My apologies for the delay, I was drowning my sorrows in the French Quarter following this shocking defeat. Below are the grades for the player's performances. You'll notice the GPA for the season I typically include is missing, I'll have to update that once I get back to my sweet dorky excel file that calculates them. Unfortunately it didn't make the Christmas trip with me to New Orleans.
Reggie Bush: B (2.64) Reggie was a good outlet once again in the passing game and he made the most of his two carries, rushing for 16 yards. His yards per carry recently have been astronomical. I'm surprised he doesn't get more handoffs, especially with Bell and Pierre both banged up. I guess Reggie isn't 100% either so that may explain part of it. He had 6 catches for a pedestrian 37 yards and he also had a nice punt return of 14 yards.
Lynell Hamilton: C- (2.42) Hamilton got a significant amount of reps, mostly in the second half after Pierre Thomas bruised his ribs. He finished with 21 yards on 7 carries and was stacked up numerous times. Take away the impressive 19 yard scamper he had, and that's actually 2 yards on 6 carries. He did convert a third and short which keeps him out of D territory. It wasn't all his fault as the offensive line did a poor job as the game progressed, but he just didn't get the job done. He also had 2 catches for 10 yards.
Mike Bell: C- (2.64) 7 carries for 20 yards. Not an impressive stat line at all for the "closer". With the Saints up 17-0 you would figure Bell would get many opportunities to close the game and he just didn't. I don't think he's 100% and the Saints maybe went a little conservative by minimizing his reps thinking they could coast to a win without him, but they were wrong and Bell never really got going in limited action.
Pierre Thomas: A- (3.10) He performed at a "A" level while he was in, but hard to give him that since he left the game so early. He was having a significant impact prior to leaving with bruised ribs, and it's too bad because perhaps he would have been the difference had he remained playing. He walked into the end zone untouched on an 8 yard run thanks to a huge hole, and he also tore off a quick and powerful 26 yard run. He was tough to bring down and ran with uncanny authority. He finished with 60 yards on just 6 carries and was a big part of the 17-0 lead the Saints established in the early going.
Marques Colston: B- (2.93) He made two just SICK catches in particular, reaching down to haul in low passes by Brees. He finished with a respectable 8 catches for 77 yards and was heavily involved in the game. Unfortunately his lost fumble was incredibly costly as it killed a drive that likely would have put the game out of reach. Colston cost his team dearly with that turnover, so it's hard to give him a better grade based on that mistake.
Devery Henderson: B- (2.82) Henderson didn't drop a pass, but he also didn't make any plays downfield. He finished with 5 catches for 35 yards. He helped move the chains at times but was involved in the passing game going way too much underneath all game long.
Robert Meachem: B+ (3.18) Meachem finished with 5 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. His 30 yard touchdown was a nice route where he completely burned his man on a nice play fake to get completely wide open. It was set up nicely as he was the only receiver and the Saints had Strief, Eckel, Bell and Dinkins in the game. It looked like an obvious running play, and the Bucs stacked the line. Brees sold a beautiful fake to Bell and Meachem toasted his man. Meachem deserves credit, of course, but Sean Payton dialed up a perfect play at the perfect time and caught the Bucs with their pants down. He also took a reverse for 7 yards on the opening play of the game.
Darnell Dinkins: C- With the game on the line down the stretch, the Saints would move David Thomas to fullback and Dinkins at tight end. Those two just didn't come up with the blocks they needed when the Saints needed it the most. Dinkins is also a complete non factor in the passing game.
David Thomas: C- (2.41) Thomas finished with just 25 yards on 5 catches. It seemed like anytime he got the ball he went down way too easily. His ability to break tackles was weak and he looked incredibly slow. As much as he was a perfect fill in for Shockey last weak, he made me miss the animated tight end this week. As mentioned above, he did a poor job lead blocking down the stretch.
Jermon Bushrod: B (2.57) Nice bounce back for Bushrod after having his worst game of the season. Both the pass protection and run blocking were pretty good. It was nice to see him rebound. He faced a backup fill in in Kyle Moore and mostly had his way with him.
Carl Nicks: B- (3.00) At times he was great, others not so much. The Saints ran behind him often with mixed results. Pass protection was good.
Jonathan Goodwin: C+ (3.11) Deserves credit for blowing up a massive hole for Pierre Thomas on the touchdown run. I'm confident I would have scored on that play. I also feel like he needs to be commended for never really screwing up his snaps. As many low snaps as Jeff Faine had out of the shotgun hiking to Josh Freeman, we never have that problem with Goodwin. Beyond that, though, he whiffed on too many blocks and did a bad job pulling on screen passes. Every time the Saints ran a screen it was blown up, and he's the main man that usually springs those for nice gains. His blocking down the stretch was not good enough.
Jahri Evans: B- (3.20) It's hard to criticize the O-line too much because at the end of the day the Saints rushed for 124 yards and 5.4 yards per carry. That stat is misleading, though, because most of that yardage came in the first half and the Saints couldn't run the ball when they needed to most. Surprisingly the aging Chris Hovan gave Evans fits, and this was not one of his better games.
Jon Stinchcomb: C- (2.73) Stinchcomb was responsible for the lone sack Brees took, and he was by far the most lacking on the pass protection front. Whenever there was pressure, Stinchcomb was usually responsible. As always Brees felt his way away from danger, as I feel that most quarterbacks would have been sacked at least 3 times in that game. He also didn't have a memorable impact in the running game.
Zach Strief: B- (2.33) Strief was actually productive. When he came in the Saints had reasonable success rushing around the edges. I wish they had used him more.
Kyle Eckel: B- (2.25) Eckel did a good job on a pass play of getting a first down and stretching out for his lone 8 yard reception. He got some action lead blocking, too, with mixed results. He's not a pure mauling lead blocker, though, and the injury to Heath Evans is something the Saints have yet to recover fully from.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Pierre Thomas