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Denver Broncos vs. New Orleans Saints: Behind the stats and game tidbits

Some things you might not have seen in Sunday’s loss to the Broncos.

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NFL: Denver Broncos at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints failed to crack the .500 barrier when they were upset by the visiting Denver Broncos on Sunday. The Saints have plenty of football left, and certainly have a lot to look forward in underwhelming division and conference play. Here’s a few things from Week 10’s matchup, as we shift gears to Thursday Night Football.

First, the Pro Football Focus grades:

Offense: Brandin Cooks (81.6), Willie Snead (76.8), Senio Kelemete (73.2), Coby Fleener (72.4), Max Unger (72.3)

Defense: Cameron Jordan (90.0), Craig Robertson (84.3), Sterling Moore (83.7), Dannell Ellerbe (81.6), Nick Fairley (80.3)

The Good Stuff (from Pro Football Focus)

  • Two fumbles resulted in the first below-average overall grade of the year for WR Michael Thomas. Conversely, Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks were the two highest-graded offensive players for the Saints after hauling in a combined eight catches in 11 targets for three touchdowns. All three still rank among the top 17 receivers in overall grade with Thomas still leading the group at no.14, despite his poor outing on Sunday.
  • Drew Brees saw pressure on 41 percent of his dropbacks, roughly 20% more often than his NFL-low average coming into the game. He actually graded better when Denver's rush got to him with a 149.0 passer rating on those plays, down from an 83.8 mark when passing from a clean pocket.
  • Brees was 3-for-3 with a perfect 158.3 passer rating on play-action passes. For the season, the Brees has executed a run fake on only 16.1 percent of his dropbacks, the 29th-lowest rate out of 34 QBs.
  • Coming into Sunday's game, 11 personnel was the Saints' most frequently used offensive personnel group, by far. They employed 11 on roughly 65 percent of offensive snaps with 21 their second-most used grouping at 10.4%. But against the Broncos, 12 was their most used personnel group and they played 24 snaps with either two or three tight ends on the field.
  • This was RT Zach Strief's first below-average game of the season (46.0 overall). He went slightly positive in the run game, but allowed a team-high four pressures in 31 pass blocking snaps. Three of the four pressures were against Von Miller, who rushed 21 out of 24 times from the offensive right side.
  • Season-high grade for DE Cameron Jordan against Denver's right tackles Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo. Involved in a team-high six defensive stops and converted nine of his 45 pass rushes into pressure. His grade was the highest of all edge defenders this week.
  • Safety Kenny Vaccaro was one of only a handful of Saint defenders to grade poorly (33.4 overall). He had a particularly rough time in run defense, while in in coverage, outside of a third quarter interception, Vaccaro allowed catches on four of five targets for 54 yards.
  • This was also Vonn Bell's best game of the season (83.0 overall), mostly due to his work in run defense, where he compiled three stops. In coverage he was picked on early, but didn't surrender a catch past the first quarter. Bell played every defensive snap for the fourth-straight game and has missed just five snaps since Week 4.
  • DT Sheldon Rankins followed his above-average regular season debut with a mixed performance against the Broncos in 48 snaps. He was decent rushing the passer, converting 35 rushes into four pressures, including his first career sack. But in run defense there was more negative than positive as Rankins struggled against Denver's double teams.
  • Rough game for CB Delvin Breaux (45.5 overall), who was aligned opposite WR Demaryius Thomas on 25 of his 45 coverage snaps. On those plays he was thrown at seven times, allowing six catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Collectively Denver converted on nine of 13 throws into Breaux's coverage, which resulted in a 110.7 passer rating.

Team Tidbits

  • Drew Brees finished with 3 touchdown passes, putting him at 452 for his career. He joined the likes of Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Favre (508) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 450 touchdowns.
  • Nick Fairley’s sack earned him $250,000 as part of his bonus incentive program. He can pick up a total of $500,000 more by getting to 5.5 and 7.0 sacks.
  • Entering the game, the Saints managed just 11.0 sacks through their first eight games. Six different players (Jordan, Fairley, Ellerbe, Vaccaro, Robertson, Rankins) had sacks against the Broncos.
  • Dennis Allen’s defense allowed 11-of-19 3rd Down conversions on the day.