Saints vs. Panthers Player Grades: Offense

Wesley Hitt

What a difference a week and a change of venue makes to what was previously a majorly slumping offense. Home cooking was all that was necessary to boost the Saints and help them gash a vaunted Panthers defense that was ranked 2nd in the NFL giving up an average of 13 points per game. The offense put up 31, and the Panthers were fortunate it was that little. But while the Saints threw all over the Panthers at will, they really didn't get anything going on the ground at all. They'll probably have to have more success in that area in two weeks at Carolina to win. Below are my grades for this game:

Drew Brees: A+ for the game (3.21 for the year) Every once in a while Brees exceeds the ridiculously high standard of expectations we all have set for him. This was one of those games. Despite no running game, Brees torched the Panthers at will. It all started on 3rd and 9 on the second drive. From then on he was masterful. He benefited from very good pass protection in this one and showed what he can do with time. He finished 30 of 42 for 313 yards, 4 touchdowns and no turnovers. With this grade he now has the highest GPA on the offense, ahead of Graham. He was hit and fumbled once late, but the Saints fell on it.

Pierre Thomas: C (2.90) From a statistical standpoint this wasn't his best game but he showed his customary toughness getting the hard yards. The Panthers did a good job bottling him up and rendering the screen game useless in this one. He had just 14 yards on 7 carries and 4 catches for 14 yards. He did a good job helping in pass protection as always.

Darren Sproles: B- (2.76) I'm surprised the Saints didn't use him more, maybe his ankle is still bothering him? He took a sweep for 38 yards on a critical play early to get the Saints back in business down 6-0, and never saw another hand off. Weird. He had 3 catches for 23 yards on a pretty low snap count. I guess the Saints wanted Thomas in there more for pass protection, but to his credit I'm always amazed how great of a blocker he is for his size. He also had 2 punt returns for 17 yards, and came close to breaking another that was called back for holding. I would have liked to have seen more of him.

Mark Ingram: D+ (1.96) He had 3 carries for 4 yards and was mostly a decoy. I was surprised how much play action the Saints ran with him in the backfield, but his snap count was also much lower than usual. He did convert a short yardage first down, but it was pretty clear the Saints were getting nothing going on the ground in between the tackles.

Khiry Robinson: C+ (2.47) He took a misdirection pitch 6 yards for a 1st down and saw some goal line snaps where the Saints decided to pass instead of pounding him at the goal line. A very small body of work, but he looked good on the run. I'd like to see him ahead of Ingram at this point I think. He was called for holding on a punt return that killed great field positions too.

Jed Collins: C- (2.62) He was stuffed on a goal line carry and had a 4 yard reception. His interior blocking was mauled and the Saints didn't get much going at all in the run game.

Marques Colston: A+ (2.83) He had 9 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in what was undoubtedly the best game of his season. He had another score that was called back by a penalty (he would score two plays later anyway) and he had a score that was called down at the one (Saints would settle for a field goal). A monster performance and Carolina could do almost nothing to stop him. They did contest a couple targets and Captain Munnerlyn did have a couple nice breakups but way more often Colston was exposing him and Mike Mitchell. I'd argue his biggest catch was a 3rd and 9 over the shoulder 1st down reception. He made it look easy but that was not an easy catch, and at the time the offense was in a major slump and the team was down 6-0. I feel like that catch set the beatdown wheels in motion. He largely carried the offense on his shoulders.

Lance Moore: B- (2.10) I wrote a piece on Saints Nation about how he had disappeared and that the Saints needed him to step up last week and at least he re-surfaced as a guy that can make plays. He had a target in the end zone that didn't work out but he finished with 3 catches for 40 yards and got a couple critical first downs. Not his best performance by any means but a bit step in the right direction.

Kenny Stills: B- (2.44) He had 2 receptions in traffic for 22 yards that got a couple first downs for the team. On one he was interfered with and still got the catch. A decent contributions.

Robert Meachem: C- (2.11) He had 1 catch for 7 yards and an end around for 4 yards. He didn't bring much to the offense and still doesn't look like the same player to me.

Jimmy Graham: B+ (3.13) He was quiet early and better as the game wore on. He had a drop and some lack of effort plays as always, but then he also had his usual beast mode performance in the red zone. He had 6 catches for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns. His arm/wrist or whatever is going on seemed to go numb at one point, but then he came back in and made huge plays. I applaud him for being so compromised in a contract year and continuing to lay it all on the line for his team. He continues to be a matchup nightmare and the center piece of his offense.

Benjamin Watson: C+ (2.45) He had just one catch but it was a big one for 20 yards. His blocking was mediocre.

Charles Brown: A- (2.31) He held his own most of the day. The two best rushes of the day (Khiry and Sproles) were sweeps to his side. He did give up some edge pressure but Brees always felt it and stepped up perfectly. He had to face Charles Johnson, who's maybe rusty and not 100%, but he handled him very well. Impressive overall. he wasn't full on dominant but I would say this was one of the best games of the season for him.

Ben Grubbs: B- (2.39) His pass blocking overall was exceptional. The Panthers' interior is very good and he did a great job. He did get called for a hold which negated a touchdown pass, though. The Saints would score anyway but that was a killer, and he didn't even need to hold on that play. He didn't get much interior push at all on running plays.

Brian de la Puente: C (2.31) On a screen to Thomas I noticed he completely whiffed on his block to get the play blown up. Like his teammates he was decent in pass protection and not so good run blocking. The Panthers interior is very good so the degree of difficulty was high.

Jahri Evans: B+ (2.70) A dominant performance by Evans in pass protection, facing some very good players. He looked like the Pro Bowler he always is. The run blocking, not so much. But Evans was definitely the most physical and assertive of the o-line in this game. I'm hoping he's turning the corner physically, it certainly looks like it.

Zach Strief: B- (2.64) Very impressive that he was able to go with his ankle issue. He's another one that's been banged up this season and continues to lay it all out on the line for the team. Considering his health this was a decent showing. The Saints gave him a lot of help in the form of chips to lighten his load in pass protection.

Bryce Harris: C- (2.20) He brought very little as an extra blocker. Not the push in the run game you'd hope for by going jumbo.

My Offensive Player of the Game: Marques Colston

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