Why can't the offense be like 80% this good on the road? This was a vintage performance by the Saints offense at home as they put up 42 on the 13th best defense in the NFL.This despite the customary mediocre job on the ground. No matter, the Saints were so explosive in the passing game they left the Bucs no chance in this game. Would love to see them play like this in the playoffs, the team might actually have a chance. The disparity between the way this unit performs at home versus on the road is staggering. On to the grades!
Drew Brees: A+ for the game (3.04 for the season) Ralph Malbrough says I grade him hard but this is his fourth A+ of the season. To be fair, when he has time to throw this is what he does. He was 24 of 31 for 381 yards, 4 touchdown and no turnovers, doing most of his damage in the first half. He also scrambled for a 9 yard touchdown run. Oh, and I think he cured a few forms of cancer.
Mark Ingram: B- (2.24) He had 3 carries for 20 yards and a catch for 4 yards. Four touches. I'm not sure if he's being saved for the playoffs? Part of me wonders if in a cold weather game the Saints are just going to pound him with wreckless abandon. Then again, maybe he's just been completely phased out of the offense. Either way, it's too bad he's not seeing the ball more because he's been running the ball well recently.
Pierre Thomas: C (2.64) He's struggled lately and he was on his way to another poor grade but I give him some credit for the 8 yard touchdown run on a surprise 3rd down carry. He's slow to the hole and seems to be getting no traction in the run game at all lately. He had 7 carries for 20 yards, the touchdown and a catch for 3 yards.
Darren Sproles: C (2.57) On his punt returns he always seems to call the fair catch at the wrong time, and he had a nice kick return negated by a penalty. On offense his runs were completely sniffed out with 3 carries for -1 yards. He had just 2 catches for 30 yards, but his 24 yarder down the sideline was almost a touchdown as he had one man to beat. Besides the one big play he was held very quiet, and has been like Thomas held in check as of late.
Khiry Robinson: B (2.47) The best back of the game for the Saints I thought. He saw most of his reps later in the game but made the most of him. Unfortunately he had a beautiful 20+ yarder called back by a hold. He finished with 50 tough yards on 12 carries. Don't be surprised if you see a little bit of him in the playoffs.
Jed Collins: B- (2.54) He's really become a good short yardage back option as the season has progressed. He converted a key 4th and short early and had 2 carries for 3 yards. He also had a reception for 2 yards and his biggest help was in play action where he would do a terrific job of helping in protection. His run blocking was overall good, but he was guilty of the holding call that negated the 24 yard Robinson run on 4th and 3 in the 4th quarter and forced the Saints to punt.
Marques Colston: B (2.87) He was mostly used underneath in this one and didn't really get behind the Bucs much but did pick up a couple valuable first downs. He had 6 catches for 67 yards and helped the Saints move the ball by always being a reliable target for Brees. His hands continue to be top notch. Another solid season for him.
Lance Moore: B+ (2.32) He scored the first touchdown of the game getting behind the Bucs on a deep ball for 44 yards. He finished the game with 4 catches for 73 yards and the score. While he's put up decent stat lines as of late, he didn't fill up the stat sheet in garbage time this game, instead making a meaningful contribution early. One of his better games of the season, and he even had a nice after the catch stiff arm and run, showing some strength for his smaller frame.
Kenny Stills: B (2.46) He had the stupid penalty on Moore's touchdown which set the Bucs up with good field position. But his lone catch was a special one, a 76 yard bomb for a touchdown where he got behind the defense. I wish we had seen more of those this year. Priority #1 for this team next year is to get a receiver with top end speed, unless Stills can develop into that. A big time play by Stills, though, who had a good rookie campaign. 641 yards and 5 scores on the season are great numbers.
Jimmy Graham: B+ (3.00) I really thought the Bucs would do a better job slowing him down after he torched them so badly in the first time these two teams played. But nope, he had 5 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Graham ends the season as the second best graded offensive player for the season behind Brees.
Benjamin Watson: B- (2.47) His blocking was useful, especially in pass protection, and he had a 7 yard reception that could have gone for me if he could have broken the tackle. He was also open on a deep ball but Brees overthrew him.
Joshua Hill: C+ (2.10) He made a return and got some playing time this week, finishing the game with some good blocking and an underneath delay 8 yard reception.
Terron Armstead: B- (1.67) He technically gave up the lone sack to Adrian Clayborn, but Brees fell into him trying to avoid Gerald McCoy who got the initial pressure… so I don't blame Armstead for that. Armstead had a TON of help in this game but held up well overall. The times he was left out on an island I thought he did pretty good. Edge pressure came from the right more times than the left, which is the way it should be. An encouraging improvement after the disaster last week, and he threw a nice block on the PT touchdown run.
Ben Grubbs: B (2.36) He was blocked for an illegal block in the back that would not prevent the Saints from getting a touchdown anyway. Otherwise, I thought he was on point. His pass blocking in particular was outstanding, and he too had a terrific block to help score PT. He may not be deserving of a Pro Bowl this year, but he's still a very good football player when he's playing well.
Brian de la Puente: C+ (2.25) Too often he allows bad end pressure on delay runs to Sproles or Thomas that allow the play to get blown up. His blocking kept the pocket clean most of the day otherwise, but he's just not that dominant of a player. I wonder how much money he'll command as a UFA next season. It's a big question mark whether the Saints retain him or not.
Jahri Evans: B- (2.67) There is no doubt in my mind that Gerald McCoy is one of the very best in the league, bar none. Every time I watch him play I am blown away by how good he is. Evans went toe to toe with him and totally held his own for the most part, but got owned twice (once in pass protection, once on a running play). You'll have your ups and downs against McCoy to be sure, but he did a solid job.
Zach Strief: B (2.60) Another good day for Strief in protection, he's been one of the more reliable guys on the line this year… if not the most reliable. PFF has him graded as the top player on offense this season ahead of Brees and Graham, for what that's worth. I have him as the #2 lineman behind Evans, but he's a UFA I think they have to keep. He's a reliable pro right tackle in the league and a respected key locker room presence. He must be retained.
Bryce Harris: B- (2.13) As the "jumbo tight end" his help off the edge was an asset in this one.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees