Below are the grades for the Saints' offensive players for the game at Atlanta. Overall you'll notice very good grades across the board, but I will say the offense's inability to get the ball in the end zone at times kept the game closer than it should have been. The letter grade represents the player's individual performance and the GPA represents the player's cumulative effort over the course of the season. Don't worry if you think I'm being too nice, just wait for the defensive grades. They are horrendous.
Reggie Bush: A- (2.61) Where did this performance come from? Bush came back in a big way, running the ball well, catching it effectively, and, brace yourselves, he even returned a punt well. The speed he showed on the screen pass was impressive. That touchdown 21 yard reception on a 3rd and 18 play, catching the Falcons in an all out blitz. He finished with 33 yards on 6 carries, 6 catches for 46 yards, 2 touchdowns receiving and a punt return for 23 yards. Give Bush credit for making one hard cut every time he touched the ball and then running with authority ahead. Amazing how much more effective he is when he's not "dancing". You all know what I'm talking about. He also bounced a 3rd and 1 play outside and ripped off a good run for a necessary conversion. Way to go Reggie.
Pierre Thomas: B+ (3.12) Thomas was used fairly often in the passing game, and had mixed results in the running game. As the game progressed he was more effective rushing, but I think the Saints could have used him more. At one point he looked banged up which is why the Saints may have abandoned their usual commitment to the run. He had 6 receptions for 53 yards, and 13 carries for 47 yards. He made no mistakes and showed great effort and toughness finishing off runs.
Lynell Hamilton: B- (2.67) Hamilton had limited reps, but he came in and gave the Saints a spark. I can't imagine there's many 4th string tailbacks in the NFL that are better. He had 13 yards on 4 carries and showed good force and physicality through the hole. He did have a nice run get called back by a holding call. He gets a B- because, let's face it, it's not like he made a huge impact on the game.
Marques Colston: B+ (2.95) Colston finished with 6 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't one of his dominant chain moving performances, but he made plays out there and he was solid. He made a catch on the opening drive showing off his freakish reach and reeling in a pass with his fingertips. He made it look easy, but that was a sick catch.
Devery Henderson: C- (2.95) Devery had some receptions and was dangerous after the catch, finishing with 3 catches for 31 yards. He also had two very bad drops. I worry after seeing him drop a few the past 3 weeks that he's reverting back to his old inconsistent ways. This was a mediocre performance. He got his hands on a ball in the end zone and couldn't secure it as he got hit, which was disappointing, but his second drop was an easy sideline pass that he flat out dropped. Unacceptable there, you've got to catch that one. He also got flagged on a holding call on a wide receiver screen to Meachem.
Robert Meachem: B+ (3.21) Meachem had another very solid performance. He finished with 4 catches for 57 yards, most on short routes. He also caught a 42 yard bomb downfield, and converted a 3rd and short on a 4 yard reverse. Based on the GPAs, Meachem has been the best Saints' receiver this season.
Jeremy Shockey: B (2.87) Shockey is pretty banged up. The Saints don't use him on clear running downs, and they avoid putting him in the game when they feel like they can manage without him. You've got to give the guy props for going out there on a bum ankle and showing some grit. Shockey was pretty effective in the passing game, finishing with 4 catches for 46 yards. Shockey has been clutch all season on 3rd down plays, and you can tell he's most often the primary option when the Saints really need a play. He did get caught for holding once, so that costs him the B+.
David Thomas: B- (2.36) Thomas finished with 2 catches for 9 yards. His role in the passing game has declined as he's been transformed into a fullback. I think it's safe to assume he'll be the lead blocker for the rest of the way, barring injury. It's no surprise the run game has been a little less effective given that Thomas isn't a natural fullback and that he's got major shoes to fill in Heath Evans'. He's done a pretty admirable job overall, though, and he'll get better. He does manage to still make contributions from time to time in the passing game, too.
Jermon Bushrod: B (2.70) Bushrod got pushed around early by John Abraham, and got help later to neutralize the dangerous pass rusher. Thank God this isn't the same Abraham as in his peak years, because I think Bushrod would have been eaten alive. None the less, Brees was never sacked and the running behind Bushrod was at times spectacular, and at other times average. He was pretty good overall. He fought hard.
Zach Strief: C+ (2.30) Strief was caught holding and had some miscues. He did fill in for Stinchcomb briefly at right tackle, though, and did a good job while he was in as a replacement there. The main issues he had were as an extra tight end on short plays, which is odd as it's been his calling card this year. Regardless, it's nice to have in Strief a guy who I feel is marginally inferior to both of our starting tackles. He can come in at any time and fill in and I don't think we miss that much of a beat. He's a nice reserve to have.
Carl Nicks: A- (3.10) Very solid in run and pass blocking. The majority of the runs came to the left side, and Nicks handled his man with ease. That said, why one earth is he primary option on a fake field goal? Why are we even running that play in that situation? Too bad Brunell didn't give him a chance because he was looking for an A+ if he scores a touchdown to put the game away.
Jonathan Goodwin: A- (3.18) Pretty solid game overall by Goodwin. On the Reggie Bush screen pass touchdown play, Colston did a pretty good job of blocking his man, but as Bush neared him around the 5 yard line, the defender was coming free to potentially take a shot at stopping Bush. Goodwin was pulling on the play and he absolutely blew up the defender, giving Bush an easy stroll into the end zone. Goodwin has a nice little nasty streak in him. I wish I was grading Jeff Faine on a per game basis because I'd love to see how his GPA would stack up to Goodwin's. I can't imagine there's any way it would be as good.
Jahri Evans: A- (3.31) Another textbook performances. I just didn't really feel like I could hand out A's despite the terrific pass blocking all day because the Saints finished with 95 yards rushing and a 3.7 average per carry. I did get a chance to watch Evans, mostly on passing plays, stand up his man and completely neutralize him. He would stand straight up and push his man back like he was playing with a 5 year old boy. Evans wasn't as nasty or powerful as Nicks/Goodwin in the running game for this one, but Brees would have had all day if it were one on one blocking drills. Seriously, go back and watch the tape. He completely shut down his man and rendered him useless on passing plays. It was almost like the defensive tackle gave up on rushing Brees and just decided he was going to do his best to limit the rushing plays by holding his ground.
Jon Stinchcomb: B+ (2.87) Stinchcomb banged up his leg (knee maybe?) and like Shockey he got a little band aid put on it, got the trainers to kiss it, and he was back out there. Just kidding, both guys should be applauded for shaking off injuries to go back out there and perform at a high level. I don't think anyone can question the character of Jon Stinchcomb. The guy is a very respected locker room influence and he lays it all on the line for the Saints. His mobility was a little hampered by the injury, but he was helped out by Brees' terrific pocket presence and footwork.
Darnell Dinkins: B (2.06) Going back to that ridiculous decision by Sean Payton to fake a field goal, Dinkins was the intended receiver. Seriously, Coach Sean, what were you thinking (said in Frank Caliendo doing Dr. Phil voice)? Anyway, Brunell bypassed Nicks, his primary target with non existent speed and zero flexibility and athleticism for his secondary target, Dinkins. Dinkins, mind you, is the blocking tight end who has a better chance of catching a ball with his feet. Dinkins not only wasn't able to keep his feet in bounds, he ran his route a good yard or two short of the first down anyway. Even if he comes down with that, it's a beyond stupid play made to look even more stupid by Dinkins' execution of it. Too bad, because I'd give the guy an A- if it wasn't for that. Finally he showed me some of his blocking skills and I can understand why the Saints kept him on the active roster injured early in the season. His blocking was masterful. He sealed the edge when he needed to, and he created huge lanes by using brute force. I have a feeling Mike Bell would have had a good day running behind him.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees