Saints vs. Bills 2013 Player Grades: Offense

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Thirty-five points will be enough to win almost every week this season if the defense continues to play this way. The Saints got the job done against the Bills with variety in the passing game - something we haven't seen often this season - and some decent gains on the ground. The offensive line had a big task in front of them and came up with mixed results, but while the unit wasn't perfect they performed well enough to seal the deal.

Drew Brees: A for the game (3.14 for the season) Brees was hit six times and sacked four. This Bills' defensive line was as advertised and it put the Saints' passer under duress. Brees did make a few ill advised throws, a couple of which should have been intercepted. He was also intercepted once but that was negated by offsetting penalties. He was also penalized three times (two snap simulations, one delay of game). That all adds up to costing him the A+, because otherwise he was masterful. His stat line was as special as ever: 26 of 34 for 332 yards, 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Despite the pressure Brees worked the pocket to perfection with his footwork. Anytime the offense would stall and it seemed like the Saints couldn't make a play, Brees would step up and come up with a huge play to shift momentum squarely back with the Saints. He also deserves credit for getting everyone involved in this game as he completed 26 passes to 10 different receivers! You definitely can't accuse him of locking in on Graham and Sproles in this one.

Pierre Thomas: A- (2.76) This was a trademark performance from Thomas where you'll look at some decent stats and think he was fine, but watching the game you realize how much of a workhorse he is. Thomas was the main back for almost the entirety of the game in this one and the Saints leaned on him heavily. He had a useful 65 yards on 14 carries and 3 catches for 29 yards. Thomas was critical to the team's ability to move the football. His help in pass protection was extremely important as well. A big reason why I think he saw more snaps than usual is the Bills' pass rush, since he's such a solid blocker.

Darren Sproles: C- (2.71) He was neutralized and did nothing. Granted, he didn't play a ton of snaps and didn't seem too involved in the gameplan. He made a poor decision taking out a kickoff where he got tackled inside the 15, he had 1 punt return for 0 yards, and 4 catches for 0 yards. When he was in, the Bills did a good job shutting him down.

Khiry Robinson: D+ (2.53) He seemed to fall down at times without much contact and didn't run with the same authority as we've grown accustomed to seeing. 7 carries for 9 yards is just not going to get it done. if he's going to play like that, we might as well bring Mark Ingram back. There were a couple times where he had no chance due to poor blocking, though. The problem with Robinson, too, is the opponents know he's getting the ball when he's in the game. Hard to run effectively when the other team knows it's coming, so I'd like to see him used earlier in the game as he could set up play action well.

Jed Collins: B- (2.57) He blocked well and came up with a nice 3rd down conversion on an 8 yard reception. He did get flagged for a holding call, though. Overall he played pretty well.

Marques Colston: C (2.52) Colston has been quiet for a while, not really making much of an impact in the game. He had a couple of deep targets, including a high ball near the end zone where the safety contested the play well. He also seemed to alligator arm a slightly tipped ball. He also slipped on a back shoulder throw showing poor timing with Brees. He had just 3 catches for 18 yards. It would be nice to see him have a big game again soon. I'm starting to wonder if he is on the decline.

Kenny Stills: A (2.62) This was the coming out party for the youngster who finished with 3 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He showed the ability to get behind the defense, draw flags, make catches in traffic and move the chains. This kid is a star in the making. Most impressive is his catching ability in traffic despite his diminutive size. As much as the Joe Morgan injury sucked, it gave Stills an opportunity to get reps and he's getting better each and every week. The Saints may have struck gold drafting this kid. He has a bright future in this offense. He also had an end around for 4 yards.

Robert Meachem: C (1.78) He had a nice 15 yard catch but he too missed a back shoulder throw by showing poor timing with Brees. He also had a deep ball come his way where he was blatantly held but the referees mysteriously picked up the flag.

Lance Moore: B+ (2.09) It was a welcomed sight to have him back in the lineup. His touchdown reception was despite very good coverage and he showed excellent hands to score. He had 3 catches for 34 yards and the score, moving the chains and giving Brees a nifty target in space to move the chains. He had another target that possibly could have warranted a flag.

Jimmy Graham: A- (3.10) I don't give him the flat A because he was limited and could only play a limited amount of plays due to his foot pain, but man, did he make the most of his time on the field. 3 catches, 37 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both scores he showed amazing effort and toughness to get in the end zone. He also had a target that was intercepted in the end zone, where the effort wasn't as good, but that play was negated for offsetting penalties. He was also a good decoy at times stretching the field. You have to give Graham credit for going out there and giving it his all. Clearly he's still a beast even when compromised.

Benjamin Watson: B+ (2.71) He helped in pass protection and was very valuable in the passing game with 3 catches for 45 yards on 3 targets. He also had a big reception late to help get a first down and run precious clock. He continues to be a nice utility guy in this offense.

Joshua Hill: B- (2.67) He's been playing quietly well on special teams this year but he made us notice him this week with a couple impressive receptions. He had 2 catches for 17 yards and showed some athleticism. He also dropped a perfectly thrown deep(ish) ball but there was a penalty that would have negated that play anyway.

Charles Brown: C+ (2.05) He struggled in pass protection and was flagged once for holding. Brees had to redirect a few times due to his blocking. The sack given up to Jerry Hughes in particular wasn't impressive at all. As the game wore on he got better, though. He had a terrific lead block on a screen pass to Pierre Thomas for a first down.

Ben Grubbs: C+ (2.14) He got beat like a drum once in pass protection by Kyle Williams, but otherwise he held his own up the middle. Williams gave him a lot of trouble but like Brown he improved as the game wore on.

Brian de la Puente: D (2.19) A very poor game from the Saints' center. He was flagged for holding, he was completely schooled on a 3rd and short run by Kyle Williams who blew up the play for a huge loss, and he really struggled in pass protection as well. Didn't see the same physicality in the trenches he showed against the Patriots.

Jahri Evans: B+ (2.56) A pretty solid showing by Evans who seems to be recovering from his early season hamstring issues. He contributed physically on the early down PT runs and finished plays well. His pass protection was excellent.

Zach Strief: B+ (2.78) Back from injury he was quite good all around as well. He continues to build off what has been an impressive season. He may not be a Pro Bowl tackle but he's very underrated. When healthy he is a solid player and he showed as much in this game.

***

My Offensive Player of the Game: Kenny Stills

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