Nice to see our boys put an absolute beat down on the Bucs. While the Saints may have crawled their way to 3-2, they bulldozed their way to the fourth win of the season. No Reggie and no Pierre? No problem. Chris Ivory comes up with the game of his life. I hope we can count of seeing more from him as the season develops. Maybe we won't miss having Mike Bell after all. Make the jump for the grades. As always, the letter grade represents the player's performance in the game, and the GPA represents his cumulative effort for the season.
Chris Ivory: A (2.50) Breakout game for the undrafted rookie. He finished with 158 yards on 15 carries, running with speed, power and purpose. I don't know that I've ever seen Pierre Thomas run the ball that impressively. Granted, the holes the o line was creating for him were monstrous, but he was routinely making the first tackler miss. My only gripe with his performance is that it would have been nice to see him get in the end zone, and he fumbled once again. I believe that's 3 fumbles in 4 games played. Ball security is still an issue, and if he wants to become a legitimate NFL player he's going to need to correct that. That's what costs him the A+. Oh, and the big shocker is he actually contributed in the passing game, turning a flare pass into a 17 yard gain. What a huge performance.
Ladell Betts: B (2.33) Betts scored his first touchdown as a Saint, finishing with 6 carries for 20 yards, but I was impressed by how he ran in short yardage situations. I thought he showed good toughness. He also caught a pass for 6 yards.
Julius Jones: B- (2.67) Considering he was only brought in this week, I thought he ran very well. He gave the Saints a nice power element in between the tackles, and he helped wear down the Bucs' interior defense. He finished with 32 hard yards on 9 carries. I was surprised he was a part of the gameplan, but Coach Payton did a great job picking this guy up off the street and immediately using his strengths to help the team.
Heath Evans: A- (3.00) No block was better than late in the game, when he cut back against the play to deliver a huge blow to the weak side pursuit, offering a big cutback lane for Ladell Betts to plunge in for his touchdown run. Evans was excellent all game blocking for the various backs behind him. He scored a touchdown, too, on a 4 yard pass from Drew Brees.
Marques Colston: B (2.78) Colston was reliable and solid. Nothing special, but he moved the chains and showed sure hands underneath. Brees found him a couple of times on out routes where Colston showed Brees a large open target, and he did a good job of absorbing tacklers after the catch. He finished with 5 catches for 53 yards.
Devery Henderson: D+ (2.39) Henderson was covered like a blanket all day and finished with no catches. I did see him make an effort blocking, so that boosts his grade slightly. The only passing attempt that came his way, he had no separation whatsoever. Brees just didn't look his way at all.
Robert Meachem: B+ (2.46) I've said it before and I'll say it again, get this guy involved more in the Saints' offensive plan of attack! Seriously, what took Sean Payton so long to get Meachem involved? Did he forget what got his team so many big plays last season? Meachem made the most of his opportunities, finishing with 4 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Lance: Moore: B (2.39) Moore is in my doghouse as a punt returner. First, he scares the crap out of me with his fair catch falling backwards routine, and now he either lets the ball go when he's standing at the 15. Once it allowed the Bucs to down the ball inside the 5. Another time, he was very lucky the ball made it to the end zone. Then, he runs around like a chicken with his head cut of, Reggie Bush style, and gets thrown for a 3 yard loss based on all that effort. That aside, though, he's doing a great job of making plays in the passing game for Brees. He finished with 2 catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. It's undeniable that he get his B based on the big play he made. I know Aqib Talib is supposed to be a stud corner, but Moore burned him badly on that touchdown play.
Jeremy Shockey: C (2.83) Shockey finished with just 2 catches for 21 yards, despite being targeted 5 times. Part of that was Brees missing him, and part of it was Shockey just not being on point. Brees looked for him in the end zone on a high back shoulder play, but Shockey couldn't come up with a catchable ball.
David Thomas: B+ (2.61) Thomas was excellent blocking. He gave the Saints a big help on the edge. Anytime Ivory went off tackle Thomas did a fantastic job sealing his edge. He also gave Brees a reliable target underneath when there wasn't plays to be made downfield. He finished with 3 catches for 17 yards.
