This is the offense we all remembered from last year, and years prior for that matter. The recipe for such success was pretty simple as it turned out: have success running the football. It's no mistake that the two games the Saints have had the most success running the ball in (@ Tampa and vs. Seattle) are the two games the offense has put up the most points and the two games the team has looked most impressive. The Saints are still turning the ball over, though, which concerns me. I've been preaching this for a while, and it seems like they are dead set against taking care of the football. We'll take what was otherwise as very solid performance. Below are the grades.Drew Brees: A- (2.77) At times he was flawless and on fire. When he was hitting his targets, he was good as I've seen him all season long. I think he's very close to turning a corner and getting himself to peak level. Still, two red zone turnovers are inexcusable. The second interception I'll give him a pass because the game was over and it was a meaningless play. The first pick, though, was a really stupid decision. You don't see Brees do that often, but it could have put the Seahawks back in the game. I'm all about the Brees lovefest that we all engage in, but make no mistake, we're deadlocked in an all out battle for the NFC South. Little mistakes like that just aren't going to cut it. Brees has to clean that up. Unfortunately, he's been continually falling into the trap of forcing the ball into traffic too many times this season. His interception total for the season is obscenely high. He also had a number of balls batted at the line of scrimmage which could have resulted in more INTs. Anyway, I don't want to be too negative, he had a great game, I just wish he could go a couple games taking care of the football. He finished 29-43 for 382 yards, 4 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
Chris Ivory: A (2.50) Chris Ivory ran like a beast. He had terrific ball security all game despite absorbing hit after hit. His second effort on runs was reminiscent of Deuce McAllister in his prime. The first tackler almost never brought him down. He showed speed around the edge and ran extremely hard all game. He finished with 99 yards on 23 carries and had one rushing touchdown. He wasn't a factor in the passing game, but he more than made up for it with his plays on the ground. This offense is clearly at it's best when he's healthy and making plays. He showed signs of still nursing a bad shoulder and knee, so for him to still manage to put up this kind of performance is even more impressive. This kid has a future.
Heath Evans: A- (2.77) Evans caught the first pass of the game for a 4 yard gain. He had no other stats, but let's be clear: he was a monster lead blocking. He laid some devastating hits on Seahawks backers. At points I honestly felt like they were slightly scared to collide with him. The effort and holes he opened up for Ivory were impressive. More snaps for Evans meant a more successful running game, and a more physical offense. Clearly that led to points.
Julius Jones: C+ (2.42) I really feel bad for him because he had a beautiful long touchdown run against this old team that was called back for a questionable holding call. His first carry came after Ivory ripped off big run after big run, and of course Jones comes in and gets trashed for a 3 yard loss. He finished with 4 carries for 4 yards and 2 catches for 8 yards. It was a forgettable performance, but he made no mistakes and caught both balls thrown his way. I gave him a little boost for a beautiful run even though it was called back.
Ladell Betts: B- (2.24) Betts was only in on 3rd downs as a receiving back, and as well as Ivory was running he had a really limited amount of snaps. Still, he was good in pass protection and he caught 3 passes for 37 yards so he was a factor in the passing game. His first catch was a yard shy of a first down on the Saints' first drive of the game, which resulted in a punt, and Brian Billick made the good point that Betts just didn't get the explosion and separation that a guy like Reggie Bush or Pierre Thomas would have. Either of those guys probably pick up that first down, but Betts was tackled just short. Another example of why this team misses Reggie so much, because linebackers just can't run with him. He had sure hands and showed a little speed and toughness after the catch, though.
Marques Colston: A+ (3.07) Anybody still want to contend that he's the offensive MVP? Colston was a dominating playmaker all over the field. Brees found him repeatedly and at will, and most of the time it was Colston doing damage down the field more so than underneath. The Seahawks had no answer for him whatsoever. He finished with 8 catches for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. I counted one drop on a third down on a ball thrown slightly behind him that he still should have made. On one of his touchdowns, he absorbed a hit from two Seahawk tacklers, who both bounced of him and fell to the ground as Colston waltzed into the end zone. His strength was really impressive on that play. I still can't believe we got this guy in the 7th round. He is just awesome.
Lance Moore: B+ (2.70) He had just 3 catches for 43 yards, but he made the sickest catch of the season, by far. On a deep sideline throw, Brees slightly overthrew him, and Moore reached out with one had and plucked the ball from the air before tip toeing down the sideline before falling out of bounds. Seriously, how many receivers in the NFL make that catch? You can count them on one hand. It was that good. Per usual, he was slippery after the catch and contributed to the passing game. The only negative was that he dropped the onsides kick that hit him right in the hands, but lucky for him the Seattle recovery was wiped out thanks to a technicality.
Robert Meachem: A (2.48) Just three catches for 50 yards for Meachem, but two of them were for touchdowns. Talk about making the most of your opportunities. One his first score, he did a great job of getting open once Brees stepped up in the pocket to stay alive. Brees made a low throw that Meachem did a good job of adjusting his body to catch. We're not used to seeing Meach make underneath plays like that. On his second touchdown, he flat out burned his man vertically, which was vintage Meach. His other catch was a nice play too, as he made a nice spin move and avoided a tackler to get some first down yardage after the catch. He also had a run for 8 yards.
Devery Henderson: D+ (2.10) Poor Devery, he's just not a factor right now. He did run a nice route and Brees fired a frozen rope to him that resulted in a very pretty 17 yard gain. That was it, though. Brees also targeted him on his second interception in the end zone and Henderson really made a poor attempt at going after a high throw on that one. In general, he didn't seem to run his routes with much passion. You can tell he acts like he knows he's not getting the ball. This was the first time I've seen him somewhat disinterested, which concerns me a little. I've seen him open several times in the last few games and Brees just refuses to throw him the ball for the most part. At times, it's been looking for bigger plays that haven't panned out - so it's not like Brees is making better decisions staying away from him. To make matters worse, he's starting to see the field much less. In the first half he must have seen about 5 plays or less. He played more late, I guess when Colston and others got tired, but was a non factor. The Saints tried to get him involved with an end around, but it was poorly executed and he ended up getting a yard out of it.
David Thomas: C (2.53) He did a solid job of blocking and he offered Brees an option in the passing game at times. The first interception was intended for Thomas but he was able to get behind the defender into the area Brees anticipated him to come open. That throw is almost entirely on Brees, but Thomas could have done a better job filling into that space. He had a drop and just 2 catches for 26 yards despite being targeted 6 times.
Jimmy Graham: A- (3.07) Can you say Saints' rookie of the year? Ok fine, maybe that's Ivory. Still, the guy is GOOD. On one low throw by Brees, he made an outstanding catch and had a nice hustle after the play. He finished with 5 catches for 72 yards. What's more, on a couple bad throws by Brees he went up and broke up the play to avoid Brees getting intercepted. I'm not ready to say this kid is the best tight end on the team, but I do think he's the best receiving threat of the tight end group. That's right, I think he's more dangerous in the passing game than Jeremy Shockey. Maybe not Shockey in his prime, but Shockey now. I still think Shockey is a good player, but I don't think he has the agility, glue hands and frame that Graham has. This kid could be a star in the making. Don't look now, but he's also tied with Colston for the highest GPA on the offense (granted he has less games graded). A very solid game from the youngster, who almost made me completely forget Shockey was missing.
Jermon Bushrod: B+ (3.33) Overall, he's a few things to be mindful of: the o-line gave up one QB hit, and no sacks. The Saints also rushed for 112 yards with 3.9 yards per carry. With numbers like that it's pretty clear that top to bottom, the Saints were solid up front. Bushrod, I thought, was the weakest pass blocker and arguably the strongest run blocker of the bunch on the day. I thought his effort on the running plays was superb. Numerous times I saw him making a huge effort at the end of the run to push the play forward. I love seeing guys play to the whistle. While some pressure came from his side on passing plays, he benefited from Brees' masterful pocket presence and footwork. Overall, I thought it was one of Bushrod's best games in a while, which was nice to see.
Carl Nicks: B (2.80) He had a bad holding call deep in Seahawks territory which made the Saints' lives much more difficult in the red zone. While the Saints ended up scoring a touchdown, a holding call inside the other team's 10 is a cardinal sin. He's already done that a few times this year. Why is it that he saves getting caught for holds when we're about to score? Otherwise, he was solid both in run block and pass block. He didn't have his trademark pancakes throughout, but he took care of what was necessary.
Jonathan Goodwin: A- (2.80) Goodwin had a terrific game with no mistakes. He was blocking solidly throughout, impeccable in pass protection and physical on running downs. For a guy his size, I will say he has impressive quickness. His pass blocking on the first touchdown pass to Meachem in particular was crucial.
Jahri Evans: B+ (2.80) Right now Goodwin, Nicks and Evans all have the same exact GPA. It's funny it just worked out that way, but it will be interesting to see at the end of the year who grades out the best. Evans was terrific for almost the entire game, and he blew up massive holes a number of times for Chris Ivory. Most of Ivory's success was going behind Evans, who also gave Brees a really nice pocket to step into when he was hurried. Evans hurt his grade significantly, though, by negating a long touchdown run by Julius Jones with a holding call. Too bad, because he was approaching A territory before then.
Jon Stinchcomb: B+ (2.40) Stinchcomb was tough to grade because some of the biggest plays came from his side, but some of the worst as well. The 3 yard loss by Jones and a big loss by Ivory that cost him 100 yards were a result of bad seal blocks on the edge by Stinchcomb. He was also largely responsible for the open lane outside that Ivory used after breaking a tackle to scamper for 24 yards. He also had a terrific block on the negated Jones run. In pass protection, he was unspectacular but held his ground and was solid. I thought overall it was arguably his best game of the year, which has been a little up and down after a stellar season last year.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Marques Colston