Below are the offensive player grades for the game against the Patriots. The letter grade represents the player's performance for the game and the GPA represents the cumulative effort on the season.
Mike Bell: B- (2.89) Bell ran hard, as always. Never really broke one in this game, though, as his longest carry was just 6 yards. He finished with 50 yards on 13 carries and was banged up with a stinger and a knee tweak at different points in the game. I don't think either injury looked serious: he returned from the stinger and got to the sideline on his own after hurting his knee. We know he's been dealing with knee issues all season.
Drew Brees: A+ (3.15) How can words even describe his performance? 18 for 23, 371 yards and 5 touchdowns. No turnovers. The way he was playing, no one could have stopped him. Not even the NFC Pro Bowl defensive squad. Brees just put himself back in the MVP race in a big way with that game.
Pierre Thomas: A- (3.18) That first touchdown was all Thomas. He made a sick ankle breaking move, then twisted and welded his way to a touchdown on the screen pass. He finished with a solid 64 yards on 11 carries (5.8 yds per carry) and 23 yards on 3 catches. He showed tremendous vision, speed and toughness throughout.
Marques Colston: A (2.91) Man, Colston looked FAST! Did you see him on that 69 yd pass? Making plays downfield was his calling card in this one. Even when the coverage was tight, Colston went out there and caught the ball in traffic and was most dangerous after the catch. He also made a nice move and ran after the catch later in the game. He finished with 4 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came with him taking two tacklers into the end zone. Sick.
Devery Henderson: A (3.03) Henderson set the tone for the game making a deep reception on the very first play. He also had a back breaking 75 yard touchdown reception to give the Saints a 17-7 lead. On that play, he was so wide open that I'm confident any receiver in the NFL would have made that play. Still, give Henderson credit because 2-3 years ago he might have dropped that easy catch. He also did a terrific job of shedding a would be tackler for a 1st down. With Lance Moore and Reggie Bush out, he was also given punt return duties. He had one go 11 yards which was a pretty good return, a safe fair catch, and a terrible backwards running play that looked like he had gotten lessons from Reggie Bush. Henderson was also open for what could have been Brees' 6th TD pass, but the pass was overthrown right before Carney's missed field goal attempt. Henderson finished with 3 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Robert Meachem: A (3.07) Typically it's Meachem and Henderson making the big plays, with Shockey and Colston moving the chains, but in this game Meachem was the one moving chains (while Henderson and Colston mostly made their plays downfield). At least three times Meachem was targeted going for a 3rd down conversion. On the screen pass to Pierre Thomas that scored, Meachem went in motion and ran a nice route to pull the entire defense in his direction. He was a big part of the reason Thomas had real estate to run with. Meachem's touchdown reception for 38 yards was a terrific play where Brees threw arguably his prettiest ball of the season. Meachem did a nice job on that play of shielding the ball with his back so the defender couldn't make a play - and he secured the ball nicely by reaching out with 2 hands. Beautiful play. Meachem also took a play out of Henderson's arsenal with a nice juke on a short throw to get 1st down, almost breaking Adalius Thomas' ankles in the process. He finished with 5 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown.
David Thomas: C (2.30) Thomas was basically the starting fullback in this game with Eckel inactive, and he was a mixed bag. He threw a bad block on a reverse to Devery Henderson which resulted in the play going nowhere. His only reception was a nice double pump fake by Brees where Thomas then got open down the seam and caught a 25 yard pass. He did a nice job running after the catch on that play. When the Saints were looking to ice the game in the 2nd half, he threw a pair of nice lead blocks for Bell. He was responsible, however, for a terrible pass blocking effort on Adalius Thomas that resulted in a sack, and he was flagged for a holding call late.
Jeremy Shockey: C- (2.85) Shockey ended up having just one reception for 15 yards, and he was blown up BIG TIME on the catch he made. Give him a lot of credit for hanging on to the ball, and for popping right back up after that hit. Otherwise, Brees just didn't look his way. I actually think Shockey is hurt. How else can you explain the amount of playing time both Thomas and Dinkins are seeing? On numerous routes he ran, he was completely covered. I think his ankle is bothering him, as we already know he sprained it earlier in the year. On running downs the Saints are not using him much. Give Shockey credit on the touchdown pass to Henderson for giving Brees time by doing a fantastic job of protecting Brees on a cornerback blitz pickup.
Jermon Bushrod: B+ (2.77) Bushrod did a fine job. Brees was getting the ball out SO EARLY all day, it was really hard to grade the pass protection in this one. Hard to grade either tackle running wise, either, because 99% of the Saints ground game came on attacks right up the middle. Still, Bushrod made no mistakes and played a good game.
Carl Nicks: A- (3.15) He was opening huge holes late for Mike Bell. I noticed him miss a block or two on running plays, but otherwise he was a mauler as always. One of the things I really look forward to is watching the game tape to grade the O-lineman's performance. Watching the game through the first time and trying to enjoy it, there's just no way you can accurately grade them. If you go back and watch the tape, though, Nicks is just fun to watch. The amount of push he gets right at the snap of the football is impressive. I realized as the game progressed that the Saints really had as a game plan to attack the very middle of the Patriots when they ran the ball. Interesting, considering Vince Wilfork plays nose tackle for the Pats and he's known as a massive body and premiere run stopper.
Jahri Evans: A- (3.40) Evans is more technically sound than Nicks, quicker, and more impressive holding his ground against any and all pass rushers - and he showed his usual skill in this game. What Nicks has over Evans, though, is sheer size and dominating power. In this game Evans was pulling all day and finishing off plays. The Saints ran the ball well all day, thanks to his efforts.
Jonathan Goodwin: A (3.21) To me, Goodwin was the best lineman for the Saints against the Patriots. He pulled hard on the few plays the Saints ran to the outside, and his pass blocking was impeccable. He was able at times to bypass the defensive line thanks to the monster work Nicks and Evans did inside, and he'd get to the second level and get a hat on the Patriots' linebackers. Every single big run the Saints had was a play led by Goodwin. He also gave both Bell and Thomas nice cutback lanes they took advantage of when the play was designed to go elsewhere. I don't remember Jeff Faine ever being as good as what I saw out of Goodwin on Monday night. Very impressive performance.
Zach Strief: B- (2.45) He didn't get to play much, but when he did he played big and solid. On the touchdown pass to Dinkins, his mere presence on the field told the Patriots that the play would be a run. Result: 3 different players were completely wide open. He got some action late on running plays and got pretty good push.
Jon Stinchcomb: B (2.97) It was a quiet and uneventful day for Stinchcomb. The only play that was really run behind him was a draw on 2nd and 14 that went for 2 yards. Why are we running the ball with our passing offense on 2nd and 14 anyway? Stinchcomb was solid pass blocking and had a fine day at the office.
Darnell Dinkins: B+ (2.00) I'm going to give Dinkins a little GPA boost here because I've been hard on him and he finally got his first catch, and touchdown, in this game. Otherwise, he did a great job blocking on running plays.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees