The New Orleans Saints turned in a fairly poor effort against the Detroit Lions in Week 13, which puts their season on life support. Of course, maybe that’s just the optimistic side of things, as the Saints are realistically staring at their fourth losing season in the past five years. Without question, fans are up in their feels with another year of mediocrity looming.
Here’s the Pro Football Focus grades from the top players of the game, but that seems like a contradictory statement with the team losing.
Offense: Max Unger (72.6), Brandin Cooks (72.0), Zach Strief (70.9), Jahri Evans (69.7), Coby Fleener (69.4)
Defense: Kenny Vaccaro (84.4), Cameron Jordan (81.9), Jairus Byrd (81.1), Craig Robertson (74.7), David Onyemata (72.3)
The Good Stuff (from Pro Football Focus)
- After a catchless Week 12, Brandin Cooks saw a team-high nine targets, tied for the most he's seen in a game this year, and caught seven of those for 73 yards. He ended up gaining negative yards after the catch, though, after averaging 5.0 YAC per reception coming into the game - the 25th-highest mark out of 85 receivers.
- Brees earned a season-low grade at quarterback, in part due to his struggles throwing the ball downfield; he completed just two of six attempts at intermediate distance (10-19 yards downfield), getting intercepted twice on those throws. He was pressured on less than 20 percent of his dropbacks, below his league-low 23.0% season average, but struggled when the Lions got there, finishing with just a 25.6 passer rating.
- With most of the Saints' offense grading near average overall, Andrus Peat was one of the outliers, along with Brees, after filling in for Terron Armstead once again at left tackle. In 48 pass blocking snaps Peat allowed seven pressures, two of which were nullified by penalty, with multiple coming against DE Ezekiel Ansah.
- All of Detroit's pressure came from the edge against Peat and Zach Strief, while the interior line collectively finished with a clean sheet in pass protection. After 13 weeks, center Max Unger still ranks first at the position in pass blocking efficiency, while Jahri Evans ranks 13th among guards with 17 pressures allowed in 513 pass blocking snaps.
- Saints were back to 11 personnel on two-thirds of their snaps, after featuring more two-and-three tight sets in recent weeks. Josh Hill played only 10 snaps, down from 58 in Week 12, while Coby Fleener saw an increase from 18 a week ago to 41 snaps against Detroit. Fleener saw seven passes go his way, second-most among the Saints receivers, and the most he's seen since Week 3.
- The Saints defense got to QB Matt Stafford on 19 percent of his dropbacks, but he was effective moving outside of the pocket and eluding the Saints' rush - his 134.7 passer rating under pressure was better than his average from a clean pocket (104.6). The Saints also blitzed frequently, sending extra rushers on roughly 60 percent of Detroit's passes, above their league-leading average of 42%.
- Safety Kenny Vaccaro was the highest-graded player on defense. He compiled a team-high four defensive stops, and despite being thrown at a team-high nine times in coverage, those plays resulted in only five catches for 23 yards and a 60.9 opposing passer rating, the lowest mark of any Saint who was targeted.
- Delvin Breaux struggled once again, grading below average (45.9) for the third time in his last three games. He made two plays in the third quarter to cut off WR Andre Roberts' route, but otherwise was flagged twice for coverage penalties and ended the game with five catches allowed for 97 yards.
- The Saints defense had another solid tackling effort, missing only four attempts against the Lions. For the season, the unit has collectively missed 69 tackles, which is good for the fifth-lowest MT rate in the NFL - a sizable improvement after the team finished the last two seasons among the 10-highest averages.
- Nick Fairley had a fairly quiet game against his former team. He finished with his worst pass rush output since Week 3, generating only one pressure in 39 pass rushes, and that play - a fourth quarter a bullrush against left guard Larry Warford - was nullified by penalty.
- Without a touchdown pass, Drew Brees saw his consecutive touchdown pass streak at home of 60 games end. The streak dated back to Oct. 4, 2009 against the New York Jets.
- Drew Brees played in his 170th-career game as a Saint, moving him into a tie with Derland Moore for eighth place on the club’s all-time games played list. Sunday marked Brees’ 104th game with at least 300 yards passing, extending his NFL record.
- Mark Ingram has totaled 1,022 yards from scrimmage, as is the first Saints player to have 1,000 yards from scrimmage in three-consecutive seasons since Marques Colston did so from 2009-12.
- John Kuhn posted his fourth rushing touchdown on the season, matching a career-high set in 2010 and 2011.
- Dannell Ellerbe picked up a sack and now has sacks in four-consecutive games for the first time in his career. Ellerbe became the first Saint with at least one sack in four-consecutive contests since Will Smith tallied sacks in five-consecutive games from Nov. 2-Nov. 30, 2009.
- Zach Strief played in his 152nd-career game, surpassing Jim Dombrowski and moving into sole possession of 11th place on the club’s all-time games played list.