That was a very tough loss to stomach. Having to go back and watch the game over again for grading purposes was torture. You have to give the Saints credit for moving the ball well, especially when in mattered, though. Still, the 3 turnovers were killer, and I wasn't happy with the 38-16 pass to run ratio that Sean Payton elected to go with. Through 3 games, Payton is reverting back to his 2008 way of calling plays. No balance whatsoever. Without further ado I give you the grades.
Falcons vs Saints coverage
Falcons vs Saints boxscoreDrew Brees: B (3.11) Brees' two turnovers were bad, especially his second interceptions. His flip to Jimmy Graham as he was falling brought back memories of Aaron Brooks. A stupid costly turnover in scoring position was very unlike Brees. On the first pick, he just underthrew the ball to an open Devery Henderson downfield. Beyond those two plays, he was 30-38 for 365 yards, 3 touchdowns, and he put his team in a position to win the game. I pray that injury he seemed to sustain late to his knee isn't too serious. He was able to finish the game, so hopefully he's ok. His rating is a little misleading because of the costly mistakes, but still, anytime your quarterback ends with a 111.1 rating, he's obviously making a lot of plays.
Pierre Thomas: B- (2.78) Right now Thomas is making all of his plays in the passing game. Once again, his running was mediocre. Just 9 carries for 30 yards and the Saints failed to establish the run, yet again. He did have 6 receptions for 61 yards, and he's been Brees' top target through 3 games, leading the team in receptions. Give him a ton of credit for the big screen play in overtime running on a clearly injured ankle. He also got about 15 yards on a 3rd and 16 screen that was all heart and desire. I hope his ankle injury won't cost him any time because the Saints are incredibly thin at the position. It would be nice to see him making plays on the ground, though. He's averaging just 3.2 yards per carry through 3 games and that's not going to cut it.
Chris Ivory: D+ (1.33) Ivory got off to a monstrous start entering the game for the Saints early. He ripped a 9 yard run down the right side, then he gashed the Falcons up the middle for 2 yards on 2nd and 1 to convert a first down. After that, though, he was horrible. On a 4th and 1 attempt, Ivory dove for what appeared to be a crucial first down, but he lost control of the football and gave the Falcons the ball back. That turnover was a killer. He also got a few carries late in the game and was completely shut down. He finished with 7 carries for a sorry 13 yards.
Heath Evans: C- (2.67) He gave terrific lead blocks on the 4th and 1 run by Chris Ivory, and another short yardage conversion run by Ivory. I wish the Saints would use him more on passing downs, too, because Atlanta applied a lot of pressure and the Saints could have used his help in protection. Otherwise, his performance was unusually quiet and poor. When your team carries 16 times for 43 yards (2.7 yard average) and you're the lead blocker, 'nuff said.
Marques Colston: C+ (2.89) Colston did his job when called on, but he certainly didn't light the word on fire. He finished with a ho-hum 4 catches for 25 yards. He did have sure hands, and he was continually providing Brees with a short target over the middle, but he just didn't do all that much to hurt the Falcons. His longest receptions out of 4 catches was a 9 yarder. Not good for a wideout.
Lance Moore: A+ (2.67) What a game for Moore, who was Brees' go to target all game long. The little man got open at will, caught everything in sight, and finished with 6 catches for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. He almost single handedly won the game for his team. Oh, and he managed to give me a very secure feeling handling punts (something Reggie Bush never does for me) and he also returned one punt 72 yards to set up the first score. His first touchdown (an 80 yarder) was a wide open play that was easy enough. The second one, however, was pure beauty. He was slippery enough to slip a tackle, and he managed to beat another player to the end zone showing superior quickness. Lance Moore literally could not have performed any better in this game.
Devery Henderson: D (2.44) Henderson finished with 2 catches for 23 yards. He gave himself a tiny boost at the end by making a screen pass catch that he turned into a 1st down (on a 3rd down play) showing nice ability and toughness after the catch. Otherwise, it was a game to forget. His inconsistent hands, something that plagued him often early in his career, reared their ugly heads. At times it seemed like he was trying to clamp two bricks together to secure the football. He beat Dunta Robinson badly on a deep route, only to drop a catchable ball. On a 3rd down play, he dropped an easy catch wide open with tons of real estate ahead of him that forced the Saints to punt. Basically, he couldn't catch a cold in this game.
Robert Meachem: D (1.67) Meachem was horrible. He didn't get open for much of the game, and the two balls that came his way had bad results. The first was a 5 yard reception that saw him get tackled in bounds pretty softly right before the first half clock expired. I've seen smaller more determined players get out of bands on that play. The second was his best attempt at impersonating Devery, as he dropped a very catchable ball. Meachem is off to a very slow start this season with just 4 catches in 3 games. I wonder if the toe that required offseason surgery is bothering him? If so, maybe the Saints should give him a couple weeks off and activate Adrian Arrington, who is currently doing nothing for them but taking up a roster spot. Just an idea.
Jeremy Shockey: A (3.00) I've been critical of Shockey so far this season, but he stepped up giving the Saints a big target in the passing game. Over and over he was called on to come up with big plays underneath. He got in on the action early with a 2 yard touchdown reception on the opening play of the game. He showed great brute strength and toughness after the catch numerous times. Brees used him on seam routes down the field, short plays underneath, and mid range out routes. His catch on the game tying drive right before overtime on 4th and 1 kept the game alive for the Saints. He made that catch look fairly routine, but trust me, many players drop that ball. He may have been overshadowed by a better player in Tony Gonzalez on the other side of the field, but Shockey proved he can still be an elite playmaking tight end in this game. He finished with 8 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. And here's a little random note for you, Brees targeted Shockey 8 times in the game. Pretty good success rate, I'll say.
David Thomas: B- (2.45) I've been critical of Thomas too for averaging 2.6 yards per reception coming into this game, but he made a couple plays downfield this time. Brees went his way three times, and Thomas rewarded his quarterback's trust with 3 catches for 24 yards. Nothing earth shattering, but he helped his team move the football.
Jermon Bushrod: C- (2.45) Another poor game for Bushrod. After his mammoth game against the Vikings, when I gave him the offensive player of the game nod, he's since struggled. John Abraham wore him down as the game developed. I saw Bushrod make a few decent blocks in the running game, but he was schooled badly once by Abraham allowing a sack. He was also responsible for Abraham hitting Brees after a pass which banged up the quarterback's knee. A day to forget for him overall, as he didn't contribute much in the run blocking department either. I will say there were times where he neutralized Abraham pretty well. He was also flagged for a false start.
Carl Nicks: C (2.78) The Saints went behind Nicks on the 4th and 1 Ivory fumble play, and he got the push the team needed. It was a very jekyll and hyde performance from Nicks. At times he was dominant, and others he was inattentive and prone to mistakes. He did a terrific job, per usual, pulling on the screen pass plays to Pierre Thomas. On running plays it was pretty hit or miss. He also allowed a sack to Jonathan Babineaux. It was very clear the Falcons were going to bring the pass rush to the left side, attacking Bushrod and Nicks, because the pressure was coming from that side all day.
Jonathan Goodwin: C+ (2.33) Goodwin pulled well and did a reasonably good job. He made no major mistakes but nothing to really hang his hat on either.
Jahri Evans: B (2.67) He was by far the best interior lineman of the day. He completely neutralized any semblance of pressure from his side. His run blocking was good at times and mediocre at others. Many times he'd get to the second level and throw a great block, only to see the runner tackled behind him due to poor blocks around him.
Jon Stinchcomb: B (2.67) He was impeccable in pass protection. Brees saw almost no action from his side whatsoever. In run blocking, he didn't get much push. My favorite Stinchcomb play of the day was the screen pass to Pierre on 3rd and 16 where Thomas got 15 yards. At the end of that play, Stinchcomb stuck his nose in there and helped Thomas to get that final surge that got him very close to a first down. I love seeing linemen hustle and finish off plays. Kudos to Stinchcomb for playing to the whistle. Again, hard to give any of the Saints' linemen anything better than a B when the running game was so poor. Still, the right side was much better than the left, especially in pass protection.
Zach Strief : C+ (2.33) The Saints found numerous ways for Strief to get involved much like they did a season ago. Whether it was as an extra blocking tight end or a third tackle, Strief brought some serious size off the edge to the Saints. The couple times I same him pass block, I actually thought he was excellent. The running plays, however, he showed mauling strength but poor footwork and quickly, which allowed Falcons players to get around him.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Lance Moore