Jimmy Graham: C- (1.67) The guy has potential, but I just don't know if he's put it all together as an NFL player just yet. He finished with 1 catch for 11 yards. On that play, he took a tight end bubble screen for a first down on a 3rd down play. It was a big conversion for the Saints, but as he got hit he fumbled the football. Luckily that ball went harmlessly out of bands. Brees targeted him twice on the outside when he was matched up against a linebacker in the red zone. The first time, Brees tried to go back shoulder and just missed the throw high and wide. The second time, Graham made a nice adjustment and caught the ball for a touchdown, before getting called for offensive pass interference. There's no doubt he shoved Quincy Black on the play, but I've seen countless players get away with doing that before. In fact, I see Randy Moss doing that on a weekly basis. I guess Graham just isn't high profile enough to get away with it.
Jermon Bushrod: B+ (2.67) Bushrod was very solid on the edge. The only pressure Brees got all day long was on a Ronde Barber blitz, and Barber was too fast for Bushrod who barely got a finger on him. Luckily Brees was able to break Barber's tackle. Overall, the Saints ran away from Bushrod for most of the afternoon, so he doesn't deserve as much credit as the rest of the line, but there is no denying that he looked good out there.
Carl Nicks: A- (3.06) Nicks is a mammoth, pure and simple. He was blowing people up at the line of scrimmage, he was vicious at the point of attack, and moving the pile at will. He was pulling a number of times, too, springing a big gain thanks to a huge block. He showed rookie Gerald McCoy a little something about life in the NFL. McCoy did get a tackle for a loss on one running play, but besides that Nicks neutralized him completely. Nicks was incredibly solid in run blocking, and very good in pass blocking.
Jonathan Goodwin: A (3.06) For the second straight game, Goodwin was spectacular. He was getting at the second level often and putting a hat on a linebacker. For whatever reason, his game has risen to a new level. If this guy doesn't make the Pro Bowl again this year I'll be shocked. It would honestly be criminal. The Saints go out of the shotgun a lot, and I'm sure you all take his snaps for granted... but check out how the shotgun snaps were coming from the Bucs' backup center in this game (Jeff Faine was out) and you'll see it's not that automatic with every player. He put on a clinic with his blocking out there.
Jahri Evans:A (2.89) He honestly deserved an A+, but I docked his grade down because he had a false start penalty. What is it with Evans and penalties lately? Seriously, the guy is good for at least one or two a game. He just can't help himself from going an entire game without being flagged. That one play aside, well, he was unstoppable. All those yards the Saints had rushing (212) were largely a function of the massive gaps created by Evans. He was so dominant at times it looked like an NFL player blocking a high schooler. Anyone aspiring to be an offensive lineman should watch this game tape. You'll get a feel for what is the perfect blend of quickness, power, technique, aggression and intelligence. Evans proved in this game why he is as good as it gets.
Jon Stinchcomb: A- (2.56) Stinchcomb was superb pass blocking and run blocking. He had a false start, too, but it was great seeing him get off the edge and leading the charge. There is no doubt that Big Jahri's blocks were mostly responsible for the push the Saints got on the interior, but many times Ivory would hit that hole, and enjoy a great seal of the edge by David Thomas combined with a powerful block at the point of attack by Stinchcomb. It was about as close to a perfect performance by the offensive line as a unit as you'll ever see. 212 yards rushing, 6.6 yards a carry, no sacks yielded and no qb knock-downs. Seriously, what more could you ask for?
Zach Strief: B+ (2.33) Strief played a number of snaps as a blocking tight end, giving the Saints another body on the edge. I'm sure you've noticed by now that he also reports eligible as a receiver. I wonder if the Saints will ever actually throw a pass to him. Strief did a great job of pass protection on one play on a play action where he sealed the backside by stonewalling his man. He showed real brute size and strength there. I liked to see the Saints passing with him in, because usually it's a guaranteed run if Strief is in the game. Nice to see the Saints keeping their opponent on their toes with the play calling. Strief was very good off the edge using his huge size to make a difference in the running game, too.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Chris Ivory