The Saints finally have a "W" and can go into the bye week with the relief of knowing they are no longer winless. It didn't come easy and the offense wasn't always dominant, but they got the job done.
One point of concern has been the run game, which for the second week in a row looked completely unable to get anything going. That said, despite no Lance Moore, a diminished Jimmy Graham and an under-performing Darren Sproles, the offense was still able to put up big chunks of yardage in the passing game. Kudos to Brees, Colston and Henderson primarily, who were outstanding.
Drew Brees: A- (2.67) First off, I want to be clear that I'm grading a one game performance. I'm sure a lot of you are seeing an A- and calling for my head. There is no question the accomplishment that Brees made on this night was historical. If I was grading his career, he gets an A+ and he's a first ballot hall of famer. Specifically in this game, he did play very well. His lone interception, though, was a bad pass on a third down throw to a wide open Devery Henderson on a crossing route. The play would have been an easy first down but it was thrown way behind DH and was tipped into the hands of a waiting Quentin Jammer. Brees also threw another horrible interception that probably would've sealed the Saints' fate in this game but was bailed out by a roughing the passer penalty. Oddly enough, that penalty changed the game and ended up completely turning the outcome. That play was a changer kind of like Brees' pick against the Chiefs. It had a similar turning point feel and from that moment on it was all Saints. Brees finished 29 of 45 for 370 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He also had a fumble. I know ~64% is still a completion number he won't be happy with, but there is no question he made a number of big throws. His footwork and pocket awareness was on full display in this game as he ran a clinic despite heavy pressure for much of the game and he fit numerous balls into very tight coverage. The record breaking pass to Henderson, in my opinion, was a microcosm of why he has all these records. He feels heavy blitz, flushes out of the pocket, finds a soft spot in the rush, steps into a clean space, freezes Jammer as Henderson makes a double move with a pump fake, than lofts a perfect pass for an easy TD to Henderson in stride. Not many QB's can pull that off and he makes it look so easy. That is the genius of Drew Brees right there, all wrapped up into one play. Magical.
Mark Ingram: D+ (1.33) Another woeful performance by Ingram who is just in a bad place right now. He got confused horribly on a blitz pickup of Eric Weddle that yielded a sack/strip. He did have good awareness to anticipate the fumble and got a fortunate bounce to pick it up and gain some yardage to avoid disaster. Still, he almost cost his team badly with atrocious pass protection there. He had just 5 carries for 16 yards. He's just not helping the team much right now. He did have an important first down on a 3rd and 1 carry, diving over the pile.
Pierre Thomas: B (2.80) His effort was on full display once again. He never went down easily and that was perhaps best showcased when he lost his helmet fighting for extra yards and continued to move the pile. He had 30 tough yards on 9 carries despite not much room to work with, and 2 catches for 40 yards. Most of those receiving yards came on a 36 yard screen pass that we're used to as his signature calling card play these days. His pass protection also continues to be excellent.
Darren Sproles: C- (2.53) Just not a good day for Sproles who struggled to do much of anything against his former team. He couldn't get anything going in the return game, which was a disappointment, and he seemed to be less utilized than usual in the offense. He finished with just 9 yards on 5 carries and 5 catches for 28 yards. Give him credit for decent pass protection for such a little guy though.
Jed Collins: C (2.20) His pass blocking was very good in this game as the Saints threw a little bit more than usual out of a running formation. That's good to see, by the way, because part of the reason the running game struggled so much last week was predictable personnel. His run blocking was hit or miss. The effort was there, but his primary responsibility is to get the run game going and that just didn't happen.
Marques Colston: A (2.33) Crazy to think how low his GPA is after an A- last week and an A this week. That's how bad his first three games were, though. Colston is still struggling with his injury and you can tell as his running and separation from corners is still not there. He's learned to play with it, though. He's physical, he's making incredible catches in coverage and he's making huge plays. He was covered tightly throughout and did have a few drops, so it wasn't perfect, but when your receiver turns in 9 catches for 131 yards and 3 touchdowns it's hard to complain. For those of you saying he should get an A+, consider he had 18 targets. Still, it was a vintage Colston performance with plenty of circus catches, guts, and results.
Devery Henderson: A (2.58) Devery turned back the clock to have a monster game, one of the biggest of his career. He finished with 8 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. He stretched the field and hurt the Chargers badly with 2 40+ yard plays. His touchdown was a double move on Quentin Jammer on a perfectly run route that left his cover man completely in the dust. Henderson saw a significantly increased role with Lance Moore out and delivered. He had sure hands, ran crisp routes, and went back to looking very fast out there. Oh, and kudos to him for some great blocking downfield too. Hopefully the Saints can get some consistent performances like this out of him. He convinced me in this game he's still very capable just when I was starting to think he'd lost a step. He did have a false start which should never happen to a receiver.
Joe Morgan: D (1.42) I'm not going to fail him because he didn't play enough to really deserve that. One thing he did do was stretch the field. When he was in and he ran deep routes, the Chargers respected it, likely because they saw what happened on tape against the Packers. That said, he never got open, and his lone target was a give 5 yard route wide open that he dropped, once again. This guy has serious issues catching the football.
Greg Camarillo: B- (2.67) I have to wonder why this guy wasn't included a little bit sooner in the offense when all these guys around him were hurt. Perhaps he's just now starting to get comfortable with the playbook? He picked up a couple key third down conversions finding the soft spot in the zone and having sure hands. He wasn't much of a threat after the catch but he helped the team tremendously in the slot. He did have a drop too, but contributed a workman like 4 catches for 44 yards. You can tell his chemistry with Brees is improving quickly.
Jimmy Graham: D+ (2.20) He turned his ankle and from there was a shell of his former self. When he did play he was largely a decoy and Brees didn't even bother looking his way. His hands have been a major liability this season and he's had major difficulties securing the football. What is with all the dropped passes? He finished with just 1 catch for 4 yards, not exactly what my fantasy team was looking for. He almost dropped that reception, juggling it in, and he dropped another gimme. Hopefully the bye week will give him some time to get his body and head right, because he's just nowhere near the level of last year. To his credit he did have some decent blocking including a nice pancake chip.
David Thomas: D+ (1.53) Despite significant play time he was completely useless in the passing game, mostly used as a blocker. His run blocking was weak but his protection was ok. Also had a false start. For as little as he plays he sure seems to get flagged a lot.
Daniel Graham: C- (1.67) What's the point in even having this guy? He's supposed to be a blocking specialist and he's mediocre at that task.
Jermon Bushrod: B- (2.07) The times he allowed pressure Brees was able to masterfully feel it and avoid it. Overall his protection was pretty solid. He was one of the better run blockers on the day.
Ben Grubbs: B (2.47) He had a false start penalty but to me he was the Saints' best blocker on the day. His pass protection was largely excellent and he played with a nice physicality. He's not getting enough push on running plays the last two weeks but that will come.
Brian De La Puente: C+ (1.80) He was beaten badly on a rush by Corey Liuget which led to a sack. On the big screen play to PT, you'll find him pulling and leading the way, then randomly falling for no reason without blocking anyone. The play worked regardless but if you re-watch the game, check it out, it's pretty comical. Beyond those two plays he was largely solid.
Jahri Evans: B- (2.47) Negated a beautiful Pierre Thomas run with a holding call, which was just lame. His pass protection was largely flawless though. His run blocking wasn't physical enough at times but overall he played a decent game.
Zach Strief: B- (2.20) He had a false start as well. His pass protection was largely excellent, his run blocking was largely poor. You could say that for the majority of the team. He was beaten by Shaun Phillips on occasion but that's to be expected.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Marques Colston