It's a little late to go back and retroactively grade the coaches, but I really felt like the offense's failures in this game had a lot more to do with the coaches than the players. Specifically, Sean Payton. He's human, so while he's still a premiere offensive coach with an uncanny ability to consistently dial up plays that work, there's times where he'll fail. Make no mistake, I wouldn't trade Sean Payton for anyone, but that doesn't mean he can't have off days. In this game against the Ravens, I thought the playcalling was horrible. The Saints threw the ball 49 times and ran it 14 times. The formations used to throw made it so painfully obvious the Saints were throwing, they didn't even try to disguise it. How many times was Brees out of the shotgun with no backs? Payton can pretend that the game scenario and the injury to Chris Ivory caused the lopsided ratio in playcalling, but he'd be fooling himself. The bottom line is the Saints were one dimensional by design, and while poor tackling is the #1 reason the Saints lost this game, poor offensive balance wasn't far behind. Below are the grades.
Saints vs Ravens coverage
Saints vs Ravens boxscoreDrew Brees: B (2.93) I thought it was a positive outing overall for Brees. He was scrappy and competed really well. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to drum up the magic on that final drive. As I mentioned in the intro, Brees was victimized by the horrendous playcalling, and he did as much as he could with the calls being made. Without Chris Ivory's powerful presence and PT still clearly recovering from a bad ankle, the Saints had relied almost exclusively on possession passing for short to intermediary plays. They didn't have to do it that way, but they chose to. Brees did struggle early with the conditions and had accuracy issues at times. He also held on to the ball too long at times, which got him sacked a few times, including two fumbles. Still, down 27-24 he had 3 touchdowns and no interceptions with a chance to win the game. The interception was a tipped ball that wasn't his fault, and he was let down by Colston who had two drops on the same drive preceding the pick. He was 29-46 for 267 yards, 3 touchdowns and a interception. His mastery of that 2 minute drill before halftime was a thing of beauty. The Saints will need his best in the coming weeks to have a chance.
Pierre Thomas: C (2.67) He represented the only real rushing of note, with 6 carries for a whooping 20 yards. He also had a reception for no gain. He went long stretches of play without seeing the field, especially in the second half, which led me to believe he isn't close to 100% or that he suffered a setback with his ankle injury. He did have a couple of nice carries, including a solid 3rd and 1 conversion, but the Saints never really gave him a chance to establish himself. Maybe he was on a pitch count. He filled in on kickoff returns and was passable, looking slower than Courtney Roby but harder to bring down. He averaged just 22.2 yards on 5 returns, but had a really nice 32 yard return breaking a few tackles.
Reggie Bush: C (2.28) This was classic Reggie Bush, in a bad way. He made a few plays out there that were great, but they were outweighed by his propensity to run backwards and try to turn nothing into something, which often leads to the play ending in much worse than nothing. He finished with a team high 7 receptions, but those only went for 36 yards in part thanks to a horribly executed screen pass that lost 10 yards in the waiting arms of Terrell Suggs. He had a decent punt return for 9 yards thanks to a play where he actually ran forward, and he was back on the final kickoff return that featured a little razzle dazzle that amounted to nothing. He also had 4 rushes for -4 yards. Horrible. He does deserve a lot of credit for making a number of plays on the 2 minute offense before halftime that went down to score and narrow the Ravens' lead to 21-14.
Julius Jones: C (2.29) The few reps he got were nothing special, and again, he never got a chance to play much. He too has been dealing with injuries recently, so you wonder if the Saints refused to run because they had three running backs "healthy", all operating at less than 80%? He did convert a 3rd and 1, but that was about it. 4 carries for 11 yards.
Heath Evans: C+ (2.67) He blocked well when he was in. Those aforementioned third and short conversions were made in part thanks to his lead blocks. He didn't play much at all, except on kickoff returns. Brees did throw his way once and was almost intercepted.
Marques Colston: B- (3.07) For a while there at the beginning he seemed like the only offensive player that decided to show up. In the first half he was consistently making catches and helping move the chains. He finished with 6 catches for 80 yards. In the end, though, he dropped two catchable balls on the final drive that killed any chance for the Saints to win the game. The first pass was in traffic, and the second was thrown slightly behind him, but those are both catches big time receivers make in clutch situations. He did not.
Devery Henderson: B (2.07) Henderson actually showed up today and helped by making some plays in the passing game. He had one catch in particular on a third down near the sideline that was an absolutely phenomenal grab, and it's too bad he stumbled because he may have scored if he kept his footing. He had 4 passes go his way, and he turned them into 3 catches for 53 yards. The lone pass he didn't catch was a low throw that he desperately tried to slide near the sideline to make, but the pass wasn't thrown accurately enough. It was nice to see him not be invisible for a change.
Lance Moore: A- (2.88) He only had 2 catches for 26 yards, but his touchdown catch that came on 3rd and goal from the 15 was a circus grab. The ball was tipped, and the level of concentration that Moore showed to be able to haul that in while tip-toeing the back corner of the end zone was out of this world. How could I not give him an awesome grade for that play alone? It capped a furious rally that saw the Saints pull to a 24-24 tie. While the Saints lost, he gave them life when they needed it most. It was the kind of play susperstars make, especially given the timing.
Robert Meachem: D+ (2.36) Brees and him just haven't been on the same page the last couple of weeks, to put it mildly. He struggled with lack of separation and bad drops, yet again. He finished with 2 catches for 17 yards, despite being targeted 6 times. Lackluster performance from the Saints' trusted playmaker.
Jeremy Shockey: C+ (2.70) He was targeted 6 times and finished with 3 catches for 26 yards. He moved the chains and helped the passing game some, but not on a consistent basis. The separation from his defenders just isn't there.
Jimmy Graham: A (3.04) With this performance, he's now trailing only Colston as the best GPA on offense. He finished with 5 catches for 29 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first touchdown rivaled Lance Moore's in degree of difficulty. He hauled the pass in with one hand, stretched out, and dove into the end zone. The second touchdown came on a play action where he was wide open from a yard out that couldn't have come easier. Still, the guy is making an impact and he's a budding star. He provided a large and reliable target for Brees underneath. David Thomas' injury meant more playing time for Graham, and he made the most of it.
Jermon Bushrod: D+ (2.48) Bushrod struggled mightily in pass protection. While Brees helped limit his mistakes with his pocket presence, he had fits containing his edge. Linebacker Jarret Johnson blew past Bushrod untouched for an easy sack on Brees that also forced on a fumble - and on that play Bushrod's lateral quickness looked lacking. He was also victimized with a holding penalty.
Carl Nicks: C+ (2.88) His pass blocking was fine, but he never got a chance to showcase what he does best: pulling and run blocking. The Saints never really put him in a position to do anything but sit on his heels and absorb pressure up the middle. While he was decent in that role, that's not playing to his strengths.
Jonathan Goodwin: B- (2.72) Goodwin's most crucial play was a fumble recovery of Brees' second fumble which came just before Garrett Hartley's 47 yard field goal. Goodwin showed good awareness and strength to fall on that football and keep it. Blocking wise, Haloti Ngata was a handful for him, to say the least. Goodwin did a decent job overall, but he was responsible for a missed blocked that left Bush to get blown up in the backfield. Goodwin also clearly held Ngata on a passing play in the end zone, and the Saints were fortunate not to get caught there as that would have resulted in a safety. He also missed a blitzing Ray Lewis at one point up the middle but was fortunate Brees avoided his pressure.
Jahri Evans: B+ (2.74) He went a second straight game without getting flagged, a real feat for him this year. The Ravens concentrated most of their blitzes and rush packages coming to the left side, which left Evans mostly with easy blocking assignments. Still, he handled his side well and he did a great job of giving Brees' space to step up in.
Jon Stinchcomb: A- (2.55) I thought the job he did on Terrell Suggs was spectacular, pretty much all game. Stinchcomb was quick with his feet and very strong at the point of attack. I was really impressed how he continually stonewalled Suggs at the line of scrimmage. Suggs did get one sack, which was also a forced fumble, but that came after Brees scrambled out of the pocket and waited a good 7-8 seconds to try to throw the ball. Stinchcomb's block on the initial part of that play was textbook and perfect, and that play was on Brees (or the Ravens' coverage) for happening. While Stinchcomb still gave up a sack, he deserves recognition for what I thought was a job extremely well done all day against a very tall task.
Zach Strief: C+ (2.39) I thought he did a fine job for the most part blocking off the edge. He saw a lot of playing time as the blocking tight end, thanks to David Thomas' injury. The Saints never ran the ball, though, so they never got to take advantage of his mauling size. His pass protection was adequate overall. He was flagged for holding on a kickoff return which negated good field position.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Jimmy Graham