The Saints could have put together only one scoring drive and it would have been enough to give them the win. That's how good their defense played. More on that later. Of course, it also helped that the offense ran the ball well, gained explosive plays in the passing game, and stayed efficient without turning the ball over once. That's usually a recipe for good grades all around.
Drew Brees: A (2.64) He wasn't perfect and missed a couple of throws, some of which could have been intercepted after bouncing off his receivers, but after the streak he's been on the last three games, to go 26 of 39 for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns with no turnovers is really all you could ever ask for. He also had a nifty scramble that went 11 yards for a first down. In general he had great command of the offense and seemed very comfortable with whatever the Bucs were throwing at him. He's definitely had this defense's number this year. It was nice to see him return to his old ways, settling for safety valves when there was pressure, taking shots downfield when the time was right, and always getting the ball out quickly.
Mark Ingram: A (2.38) This was arguably the best game of his career. He ran with authority, broke numerous tackles, and bounced outside for huge gains a couple of times. Finished with a workmanlike 90 yards on just 14 carries, which included a bruising touchdown run to put an emphatic exclamation point on the victory. This is what we hoped to be getting all along with him. Outstanding performance.
Pierre Thomas: B- (2.98) A quiet day for PT, as he only had 13 yards on 4 carries and 26 yards on 3 receptions. With Ingram running the ball so well they mostly stuck with him, which makes sense because PT really struggled running the ball the last time these two teams played. Still, he got involved a little bit and helped the offense move in the right direction. No mistakes, and he was always falling forward.
Darren Sproles: B (2.67) He finished with 22 yards on 5 carries, mostly on toss sweeps, 5 catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. He also had 3 punt returns for 38 yards, most of which came on one big return. He was explosive and dangerous, but he did drop a critical 3rd down pass deep in Saints territory where he had badly beaten his man and could have run a long way. That pass went off his fingertips and was admittedly not a perfect pass by Brees. He also dropped another pass, though, and he called a fair catch at one point when the closest tackler was maybe 10 yards away. Of course, he later didn't call a fair catch on a return where he got creamed as he caught it. So he didn't use great judgement at times. Overall, though, he was a poison for the Bucs' defense and they had to account for him at all times. He helped the Saints consistently move the chains.
Travaris Cadet: C+ (2.09) He had one catch for 3 yards and another drop. His catch was inside the 5 and a fantastic grab on a poor throw. He also had a nice kick return for 30 yards. He was active and a nice decoy.
Jed Collins: B+ (2.74) Was injured on the opening play of the game and based on his reaction it looked incredibly serious. Deserves a ton of credit for coming back and playing a decent amount. He did look a little hampered but was physical at the point of attack and had some nice blocks. He had a tremendous lead block on Ingram's 31 yard scamper which was a thing of beauty. He also had a reception for 4 yards.
Marques Colston: B (2.57) He wasn't as involved in the offense as usual but his 3 receptions were big and went for a total of 60 yards. Most of his catches were downfield for nice gains, getting first downs.
Lance Moore: B+ (2.85) Came up with a circus catch and showed off elite jumping skills. For a guy as small as he is, he really makes himself a bigger target with as high as he can get up. I think we underestimate just how freakish of an athlete Lance Moore is. He may be slight of size but he is every bit the athlete that Calvin Johnson is. He had 4 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, using his ups to get the score as well. He is deserving second on the offense in GPA, only behind PT.
Devery Henderson: C- (2.00) A mostly poor game from Henderson. He was once again a complete afterthought in the passing game. When Brees tried to get him involved, it led to a drop. Granted, his drop was a horrible throw well behind him, but it still hit him in the hands. He was also guilty of a holding penalty that was pretty ticky tacky of a call, but expected from Mike Carey's crew. He does save his grade a little bit with a nice 13 yard run on an end around. He was able to show decent speed on that play, and he broke a tackle to get the first down.
Joe Morgan: A- (2.30) The explosive receiver continues to get better and really schooled the Tampa DB's on some plays. He finished with just 2 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown, but he also had another contested circus catch down the sideline where he landed out of bounds. He also drew a pass interference call deep downfield that would lead to the final touchdown. He's showing good concentration downfield as he leaps for contested balls and he's coming up with tough grabs lately. This guy will be a staple in the 2013 offense, I am sure of it. He has a unique skillset that has always been extremely valuable in this offense.
Jimmy Graham: B- (2.28) A very odd game where he would be up one second and down the next. He had at least three drops, and you could argue four. Some of "drops" were on contested passes in heavy coverage where he took huge blows, but still catches you like to see him coming up with. His contribution was undeniable, though. He had 5 catches for 69 yards, including an insane catch down the seam before halftime. The wrist issue is clearly causing problems, but once again he tried for a one handed catch instead of catching the ball with two hands. Overall he played pretty well and the positives outweighed the negatives in this contest.
David Thomas: A- (2.21) A very solid contribution from Thomas, with 2 receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown. He absorbed tough contact and fought forward for a first down on his first reception, and did a nice job finding the end zone on his second. He also played some fullback with Jed Collins banged up and did a great job blocking. One of his better games this season.
Jermon Bushrod: B+ (2.53) He was fantastic blocking, both in pass protection and on running plays. His pulling and lead blocks on those toss sweeps to Sproles are impressive and he leaves those corners/linebackers no chance at all by demolishing them. That said, he was flagged twice, including once for a false start inside the five. That flag could have been Henderson's fault, though, he shuffled his feet and may have disrupted timing. He also got called for a hold.
Ben Grubbs: B+ (2.83) A solid performance from Grubbs. He continues to be, in my opinion, worth every penny the Saints spent on him.
Brian de la Puente: C (2.40) Struggled at times with Gerald McCoy and almost got Brees killed a couple of times. McCoy dropped some devastating blows on Brees, which he surprisingly bounced back up from with ease. He was called for holding once. Was excellent in run blocking overall.
Jahri Evans: B+ (2.86) Struggled a bit with McCoy as well but did a good job being physical and showing off terrific lateral movement to help Robinson in pass blocking.
William Robinson: B+ (2.42) He had a tremendous amount of help but really handled himself extremely well in protection especially. I'm pretty impressed by this guy when you consider he's their fourth string right tackle. The Saints have done an excellent job of preparing him, so kudos to Aaron Kromer there. He moved over to left tackle briefly, too, and struggled more over there.
Eric Olsen: B+ (2.17) The Saints made him play right tackle, jumbo tight end and even fullback at times in this game. And on special teams as a blocker. Basically he played everything except his natural position, which is guard. Considering how ridiculous that is, he handled himself pretty well. He's got nice size and moves alright for a wide body. I see him back on the roster next year.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees