The offense on this day looked more like the 2011 version of the Saints, at least to some extent. But they will live with their fair share of regrets based on the one point loss.
The positives in my mind were the play of Drew Brees and the pass protection. Unfortunately for this team what has been the case all season, the minute one area plays well other areas fall apart. In this game we witnessed what was by far the worst rushing performance of the season. Just 45 yards on 19 carries for the Saints, and there weren't many holes out there.
What will haunt the offense most of all, though, was their inability to cash in for a touchdown on a couple of scoring drives in the red zone. Particularly on one drive where, after a penalty, the Saints had three shots from the two-yard line.
Let's get to the grades.
Drew Brees: A- (2.42) We finally saw him have the game we're used to seeing from him. He had little help from his running game but was able to have his way with the Packers' secondary for most of the game. His stats were outstanding: 35-54 for 446 yards, 3 touchdown and no interceptions. Those are vintage Drew Brees numbers and we're seeing them for the first time this season. Brees did make some bad decisions, though, and he was very fortunate not to get picked off a few times including once inside his own 20 which would have been a killer turnover. The pass protection was outstanding and that's the Brees we get to see when he has time to throw. I didn't give him an A because of the few dangerous throws that should have been picks, and his inability to lead the offense to more points despite numerous opportunities down close. Still, if Brees had played like this the first three weeks, we're probably looking at a 2-2 record.
Pierre Thomas: D+ (2.75) Strangely PT seemed to go down every time a tackler hit him and he didn't have the second effort toughness we're used to seeing from him. He had little to no impact in this game and struggled to do much of anything. He finished with a lowly 14 yards on 9 carries and 2 receptions for -1 yard. A game to forget.
Darren Sproles: C (2.75) Tough to grade him because he was so up and down. Normally he's got some of the softest and most reliable hands on the team, but his drop on 3rd down on the Saints' final drive would ultimately cost the Saints the game. He also fumbled on that same drive on a kickoff return recovered by the Packers, but the refs completely blew the call and called him down by contact (Green Bay had no challenges left). In fact, that call was just another example of the refs doing everything they could in this game to help the Saints out. The Saints got all breaks and still couldn't manage to pull this off. Again, mark of a bad team. Sproles had 5 carries for 20 yards and 5 receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown, along with 2 bad drops. He showed nice toughness getting into the end zone on his score. He didn't get much going in the return game.
Mark Ingram: D (1..83) Other than converting on a 3rd and short he had one of his worst games as a pro. In fact, this 4 game stretch has been brutal on Ingram and the criticisms on his high draft status (Saints traded to get him in the 1st round) are at an all time high. He's just not putting together any impressive runs, really, and his lack of reps are preventing him from developing much of a rhythm. He had 5 carries for 11 yards and didn't break any tackles that I saw. This season he's got 28 carries for 90 yards (2.8 yards a carry) and just one touchdown. Not good. He also had a goal line reception that lost a yard.
Jed Collins: C- (2.25) He did have a beautiful 12 yard reception for a first down, but it's hard to endorse his run blocking when the team had 45 yards rushing on 19 carries. After what I considered a solid season a year ago, I think he's regressed quite a bit.
Jimmy Graham: B- (2.42) He dropped an easy touchdown pass right in his hands that likely would have been enough to win it for his team. That's becoming a common theme with Graham, untimely very bad drops. He was also rewarded with a "reception" on a 3rd down that was reviewed and upheld as complete. Perhaps I'm missing something, but I feel few of you will disagree that ball touched the ground and came loose pretty clearly. So he benefited from a bad call. Graham seems to struggle with concentration issues. He had some of these same struggles last year, but this year the defense is so bad it's more pronounced. He did finish with 7 catches for 76 yards and did a good job moving the chains, and he chipped effectively to help pass blocking. He did a good job of moving the chains and was active in this game, it's just too bad he dropped that touchdown ball.
David Thomas: D (1.59) He had one reception for 6 yards, showing nice toughness there, and was targeted on a misdirection screen attempt that almost got intercepted. His blocking was perfectible but he was physical. He got into a scuffle with Charles Woodson that nearly got the veteran tossed from the game, so kudos to Thomas there. That said, Garrett Hartley connects on a 43-yard field goal to give the Saints the lead and Thomas gets it called back for holding. That almost deserves an F right there, because of course Hartley would miss the subsequent kick.
Daniel Graham: C- (1.67) He's supposed to be a blocker and he didn't do it well. So that's not good. In his defense, him being on the field as a "blocking specialist" is a pretty obvious running play tell. The Saints would do well to feature him and Mark Ingram both on a passing play to keep defenses off balance from time to time.
Marques Colston: A- (1.92) Hard to believe an A- still has him under 2.00. That's how bad his season has been. He finished with 9 receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown, but he was fortunate not to get called for offensive pass interference on his touchdown reception due to a clear push off. His receptions that moved the chains on a 3rd and 17 and a 3rd and 14 were absolutely massive. He's still clearly injured, though, so he had times were he struggled to get separation and did not get much of a burst. He's also really not able to get up and used his wingspan, never more clear than on the fade to the end zone where he displayed subpar athleticism. For him to play a game like that given what he's dealing with is incredibly impressive. Still, he left some catches out there due to drops.
Lance Moore: B (2.67) He alternated good plays with bad ones. He had some inexcusable drops, but Brees was usually go right back to him on the very next play and he'd make up for it. His reception on 4th and 2 on the final drive to keep the game alive was one of the most incredible catches I've ever seen with defenders draped all over him. He had 7 receptions for 67 yards. He found soft spots in zone coverage and got open, the only real negative was some costly drops.
Devery Henderson: D+ (2.11) He had just one reception for 10 yards and dropped an incredibly costly third down pass in the red zone that would have given the Saints' a first down. In 56 passing plays he was targeted twice, a clear suggestion that he's struggling to get open.
Joe Morgan: B+ (1.55) He played a decent amount but just had the one play. An easy 80 yard touchdown reception where the back safety completely ignored him and allowed him to run free behind the defense. He did a good job absorbing contact inside the 5 and taking the tackler with him into the end zone. I think we've all been waiting for Morgan to deliver an explosive play like this and it finally happened, but hopefully he can help this offense on a more consistent basis. He also had a false start.
Jermon Bushrod: B (1.92) It's tough to grade the offensive line because they were largely all so impeccable in pass blocking and so incapable in run blocking. Bushrod had a pretty good game, though. Clay Matthews Jr. was moved around a lot and came at the Saints from numerous positions, but there were times were Bushrod had to block him one on one with no help and more than held his own. The Saints did do a very solid job of chipping and double teaming him throughout the game, though.
Ben Grubbs: C (2.33) Matthews' lone sack was on a delay blitz where Grubbs went to double team the edge which left a huge lane for Matthews to get at Brees untouched. His run blocking was poor but he did a good job helping the edge with rotating doubles.
Brian de la Puente: C+ (1.67) A fairly quiet game from de la Puente where he did his job mostly appropriately. He just doesn't get enough push in the trenches, though, and had his hands full with B.J. Raji who plugged the interior well.
Jahri Evans: C (2.42) He was so focused on helping with doubles and chips that he sometimes missed his assignment. He was by far the most physical lineman of the bunch but hurt his team with a holding penalty.
Zach Strief: B+ (2.08) A big rebound from his dreadful performance last week. The Saints didn't run to his side much but there wasn't much to brag about. His pass blocking was very solid. He obviously took last week to heart, went out there and performed like pros do. Rebounded well. He ran a clinic out there on the edge.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees