Losing sucks. While the offense scored a healthy 31 points and were helped out by a pick 6 from the defense, they were not totally immune from blame. The balance was piss poor (43 passes to 18 rushes) and lack of execution in the 1st and 3rd quarter allowed long stretches for their opponent to dig in. Still, in a perfect world they did enough to win with even a marginal defense. Oh well, hopefully this output will be enough to get double digit wins next year.
Drew Brees: B+ (2.79) His stats were 29 of 43 for 396 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. While those are astronomical, he did get a lot of garbage benefit late. Still, you take away some unfortunate drops and it's scary enough to realize how much better his stats could have been. His interception was horrid, throwing into triple coverage with nowhere to go, though. Granted his margin for error was small due to horrid defense, but that interception was a very poor decision in a crowd that pretty much sealed the Saints' fate. A good performance by the Saints QB - but he was very good and they needed him to be perfect to win.
Mark Ingram: B- (2.42) 10 carries for 39 yards and some solid short yardage runs. Vintage Ingram really. At times beastly, at times disappointing. He probably didn't get enough reps to fully illustrate his ability to impact the game.
Chris Ivory: B+ (2.95) Finished with 4 carries for 22 yards. I will never understand why, in a meaningless game where he had the hot hand, he wasn't utilized more. It was clear he was running with authority and stopping him was something the Panthers couldn't really do. Result? The Saints didn't play him. How can Carmichael Jr. defend himself not giving this man the ball more this year?
Darren Sproles: C+ (2.74) The Panthers seemed to sniff out any plays where the ball was coming his way, save the late score. He had 3 carries for 1 yard and 8 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. He also offered a very poor effort in the return game. The main drawback, as always, is his inability to break a tackle, ever.
Jed Collins: B+ (2.78) Really solid blocking all day long, particularly in pass protection on play action plays. He bought Brees more time every time he was asked to. He also contributed a 5 yard receptions.
Marques Colston: B+ (2.65) 5 catches for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns were his stats, including some big hits where he earned the tough yards. He did have a horrible drop on third down when wide open though, a weird habit in the second half of the season.
Lance Moore: A (2.93) He finished with 4 catches for 121 yards including one of the most ridiculous catches I've seen this season, or maybe in Saints' history. He continues to have the type of hands that make him superior to most in the league. He continues to offer field stretching ability combined with chain moving capability.
Devery Henderson: C+ (1.93) He finished with 1 reception for 16 yards - a very tough and contested grab. Otherwise he offered decent blocking here and there. He showed field stretching ability and one dimensional route running due to play calling with not much else. He was wide open downfield on a couple plays and ignored by Brees. This was likely his last game as a Saint. If so, all the best Devery and thanks for the memories.
Joseph Morgan: C- (2.26) He had an end around for 1 yard, a reception for 8 yards, and was a non factor blocking. He was covered tightly and got no separation.
Jimmy Graham: B- (2.36) Every week I grade him with some high highs and really low lows. It's gotten so old. The stats were as good as ever: 9 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. That doesn't show a couple easy drops, yet again, as well as some bonehead penalties late on the onside kicks that were inexcusable. It's just sad that you look at his stats, which are some of the best stats you'll ever see from a tight end, and think that he played crappy. But that's Jimmy Graham in a nutshell in 2012. This season couldn't end fast enough for him. Hopefully he can show us something better in 2013.
David Thomas: C- (2.22) Poor blocking and subpar contribution from the usually reliable backup.
Jermon Bushrod: B (2.56) A pretty solid day both pass blocking and run blocking. His last second chip on that 11 yard run by Ivory was crucial, and he did a fantastic job finishing plays. He did allow some edge pressure but as always benefited from a quarterback with world class footwork.
Ben Grubbs: C (2.75) Didn't get much push in the running game and was constantly chasing his pass rushers, allowing Brees to get hit on a couple of occasions. He also allowed a delay draw to Sproles to get blown up with poor blocking. Not his best game, but he wasn't awful either.
Brian de la Puente: B+ (2.52) Good physical presence on the interior and clean pass protection. He's cheap labor for the Saints at the moment as an undrafted free agent and fantastic value as a starter.
Jahri Evans: A- (2.98) Another rock solid performance showing from a deserving pro bowl lineman. His blocking and lateral movement is just fun to watch, and his dominance in the trenches is undervalued due to the team's refusal to run the ball.
Zach Strief: C- (2.17) At times he was fantastic but he allowed two crucial sacks to Charles Johnson by flat out getting beat.
Eric Olsen: C- (2.29) He looked lost and didn't get the usual push off the edge. Weak showing.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Lance Moore