Almost as big of a story as the Saints' heart pounding, last second win on Monday night was Reggie Bush's injury. I'm actually relieved it's just 6 weeks, because when I saw him helped off the field I was convinced he was out for the season. I feared the absolute worst, so in the end 6 weeks seems less dramatic by comparison. The Saints have proven in the past they can be effective offensively and win without Reggie Bush. That's not to say he's a not a huge part to what we do, but we can survive without him for a stretch. If it was an entire season I'd be a little worried, but hopefully he'll be close to full strength for the second half of the season. Below I've included the offensive player grades for the 49ers game. One player that didn't get a grade was Robert Meachem. Where was he anyway? Did he pull a hammy or something? I didn't see him on the field or doing anything the entire game. I saw him run one deep route overthrown by Brees in the first quarter, and that was it. Wasn't sure if he was injured or just pulled? Anyway, make the jump for the grades.Drew Brees: B (3.17) If you just looked a Brees' stats, you'd think he played another terrific game, but he struggled at times. Any ball he tried to throw downfield had poor accuracy. After the Saints went up 9-0, the offense shut down for the rest of the half. The swirling wind in the stadium was a major issue in the passing game. Brees resorted to settling for short throws underneath over and over again. Give Brees credit for putting together a great stat line despite tough playing conditions. I do think Brees settled too many times for dumping the ball off to Pierre Thomas. That play become entirely predictable as the game developed. The only time Brees took chances was on the final drive, and that was the sharpest he looked all game. Stats don't tell the whole story, but a 108.9 rating is pretty impressive. The one thing that Brees deserves a lot of credit for is not turning the ball over, especially when Ahmad Brooks sacked him. I have no idea how he hung on to that football getting sacked with a strip attempt from the blindside.
Pierre Thomas: C+ (2.83) Thomas was largely neutralized in the running game. He ran hard and always fell forward, but he didn't break tackles or weave his way through traffic as well as he normally does. He finished with a very poor 46 yards on 17 carries against a tough run defense. He does get a little boost in his grade for being the main target in the passing game. He finished with 8 catches for 57 yards. As much as I love the ball in his hands, though, there's a problem if he catches 8 balls and he's your leading receiver. Understandable given the conditions, but let's hope the Saints attack the perimeter more when they get back to the Superdome.
Reggie Bush: B- (2.84) It will be interested to see how the Saints' offense responds without him. It was a real mixed bag for Bush in this game. In the running game he was non existent. He had 5 carries for 4 yards, including being hit once for a big loss on a goal line offense carry. In the passing game he was effective, as always, including a touchdown reception where he beat superstar linebacker Patrick Willis very badly on a perfect route that featured a deadly cut in open space. He had 4 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. On punt returns, he had one of his awful running backwards attempts, fielding the ball well inside the 10 yard line and he had a terrible muff that ended up costing him the injury. Give him credit for falling on that football because a turnover at that point would have been devastating. He did rip off a 43 yard punt return, though, that was a huge spark to the Saints when they needed it most. Bush, like many times, was pretty up and down in this game... but man when he is up he is such a huge threat.
Heath Evans: B (3.17) The only real reproach I have with Evans was the run on 3rd and goal where he had no drive whatsoever. He was completely stuffed on that run. Otherwise, he once again displayed terrific lead blocks, and did little things here and there to help the team. I can't really give him a better grade when the team averaged 2.1 yards per carry, but if you go back and look at the tape his lead blocks at the point of attack were excellent. The offensive line was mostly responsible for the interior penetration the 49ers were getting all night long. Evans converted the Saints' first 3rd and 1 of the day with a monster 18 yard reception that would set up the first touchdown. He was also head's up on the very short kickoff after the safety, fielding the ball and returning it 9 yards to put the Saints in fantastic field position.
Marques Colston: B (3.17) Colston was invisible for large stretch of the game, but of the receivers he was by far the most productive. He finished with 5 catches for 67 yards, was hard to bring down, and showed terrific hands in traffic. His catch on the final drive pretty much won the game for the Saints. I didn't see him get much separation though.
Devery Henderson: B (3.17) Devery made the most of the opportunities he received. He finished with 3 grabs for 28 yards. It's interesting that while Henderson has terrific speed and has always been known for having huge averages per catch, he's largely been a hands target underneath so far this season. Moving the chains is not a role I'm used to him filling, but he handled it well. I look forward to getting more shots deep as the season progresses, though.
Lance Moore: D (1.84) Unlike Robert Meachem, who I didn't grade because he was nowhere to be found (off the field) Lance Moore was nowhere to be found on the field. He got numerous reps, and he was completely covered on every route he ran. Brees looked his way several times, and passed on to his next read. The 49ers were a blanket on him all game long. He couldn't get open to save his life. Surprising because Moore is best known for running great routes and finding soft spots in zone coverage. Too bad the Saints didn't see more zone I guess.
Jeremy Shockey: B- (2.50) He was better than last week, and he made a few plays in the passing game. He finished with 3 catches for 37 yards. Brees missed him a couple times downfield due to windy conditions where he could have made bigger plays had the ball been thrown more accurately. He seems to block ok and was more involved in the offense than last week. I can't really blame him for Brees' misses, but in general I've felt like Shockey hasn't gotten very good separation from coverage.
David Thomas: B- (2.34) His grade gets a huge boost from the touchdown pass he caught, which was a crucial score. He finished with 3 catches for 10 yards and a touchdown. For the season he now has 5 catches for 13 yards. Not exactly what I call explosive. His blocking was good at times, but I noticed a couple mistakes that cost at least two running plays any chance at success.
Jermon Bushrod: C- (2.84) After an A last week, it was back down to earth a little bit for Bushrod. The 49ers decided to attack the Saints up the middle all night. The goal was to force Brees out of the pocket, instead of allowing him to step up in the pocket to make his throws. Still, there was pressure on the edge even though the pressure coming to Bushrod was isolated. The one sack he gave up to Ahmad Brooks was poor protection, but Brees also took too long to get rid of the ball so that wasn't all on Jermon. The main issue I had with him was his run blocking. The Saints often went away from him running the ball, and yet there was always pursuit from the backside. He's got to do a better job of sealing the edge.
Carl Nicks: B- (3.17) He handled the pressure the 49ers brought on the interior on passing plays pretty masterfully. His stock in trade is run blocking, though, and again, the Saints averaged 2.1 yards per carry. He just didn't get enough push off the line of scrimmage.
Jahri Evans: C+ (2.50) Second straight mediocre game from Evans, I thought. He just hasn't hit his stride yet this season. I hope the new contract doesn't turned him into a shell of his former self. Pulling, he looked slow, and he whiffed on some blocks. He got to the second level on a lot on running plays, and just failed to get a hat on Patrick Willis. As a result, Willis was making plays all over the field. Granted Willis is as good as there is in the league, but the same could be said of big Jahri. The Saints went behind Evans in short yardage situations and he just didn't get it done. The last few plays of that field goal drive to put the Saints up 22-15 were particularly bad. Like Nicks, though, he handled the interior pressure the 49ers brought all night long in passing situations.
Jonathan Goodwin; C- (2.34) I thought his performance was the worst of the entire line. He missed a blitz pickup that allowed Patrick Willis to go in completely untouched and sack Brees. The Saints were lucky Willis didn't get a harder shot on their prized possession there. His interior blocking, on both passing and running situations was really spotty. The Saints got pushed around in the trenches and I look for the offensive line to hopefully bounce back.
Jon Stinchcomb: B (2.50) Funny, because while I thought Stinchcomb was by far the worst offensive lineman in the Vikings' game, I also thought he was the best against the 49ers. Of course, the 49ers didn't really attack his side very much, but in the isolated one on one blocking assignments he had, I thought he handled them all well. His pass protection was largely on lockdown, and I saw him at the second level showing more effort downfield than any other Saint lineman. The few successful running plays the Saints had were sprung by Stinchcomb. Nice bounce back from the right tackle.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees