What a transformation from just a week ago, as the Saints' offense pulled a complete 180 and shut down almost entirely against the Browns. Give Mangini's boys some credit, they obviously threw some things at the Saints that really flustered them. Evidently Scott Fujita understood the Saints' plan of attack even better than over half of the Saints' starters did. Pure and simple, they didn't show up. Prepare youself, the grades below reflect what I consider to be harsh reality... so it's not pretty.
Chris Ivory: C (2.40) Pretty neutral performance by Ivory. It's not his fault that the holes just weren't there. The Saints' offensive line was, by and large, horrible in this game. He finished with 48 yards on 15 carries. His longest run of 8 yards came on a big 4th and 1 conversion. He had another big gain called back by a holding penalty.
Heath Evans: D+ (2.76) His blocking was mediocre in this game, but two plays will stand out more than anything. First, he was the man guilty of a holding call on that aforementioned play that negated a big Ivory run. Then, he was inexplicably given the ball late on a dive play in the 4th quarter that went absolutely nowhere. He was officially given two yards on the play, but that is extremely generous. He looked very slow out there.
Ladell Betts: C+ (2.33) He was never given the ball on the ground, but he did reasonably well in the passing game. He was charged with a few blitz pickups and had mixed results. Betts has basically become the Saints' 3rd down back. Pretty huge downgrade from Reggie Bush if you ask me. He ran some routes poorly and showed poor awareness on a few of Brees' passes, but he did help the Saints move the chains a few times and showed sure hands. He had 8 catches for 48 yards. Brees throws his way entirely too often if you ask me.
Marques Colston: A- (2.90) Definitely the best offensive player on the day. He was covered tightly at times, but for the most part he caught everything in sight. Brees misfired a few times going his way and he was able to still come up with fantastic catches. He finished with 10 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, though the touchdown came late and was meaningless. Colston hurt the Browns in a variety of ways. On short routes underneath, on the sideline grabs, routes up the seam, you name it. I think Brees didn't show enough variety in continuously looking his way, but how can you blame him? Sometimes, Colston plays like a real stud.
Devery Henderson: D+ (2.24) He finished with 2 catches for 20 yards, though the one decent reception was a 23 yarder on the Saints' final drive with the Browns in prevent. I'm not really sure what's happened to Devery, but he's become a ghost in the Saints' offense. Brees almost never looks his way, and when he does nothing good is happening. Brees threw a bubble screen to Henderson that was blown up by Scott Fujita (surprise surprise) for a 3 yard loss. The Saints have to get him involved. If they don't make teams respect his vertical ability, honestly, why is he even out there? I will give Henderson praise for his blocking downfield which was pretty good, especially on the lone carry that Julius Jones saw where he ran off the edge. That said, despite running route after route, he had no impact whatsoever in the passing game.
Robert Meachem: C- (2.33) He finished with 2 receptions for 31 yards despite being targeted 5 times. Unlike Henderson, he was actually involved in the offense and was a victim more than anything else of Drew Brees' inaccuracy. Brees threw an interception on a deep route before halftime to Meachem that was grossly overthrown. On another deep pass down the sideline, Meachem was missed despite being wide open, but it appeared Meachem slowed down and momentarily gave up on his route. Unacceptable. He also had a pathetic end around that saw him gingerly tip toe out of bounds after gaining 2 yards.
Lance Moore: C+ (2.38) He was by far the most productive receiver not named Marques Colston, finishing with 5 catches for 43 yards. He was quick, showed really sure hands, and was good getting in and out of his routes. He converted a 4th and 3 play late with a fantastic catch of a low throw by Brees. He had a touchdown reception negated by one of the many penalties the Saints committed. The Saints may want to try someone else at punt returner, though, because other than fair catch the ball somewhat safely, he's not worth much else. He ran around going nowhere, and had 2 returns for -1 yards and a fumble. His woeful special teams output hurts his grade. He also blew a tackle in the open field of punter Reggie Hodges that cost the Saints a good 30 more yards on that silly run.
