It's hard to believe the offense was able to put up 40 points when you consider how out of sync they were to start the game. In fact, the team had 10 points at halftime and looked completely shell-shocked. The opening touchdown drive to open the second half that gave the Saints a 17-16 lead was monumental.
As well as the offense closed the game, some credit should be given to the defense for playing well in the red zone and getting some crucial second half stops. When the game was on the line, though, as always, it was Brees and Co. that came up with the goods.
The worse the offense performed, the better they responded and the more bleak the game looked, the more clutch the offense played. The sense of urgency and poise this offense has played from behind with in both the Texans game and the Packers game proves they are never out of any game regardless of the score.
Make the jump below for the grades. As always, the letter grade is the player's performance in the game and the numerical GPA is the player's cumulative performance on the season.Drew Brees: A- (4.00) Let's get the stats out of the way - 31 of 44 for 370 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He was victimized by some drops early in the game but he also looked a little out of sorts. His first interception was out of character and shocking because he's been so sharp lately we all have come to expect perfection. That's kind of the curse with Drew Brees, though, isn't it? Anything less than perfection and we're surprised. As fans of the Saints we've been spoiled by his consistent prowess. His second interception looked like it was Graham's fault for not running the proper route. Beyond those two mistakes and a weird fall down on the first play of the game, he was largely perfect again. He ran a clinic in the second half and he did what was needed in the clutch to win this game for the Saints against tall odds. His rating was still 99.6 and if you watched the game he looked better than that. He willed his team to victory.
Darren Sproles: A- (3.67) Sproles had a bad drop on a low pass on a 3rd down play early in the game that was a backbreaker. He needed to hold on to the football to keep the chains moving. That said, it was meaningless anyway since Kreutz was guilty of a facemask penalty. Still, that's a ball he needs to come up with. Other than that, every time he touched the ball Texans' fans collective hearts skipped a beat. This guy is a baller and he's quickly becoming everyone's favorite Saint. He's so explosive and decisive in his cuts he liable to take it to the house at any time. He had 2 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown, 6 catches for 50 yards, one punt return for 5 yards and 4 kick returns for a 25.8 average. He gets touches in lots of different ways and it's great that Sean Payton finds ways to get him involved. Another solid day for Sproles. As for the kick returns, he was within a hair of breaking at least two or three for huge gains. I will say he's got almost no tackle breaking ability whatsoever, but that's to be expected given his size.
Mark Ingram: B (2.33) He finished with 9 carries for 38 yards, the first touchdown of his NFL career and 2 catches for a lowly -2 yards. He wasn't amazing by any means but he converted a big 3rd and 1 and he scored the game winning touchdown on a 13 yard scamper. He ran hard, looked hard to bring down at times, and not quite hitting his stride at others. He also had a bad slip that prevented another big gain. I gave his grade a little boost based on how crucial the score was.
Pierre Thomas: B- (2.89) His lack of touches is still head scratching, but again it can likely be explained by his recovery from injury and the fact that the staff wants to take it easy with him so he doesn't have a setback. Thomas' long term involvement in the offense is too vital to overwork him in any one week. He had 7 carries for 28 yards and 1 catch for 15 yards. He didn't contribute enough to get a better grade, but one can't say he made any mistakes either.
Jed Collins: B (2.33) He did a fine job in the running game as a lead blocker, but his most impressive showing was on special teams as a gunner. He was given one tackle officially, but was in the middle of two plays and had impressive pursuit.
Lance Moore: A (2.84) He had just one reception at halftime and wasn't a factor. In fact, that one catch was bobbled and he had to fall down to secure it. Then, all of a sudden, he was killing the Texans. Moore was Brees' top target and he turned the game on it's head with his playmaking out of the slot. He finished with 9 catches, a career high, for 88 yards and a touchdown. He also scored twice on out routes on crucial two point conversions. In Colston's absence Moore stepped up huge. Thank God the Saints re-signed him because that looked dicey at times this offseason.
Devery Henderson: B+ (3.78) Once again, Henderson made the most of his opportunities. He had 62 yards on 3 receptions and was his usual playmaking self. He also deserves props for his willingness to block.
Robert Meachem: B+ (3.00) He had 5 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. He blocked well, like Henderson, especially on Sproles' touchdown run. I don't love him gingerly tip toeing to the sidelines shying away from contact, and he dropped a catchable ball. He also got pelted in the helmet before another ball came near him - not sure why there wasn't pass interference called on that play. His touchdown reception was a fantastic grab on a low throw.
Jimmy Graham: B- (3.00) If you look at his stats, 4 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown, yes he had another monster game. There's no denying that 27 yard touchdown grab was a thing of beauty. He also had a massive third down conversion on the game winning drive and bulldozed his way through tacklers with amazing effort. Besides all that, which had a huge impact on the win, Graham is very much an unfinished product. I think my B- grade is generous, and I was torn giving him a C or C+. In the end, he got the higher end of that based on the importance of the touchdown, the team win and his inflated stats. What the stats don't show is his few drops, his inability to hold onto the ball in traffic when absorbing blows, and his mental mistake that caused Brees an interception. He's young and his ceiling is very high, but the main challenge with Graham is his lack of experience playing football. He makes up for that based on his freakish athletic ability, but he is mistake prone and he has hurt his team based on his lack of focus.
David Thomas: D+ (1.22) He took back a great punt return by Sproles with a block in the back penalty. He also dropped a pass, and finished with 1 catch for 7 yards. He is off to a miserable start this year.
John Gilmore: D (1.00) The dude's one job is to block in jumbo package situations. I'll give him credit, he did a fine job on a third and short. What's unacceptable is that he had a false start penalty. Seriously, how many snaps did he have on offense? 4? And he has a false start penalty? Terrible. He turned a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 6 which the Saints wouldn't convert.
Jermon Bushrod: B+ (2.67) He faced off against Mario Williams a good amount, though Williams was moved around to get different matchups. I thought Bushrod played his best game of the season. He was solid in run blocking and solid in pass blocking. The left edge was left clean for the majority of the game and while he wasn't dominant I thought it was by far his best game of the season. A very promising performance.
Carl Nicks: C- (2.33) I know he lauded as one of the best guards in the entire league and rightfully so, but he's just not playing that way so far this season. His interior blocking on running downs was very hit or miss and he didn't get the push off the line of scrimmage we're all used to seeing. Early in the game in particular, the running game was stonewalled because he didn't make a good enough initial block. He was also beaten very badly by Antonio Smith to allow a sack on Brees. I think he also stepped on Brees on the first play of the game to cause a loss. Better days ahead for Nicks...
Olin Kreutz: C- (1.89) He had a criminal personal foul facemask penalty on Brian Cushing on a passing play. That penalty was declined, but still, that's a bad play to make anytime and even worse on a 3rd down your team needs to convert. Kreutz ended up leaving the game fairly early with an injury, but he left his negative mark on the game with poor blocking before he left. He was replaced by de la Puente because Matt Tennant was inactive, but if his injury has any staying power I imagine Tennant will be getting his first start next week.
Jahri Evans: B+ (3.11) He was solid overall, especially in pass blocking. He's stringing together some nice games here, I feel like he's just scratching the surface of his top performance. I wouldn't say he was blowing people up, but what was most impressive was how clean he kept the interior once the Saints turned one dimensional in the second half passing a good bit.
Zach Strief: B (2.22) My one criticism of Strief has always been his lack of speed and lateral movement... On Sproles' touchdown run, he pulled and threw a textbook lead block that sprung the play free. He looked particularly fleet of foot on the play and I was incredibly impressed. So far that's a top block on the season for the Saints. He also had his hands full with Mario Williams the times he shifted to his side, and had mixed results against a top notch player. He did get Brees hit a couple times but he played hard out there. Overall I feel like he's getting better as he gets more reps. That injury is really unfortunate but hopefully he's ok.
Brian de la Puente: B- (1.67) He filled in for Kreutz after the injury and he did an admirable job. He's a backup guard and he was forced into duty at center because Tennant was inactive. He held his own on the interior and did some good things. I did notice poor transition twice on snaps which slowed down the cadence of the play. That said, he did about as well as can be expected given the situation. It'll be interest to see who starts between him and Tennant if Kreutz can't go next week.
Charles Brown: B+ (3.17) I was terrified when he came in for an injured Strief but his pass blocking in particular was impeccable. He came in and looked like he's been stonewalling rushers his entire life. What was most impressive about that was the pass rushers knew the Saints were throwing, so they pinned their ears and went straight upfield. He didn't get much of a chance to run block but I have a bad feeling we're going to find out how he does in the department for much of the season. Hopefully Strief is ok but I think we may want to get used to Brown as the Saints' starting right tackle.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Lance Moore