I still can't fully believe the Saints are going to the SuperBowl. What a game. I've rooted my whole life for this, and like many of you words can't describe the emotions I went through in the Dome on Sunday. Anyway, on to the grades.
Reggie Bush: C+ (2.77) The one item that I thought was unforgivable for Bush was the fumble late in the first half on a punt return inside the Saints' 10. Fortunately for the Saints the Vikings came away with no points, but why Bush didn't just settle for a fair catch was beyond me. That was just a very stupid move. Running the ball was equally bad, as Bush too often tried to bounce things outside. In his defense there wasn't much to be done on most of the carries he saw. Just 7 carries for 8 yards. So why does he get a C+? Well, he made two big plays in the passing game. First, he converted a big third down with a beautiful 25 yard crossing route where he beat his man badly, then he caught a crucial 5 yard touchdown on a 3rd in goal. Reggie Bush, in my opinion, is the absolute best in the NFL at using his athleticism to get in the end zone. If he's close, he's going to find a way to contort his body and get six points. Once again, he found the pylon and showed incredible skill. I just don't think there's many players in the NFL, if any, that can turn some of the plays Reggie turns in TD's. That was something special, and the Saints needed it badly.
Pierre Thomas: A- (3.13) Thomas started out with a bang, taking a screen pass 38 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7. He looked fast, shifty, strong and balanced on that play as he broke a couple tackles and raced to paydirt. I really wish the Saints had made the effort to run the football more with Thomas, but maybe his ribs wouldn't allow. Why he never saw the carries on the 3rd and shorts that the Saints continually failed to convert is beyond me. His dive for a first down on 4th and 1 in overtime was, without question, the biggest conversion of the season. He's stopped short and the Saints likely lose. He also got the overtime period started on the right tone with a tough 40 yard return. He had just 14 carries, but 61 yards and another touchdown to show there. The only negative was his sometimes spotty pass protection.
Devery Henderson: B (2.83) With just 4 catches for 39 yards, Henderson was sadly the Saints' most productive receiver on the night. He had a 15 yards reception on a 3rd and 17, and he had another reception just short of the first down right before Pierre Thomas' 4th and 1 plunge. He would've had a 1st down if not for bobbling the football on that play. He also dropped a pass. All that said, he made a very tough catch in the end zone for a 9 yard touchdown. That catch was set up thanks to Brees getting out of the pocket and buying time. Henderson was initially covered, but did a great job of staying with the play and making one of the biggest catches of his career.
Marques Colston: C- (2.90) Colston had a drop in overtime over the seam that nearly led to a very costly interception. Brees looked his way often but couldn't really come up with completions. It was an off day for the big target and a forgettable performance. Just 2 catches for 22 yards.
Robert Meachem: C+ (2.90) Give Meachem a lot of credit, he was basically running on one leg out there and he showed a lot of toughness. I don't think I've ever seen a player play the same week he had his ankle in a walking boot. He was having trouble running out there and gaining any real separation. He still managed 2 catches for 19 yards, though, including a catch in overtime which set up Garrett Hartley's field goal.
Lance Moore: C- (2.43) What happened to him? He caught the first pass of the game for 5 yards and was never heard from again. Hopefully he can bounce back and show us something in the SuperBowl. It's been a really disappointing year from him. I know he's been frustrated with the number of injuries that have plagued him all year long.
Jeremy Shockey: C- (2.82) Like Meachem, Shockey showed a lot of guts and courage getting out there when clearly less than 100%. I thought Shockey was a liability overall, though. He wasn't getting open, he wasn't doing a good job of blocking off the edge, and he just wasn't contributing much positive. I'll give his grit and intensity the credit it always deserves, but I just didn't feel like Shockey was helping the Saints in this game. He finished with 1 catch for 9 yards.
David Thomas: B+ (2.47) Unlike Shockey, Thomas was basically the jack of all trades out there. He lined up as a receiver in the slot, he lined up at fullback, and he was the primary tight end and lead blocker for the majority of the game. He made one of the best catches he's had all season showing very soft hands, and finished with 3 catches for 32 yards. He also drew a lethal pass interference call downfield in overtime. He did all the little things well and was a big part of the victory. Thomas hasn't had it easy and the Saints are asking a lot out of him, so I applaud him for coming through with flying colors.
Zach Strief: B- (2.38) It was a tale of two halves for the big man, who was the third tight end for the majority of the game. I graded him out extremely high in the first half. He did a tremendous job in both pass protection and blocking off the edge. He was a major help to both Stinchcomb and Bushrod who were dealing with very tough assignments. The second half saw a major decline in his run blocking. I think the Saints were encouraged with what they saw early so they went off the edge in Strief's direction with very little success in the second half.
Jermon Bushrod: B+ (2.63) Jared Allen had 2 tackles and 1 hit on Brees all day. That's it. I said that Bushrod's production was the key to the game, and he performed great. Granted he had a lot of help with Strief, David & Pierre Thomas, as well as many designed roll outs away from his side. It was clear the Saints knew they needed to neutralize Allen, and they were very aware of his whereabouts throughout. Still, give Bushrod credit, this was his toughest test of the season and he played about as well as anyone could have asked for.
Carl Nicks: B- (2.96) Average performance for Nicks. The Saints ran behind him and got average push. In short yardage situations especially, he was pushed around way more than normal. Pat Williams was a handful for him. Still he managed to make some nice blocks on Pierre Thomas runs.
Jonathan Goodwin: C (2.98) Hard to say whether it was Goodwin's fault or Brees' for the fumbled snap, but they sure picked a weird time to botch what is in my recollection the only time all year that's happened. On a 3rd and 1 Reggie Bush cut back, Goodwin made a poor block and the play went nowhere. Pierre Thomas' 4th down conversion was made despite significant pressure up the middle. He made some decent plays, too, but it was far from his best game.
Jahri Evans: C+ (3.15) Evans was only slightly better than Goodwin getting push on the interior. Kevin Williams gave him everything he could handle. Evans was overall more dominant than Goodwin and Nicks, but he was also guilty of more critical errors. Lynell Hamilton's only carry was blown up on a 3rd and short thanks to a poor block by Evans.
Jon Stinchcomb: C (2.78) I predicted that due to the help Bushrod would need that Stinchcomb would be isolated one on one with Edwards a lot, and I was right. Stichcomb handled himself fine on running plays, but struggled mightily on passing downs. Edwards was beating him off the edge repeatedly, and even managed a sack. A number of times Edwards was very close to making more plays if not for Brees' uncanny pocket awareness.
My Saints' Offensive Player of the Game: Pierre Thomas