Jeremy Shockey: C- (2.67) The Saints have 3 tight ends catching passes right now and Shockey was the least productive of the three. Something is wrong with that picture. He's just not getting the separation he used to get. I think we can officially say that he's past his prime. He finished with 2 catches for 30 yards.
David Thomas: B- (2.62) Thomas made a decent contribution in the passing game, finishing with 3 catches for 33 yards and an important touchdown that at least momentarily gave the Saints hope. Blocking wise, he did a poor job off the edge struggling with picking up his various assignments. Scott Fujita blew past him on a blitz to sack Brees.
Jimmy Graham: B+ (2.78) Graham is slowy turning from a project into a contributor. I'm not sure if he'll ever fully make the turn to a legitimate threat in the passing game, but there's no denying the guy's improvement. He was a reliable target for Brees and he also did a good job running after the catch. His biggest play was a head's up fumble recovery of Lance Moore's on a punt return that he picked up and ran for significant yardage with to give the Saints much better field position. He finished with 4 catches for 38 yards.
Jermon Bushrod: B- (2.67) Bushrod was one of the few guys I had no issues with in this game. His pass protection was decent and his run blocking was average. Overall he wasn't stellar nor terrible, but he was hardly to blame for the line's extremely poor showing.
Carl Nicks: D (2.76) Most notable for Nicks was one play that cost his team 25 yards. Not only was he caught clearly holding to negate a play which already went nowhere due to his poor blocking, he had to mouth off to the official and get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Saints offense was just gaining so momentum after Brees hit a few nice passes downfield, and Nicks rewarded his team with a momentum killing 1st and 35. No shock, that drive would end in a punt. You just can't get much more stupid than that. Despite continually running behind Nicks, the Saints accomplished little on the ground, ending the game with a 3.2 yard rushing average. Nicks also missed a tackle on the second pick 6 by David Bowens that could have maybe saved the Saints a tiny bit of embarrassment.
Jonathan Goodwin: C- (2.86) A big reason the Saints struggled to run was that Goodwin was getting manhandled by Shaun Rogers. The big nose tackle of the Browns pushed the pile wherever he wanted, and Goodwin struggled mightily to contain him. Rogers managed to get to Brees once and body slam him so hard to the ground, I'm not quite sure how Brees is still alive. He's definitely going to feel that hit tomorrow. Normally Brees has the luxury of feeling the outside pass rush and stepping up into a clean pocket. Not today. Anytime Brees stepped up into the pocket, he had fractions of a second to get rid of the ball before the Browns' interior pass rush would drill him. Several times Goodwin was so preoccupied with Rogers he didn't pick up blitzing linebackers.
Jahri Evans: D+ (2.67) I'm getting pretty sick of this guy getting flagged. Seriously, does he ever go a game without getting a penalty of some sort? Ever? Ok, I get it, the guy was up in his facemask and being dirty. So what does Evans do? Instead of getting his team a free play, he retaliates, showing no poise, and causes offsetting penalties. You would think that's not that big of a deal, but that play negated a Saints touchdown. Later on that drive, Brees would throw a pass that hit Scott Fujita right in the numbers to kill a red zone opportunity. Thanks Jahri. The Browns knew they couldn't beat Evans straight up, so they threw different looks at him and often dropped Bowens to try to tip passes. Evans got an assist on one of those picks, as it hit his back leg and bounced up into Bowens' waiting arms for his first pick six. I refuse to give Evans anything better than a C- (or worse) until he can go a game without having some ridiculous penalty that kills the Saints. Seriously, that might be 5 games in a row he's been flagged.
Jon Stinchcomb: C- (2.43) His run blocking was non existent. At one point, he got beat very badly and allowed Chris Ivory to get thrown for a big loss of 4. His pass blocking was spotty. He looked nothing like a Pro Bowl offensive tackle to me. As a unit the Saints were very ill prepared for the confusion the Browns' defense called by lining up in a straight up stance.
Zach Strief: C+ (2.33) He blocked fairly well off the edge when he was in. Nothing spectacular, and a couple of times running behind him the Saints would get just 2-3 yards, but he always went forward and gave the Saints a little physicality.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Marques Colston