The offense didn't have one of their best performances by any means, but got the job done. The offensive line continues to be the achilles heel of the entire team, but they had a mediocre game this week which I view as an improvement. The running game was decent early, just good enough to force the Bears to passively pay attention to it. That helped the passing game and protection a bit, I think. As the game wore on, though, and when the Saints tried to kill the game, the running game and line play seemed to get a lot worse. Brees was sacked twice and still hit too many times, but there were many times were the protection was outstanding too. But as the defense started to cave a bit in the second half, the offense did a good job of bleeding out the clock to secure the victory. I would've preferred more than 6 half points, though, and a field goal following the Jay Cutler fumble was very disapointing. On to the grades…
Drew Brees: A- (3.27) His accuracy, decision making and ability to get the ball out quickly was on point all game. The only small thing I would point out is that he seemed to complete balls 1-2 yards short of the first down marker often. He finished 29 of 35 for 288 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. I liked seeing him have no turnovers for the second straight week. He was content settling for short throws most of the game and only took a few shots downfield – mostly with success.
Pierre Thomas: B (2.47) I had a really hard time deciding on his final grade. If you look at stats, 19 carries for 36 yards is obviously awful. He also had 9 catches for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns. I can't even remember the last time PT had 28 touches, a very heavy workload for him indeed. He did run hard, and possibly his best run was a 4th and 1 2 yard surge that'll show up on the stat sheet as 2 yards but was incredibly tough. He actually had numerous solid runs early in the game, but his stats look worse because of a lot of short yardage situations and some times getting dropped for a loss in the backfield due to poor blocking. But PT was a huge part of the passing game, constantly giving Brees a reliable safety valve. His receptions were a critical extension of the running game. He also did a fantastic job carrying a tackler into the end zone on his first score, and pulled off his trademark screen pass big play for his second score. He was hit hard and often and you have to give him credit for his usual effort and toughness. He also slipped a couple of times due to miserable footing.
Darren Sproles: C+ (3.07) Anytime Sproles made a cut he seemed to fall. PT had trouble with the footing but for Sproles it was even worse. Because his game relies so heavy on his ability to stop on a dime and quickly change direction, the conditions affected him probably more than any player on the field. He had 3 carries for 10 yards and 3 catches for 31 yards. He was a non factor in the return game.
Khiry Robinson: C (2.55) He had one nice run and in limited play he gave good effort. A quiet day, though, with just 3 carries for 9 yards.
Jed Collins: B+ (2.33) He had 3 carries for 11 yards, including two carries in short yardage situations that gave theSaints a first down. He had some terrific lead blocks in the running game and also had 4 catches for 17 yards. He may not see 7 more touches in his career in the NFL. Crazy involvement in this one, and he played more with the Saints' commitment to the run.
Marques Colston: C (2.80) He had just 2 catches for 15 yards, one of his quietest games in his career as a Saint. On one he did a good job falling forward for a first down. On the other, he could have shown better awareness to stretch for a first down before being downed (he was on the ground after the catch).
Robert Meachem: C- (1.92) He was only targeted once and seemed to be in more often when the Saints were running the ball. He didn't seem to get open and Brees didn't look his way. On the lone target he was open and had a step behind the Bears' defense, but late contact and a jersey pull by Chris Conte that went unflagged caused Meachem to be short to that ball.
Nick Toon: C+ (2.17) He didn't play much but came up with a big time 35 yard reception getting behind the Bears' defense. he absorbed a huge hit on the play and did a good job of hanging on to the ball and falling forward. I did notice him get blown up on a route, too, and at his size he shouldn't be getting pushed around like that.
Kenny Stills: D (2.13) He was thrown to twice. The first was a deep ball to the end zone in traffic and he had a chance at a contested ball that could have just as easily been intercepted. Stills did a good job of being physical there to at least ensure the incompletion. He also had a wide open play at the second level that could've led to a first down and a huge gain but he dropped a ball right in his hands. That ball is a catch that almost any receiver in the NFL makes in his sleep and I know he wishes he had that one back. Better days ahead for him.
Jimmy Graham: A- (3.60) 10 catches for 135 yards. It's getting to the point where he just does what he wants every single week. I gave him a – because he could have used a little more physicality falling forward for a couple first downs he was stopped just short of. For such a big physical specimen he seems to sometimes let much smaller defenders take him down with ease. But once again he was the cog of the Saints' offensive wheel. He's going to get a huge contract and he deserves it. If he stays healthy his numbers will be obscene by year's end.
Benjamin Watson: B- (2.49) He was only targeted once on a ball downfield where he was overthrown. I gave him a good grade for two reasons: one, he was terrific helping the tackles in pass protection and two, he comes up with a clutch recovery of the onsides kick which was not easy. While he's not getting a chance to showcase his real talent catching passes yet, he is helping the Saints in other areas.
Charles Brown: B- (1.87) Matched up against Julius Peppers for the majority of the game, he held his own. Of course he gave up pressures and benefited from Brees' pocket awareness, but overall this was a decent showing from Brown. Peppers had almost zero impact whatsoever on this game. He had one holding penalty declined and did an ok job run blocking. In my opinion this was his best game of the season.
Ben Grubbs: C (1.80) Grubbs has looked pretty average to me all season. He's getting blown up way too often in the run game. You'd live with it if he was giving you the pass protection from last season, but he's not doing that either at least in part because he's not as comfortable playing with Charles Brown yet. My guess is he might have added responsibility to help out Brown and it's causing poor play of his own.
Brian de la Puente: B- (2.13) Decent performance from BDLP who seemed to throw some of his best blocks in the trenches in short yardage situations. Give him credit for the improved physicality in the interior this week. Like every one else on this line he cannot sustain it for a full game, though.
Jahri Evans: C+ (2.00) He gave up a sack and continues to look banged up with his hamstring. It's causing him to move slow laterally and it's affecting his ability to get push. At times he was very clearly limping. He played hard though and you have to give him credit for trying to tough this out. The bye week can't get here quick enough for Jahri. He did have some devastating blocks in open space on pulls and screens, so it wasn't all bad.
Zach Strief: B- (2.67) Other than one pass blocking play where he totally whiffed and almost got Brees killed, he was pretty solid and had some welcomed help in protection from Watson. His run blocking was up and down like everyone else, but it was good early when the Saints were getting some decent gains.
Bryce Harris: C (2.00) Little impact coming in as the jumbo tight end to help the team have size off the edge.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees