Saints vs. 49ers Player Grades: Offense

Kevin C. Cox

The Saints needed every single one of the 387 yards they gained in order to win this one 23-20 over the San Francisco 49ers. While the game was close because of three costly turnovers, the offense was only responsible for one of them. This was in my opinion the offensive line's best game considering the opponent. The most impressive part of this game was the 97 yard statement drive that gave the Saints a 7-0 lead. They wouldn't have another dominant possession like that in this game, but it showed how good they can be. On to the grades...

Drew Brees: B for the game (3.21 for the season) Putting aside stats or anything else for a second, I am most impressed Brees was able to recover from that devastating NaVarro Bowman hit. He still had a game to win and delivered perfect precision passes and exact clock management to finish the game. Many quarterbacks would be rattled by a hit like that and he played as well as ever. He was 30 of 43 for 305 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The interception was a freak athletic play by Ahmad Brooks... for some reason he always seems to do that to Brees. Brees was also flagged once for a correct intentional grounding call. This wasn't his best game but he did a good job getting the ball out quickly with good accuracy. He came up with the plays needed on the game tying and game winning drive but was fortunate that sack/lost fumble included a penalty.

Mark Ingram: B (2.13) I was surprised he didn't see the ball more after how incredible he was last week. He was physical running and showed good effort despite limited reps. He was a shoestring tackle away from his 15 yard run turning into a monster breakaway. He finished with just 6 carries for a respectable 25 yards and had one reception for 4 yards underneath. He's now above 2.00 for the first time this season, deserved based on the last couple weeks. On that 15 yard run he seemed a little slow getting up and I wonder if he didn't get nicked, which could explain why he played less? Or maybe he just wasn't in the gameplan.

Pierre Thomas: B+ (2.97) The Saints relied on Thomas very heavily throughout as he was clearly their main back in this one. The ankle injury to Sproles evidently increased his workload. He ran with power and always fell forward. He had 49 yards on 11 carries and added a workmanlike 5 catches for 35 yards. He kept the 49ers' defense honest by always getting the tough yards. Kudos for his help in protection, too.

Darren Sproles: B (2.81) He had 3 carries for 16 yards, mostly on middle draws out of the shotgun, and came really close to breaking a couple with some nice cuts. He also had a shifty 5 yard punt return and 4 catches for 19 yards. He hurt his ankle early in the game, returned, but didn't play as many snaps as usual likely due to the injury. While he didn't do much to get this, his fair catch where he got tackle for a 15 yard flag was huge just before the final drive. Give him credit for coming back into the game at far less than 100%.

Jed Collins: A (2.81) I know some of you might think I'm insane for giving him the player of the game on offense, but his contribution in my eyes was most critical. He had a touchdown run, he had a 3rd and short conversion, he gave the Saints a 3 yard reception to get them out of their own end zone and he was a beast on the interior. The resurrection of the run game is in large part due to the excellent lead blocks he throws.

Marques Colston: B+ (2.78) He was a little quiet early in the game, but man, he came up with some huge plays down the stretch. I think we'll all remember that juggling reception as a huge one, too. He had 5 receptions for 80 yards and in doing so became the leader in receiving yards in team history. A great game by one of the best Saints of all time.

Lance Moore: D (2.10) He had a critical drop on 3rd down which killed a drive, but it was his muffed punt return fumble inside the Saints' 10 that gift wrapped a 49er touchdown that earned him an F to that point. He came back with 3 catches for 23 yards but the Saints were fortunate he didn't cost them the game. If the Saints didn't win I probably wouldn't have been so kind with his grade.

Robert Meachem: B+ (2.22) He just had two catches, but they were for 44 and 34 yards. This is the game breaking Meachem we love! A throwback 2 catch 78 yard performance.

Kenny Stills: C (2.57) A quiet game with just 1 catch for 11 yards, on what was a solid catch in tight coverage. He was targeted deep late before the Hartley tie, but couldn't come up with a circus catch on a low ball.

Nick Toon: C+ (1.72) His lone target was an 8 yard reception but it was just nice to see him secure the ball and fall forward... baby steps.

Jimmy Graham: B- (3.14) He had 6 catches for 41 yards on 11 targets and a largely substandard performance for him. He still just seems scared to get hit in the open field. He had some nice plays in traffic and some plays where he just seemed slow and off timed with Brees. The 49ers did a good job contesting his routes and targets.

Joshua Hill: B (2.34) He had a reception that was negated as the Saints instead accepted an automatic first down penalty. He also had a 3 yard touchdown reception. On a fourth down attempt he was targeted in traffic and got his hands on the ball but couldn't come up with the catch. His blocking in the run game was good. The Saints have themselves a totally capable backup in my opinion overall, especially considering he's a rookie.

Charles Brown: A- (2.20) Credit where credit is due, this was Brown's best game by far. He had help, he benefited from Brees' ridiculous release, and Brees' ridiculous pocket footwork... but to face Aldon Smith and keep Brees largely clean like he did was incredible. The only play where I noticed him give up pressure was a 3rd down where Brees was flushed out of the pocket and had to throw the ball away.

Ben Grubbs: B- (2.34) He had a holding penalty that forced the Saints into a 3rd and 12 (instead of a 3rd and 2), which they'd convert anyway. He had a pretty good game otherwise, most notably with his run blocking, but he did give up some pressure.

Brian de la Puente: B+ (2.40) Other than a poor block on a 3rd down goal line run by Pierre Thomas that resulted in it going nowhere, I thought BDLP was very good in this one. His pass protection and physicality up the middle made a difference.

Jahri Evans: B+ (2.74) By far the most dominant in the trenches for the Saints, and they continually went behind him to get tough yards on the ground. He always plays to the whistle and finishes plays physically which is just plain great effort. He did get hurt late, and it seemed to be his ankle this time? He's had hip/ankle and hamstring issues all season, I just wish the Saints could get him healthy. That might not be in the cards this year. His pass protection faltered late due to more limited mobility most likely. Give him credit for fighting through all the injuries this year though, he's a guy you can count on.

Zach Strief: B (2.81) He continues to have a very steady, rock solid season. In a year that's been plagued by inconsistent line play, his has been anything but.

Bryce Harris: B- (2.43) As the "jumbo tight end" on numerous sets, his size and good lateral quickness was an asset on running plays.

Tim Lelito: B- (1.84) Came in briefly for big Jahri and held up well in limited snaps coming in cold. Filled in admirably given the degree of difficulty against this defense.

My Offensive Player of the Game: Jed Collins

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