to hear that Strief got the start over Bushrod because I actually think he's a better option at left tackle. From what I understand the Saints decided to give Strief a shot because of the recent spike in turnovers, many that were coming due to a breakdown on the left side of the line (ahem, Bushrod). I was also a little sad for Jermon, though, because I felt like he actually handled himself admirably overall. Anyway, Strief struggled more than I've ever seen him struggle in pass protection. He was bailed out by Brees' uncanny pocket awareness. How Brees feels pressure from his blind side like that I'll never understand, but he does a great job of making his left tackle look good by avoiding the rusher that beats Strief/Bushrod on the edge. Still, Stylez White hit Brees four times, and at least 3 of those were due to Strief getting beat severely. His run blocking was pretty good in the second half, but the pressure from the left side was constant all day.
Carl Nicks: A (3.10) I was happy to hear the announcer give Nicks props at one point in the game, because he was absolutely destroying anyone that came in his path. I encourage any of you to watch the game over and pay particular attention to Nicks. Pardon my language, but he was putting guys on their ass all day long. Of particular note was a mauling lead on Bell's first touchdown run, and a pull on Bell's second run where he created a lane for Bell to jump over the goal line. For a 350 pound guy, Nicks actually moves pretty well too. I don't think he's ever going to beat Reggie Bush in a foot race, but he gets out there on pulls and shows some agility and quickness. As far as pass protection, forget about it. Anytime Brees stepped up from the annoying rush he was getting off the edge, he was comfortable knowing that no one would be in his face.
Jonathan Goodwin: A (3.13) Goodwin was particularly awesome in this game, as well. Numerous of the big runs the Saints had were not only a result of Goodwin's initial blocks, but his ability to follow the progression of the play and finish it off. He was picture perfect for most of the day. Had a nice pull block on a screen pass, his calling card. He also got tremendous push on short yardage plays, including both of Mike Bell's touchdowns. Yes, Jeff Faine is and was a terrific player, but Goodwin is making me forget all about him with the season he is having. Meanwhile, Jeff is stuck on the 1-9 team we just obliterated. I hope the contract was worth it.
Jahri Evans: A- (3.37) While he didn't stand out like Goodwin and Nicks, he was his usual, reliable, and sound playing self. No mistakes, which rarely ever happen with him. Can any of you even remember a time this season when penalty has been called on big Jahri? Maybe one? He was solid in both run and pass blocking. It would be criminal if he doesn't get a Pro Bowl invite based on the season he's having.
Jon Stinchcomb: B (2.97) Perhaps a harsh grade given how well he played run blocking. Just one negative play from Stinchcomb that I can remember, but it made me hold me breath and could give me nightmares. I just can't shake the memory of his poor block on Roy Miller which allowed the rushing Buc to absolutely drill Brees as the Saints' QB was releasing the ball. Brees was hit so hard I thought he might not get up. Luckily he was fine, but I can't imagine that Brees will feel too good today. Stinchcomb gave up less heat from his edge, but there were times where pressure would come from his side and Brees would casually step up in the pocket to nullify any threat. I want to again emphasize that Stinchcomb was terrific run blocking.
Darnell Dinkins: C (1.56) He was targeted on one pass and grossly overthrown. I don't think Dinkins and Brees are on the same page, given that Dinkins missed all of preseason and most of the beginning of the regular season. His run blocking was fine when he came in. Nothing much to comment on.
Kyle Eckel: B- (2.11) Eckel was pretty good operating as a lead blocker on the sets where he saw action. He threw some nice lead blocks and the Saints have mixed success running behind him.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Carl Nicks