New Orleans Saints Awards: Week 1 MVP, LVP and Top Rookie
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
The biggest win for the New Orleans Saints came off the field this week, when the bounty scandal players won their appeal, lifting their suspensions.
The Saints seemed to lack focus in the season opener, or maybe it was an underestimation of Robert Griffin III’s NFL debut. Either way, RGIII forced the team from the Big Easy into a difficult situation, one even Drew Brees couldn’t overcome.
Griffin’s stat-line from Sunday’s game is outstanding for a rookie, proving he may have deserved to go first overall in April's draft. He didn’t, and the Washington Redskins will be grateful he didn’t for years to come.
RGIII went 19-for-26 through the air for 320 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, the rookie didn’t throw an interception. He also chipped in with 10 rushes for 42 yards.
It seemed like every bounce went the Redskins’ way in Week 1. Griffin fumbled, but the ‘Skins recovered. On the verge of swinging the momentum, the Saints fumble on the goal line and it rolls out the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Despite a tough 40-32 loss to the Redskins, the Saints did some productive things in this one. Here is the most valuable player, least valuable player and top rookie from Week 1.
Most Valuable Player: Lance Moore
Lance Moore's fourth quarter was worth smiling about. The rest of the game isn't for the Saints.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The offense failed to get into a consistent groove against a Redskins defense that finished 13th in total defense last season. Even Drew Brees, one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history, failed to get going. He completed just 24 of 52 passes.
Despite a struggling offense, the MVP for this week goes to slot receiver Lance Moore. Moore finished the day with six catches for 120 yards and a 33-yard touchdown, all in the fourth quarter.
His 33-yard score came on a big fourth-and-10 conversion for the Saints that finished a six-play 58 yard drive. Moore had two catches for 45 yards on the drive that brought New Orleans within eight points.
The drive left Moore and company down 33-25 with just more than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The seventh-year pro took over the game in the fourth quarter, becoming Brees’ top target. Devery Henderson, the Saints’ No. 2 receiver left the game after taking a shot to the head in the third quarter. His absence gave way to Moore’s great quarter.
Moore’s 120 yards is the second-highest total in his career. He had 149 yards against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 24, 2010 in a 27-24 overtime loss.
Expect more from Moore going forward, especially if they Saints can’t get consistent production out of Henderson.
New Orleans Saints' Special Teams
The Saints special teams unit blocked a punt late in the first half and returned it for a touchdown―a huge momentum boost for New Orleans heading into the half. The unit also helped Darren Sproles earn a 34.3 yard per return average on kickoffs.
Kicker Garrett Hartley went 3-for-3 on extra points and hit a chip-shot 21-yard field goal. Punter Thomas Morstead had a 55.6-yard average on his five punts.
Least Valuable Player: New Orleans Saints' Defense
Atypical of the Saints, there is more competition for this “honor” than for most valuable player. In a week where it seemed every break went to the Redskins, the Saints made enough of their own mistakes to cost them a win.
This week’s LVP goes to the New Orleans defense. Instead of singling out a specific player, the entire defensive unit can shoulder this load in Week 1.
The game plan was ineffective. Execution of the game plan was even worse. The Saints gave up too many big plays to the ‘Skins and didn’t do their offense any favors by allowing RGIII to carve them up on a consistent basis.
The Saints are typically a 60-40 pass-to-rush team. Last season, they had 431 rush attempts and 662 pass attempts (60.8 percent).
Sunday, the Redskins took that balance out of their hands. Brees threw the ball 52 times. The Saints had just 10 rush attempts for 32 yards―nearly 84 percent of the snaps were passes.
That lack of balance was caused by two independent factors, an ineffective rushing game and giving up points on each of the Redskins’ first four possessions.
Washington led 20-7 midway through the second quarter. RGIII threw two touchdown passes, including an 88-yarder to Pierre Garcon to earn the early lead.
The Saints defense finished 30th in the NFL last season in total defense, giving up 259.8 yards per game. In Week 1, they gave up 464 yards.
In 2011, New Orleans held teams to 21.2 points per game. Washington put 40 on the board.
It was a poor effort by the defense, but they weren’t alone.
Marques Colston: For his fumble late in the first half that would have brought the Saints within six points.
Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas: 10 carries for 32 combined yards. An ineffective rushing game only compacted the Saints’ problems late in the game.
Top Rookie: Corey White
Corey White takes top rookie honors this week for his five-tackle performance Sunday.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The award for top rookie goes to defensive back Corey White, by default. The Saints have just four rookies on their active roster and White was the only one who received significant playing time.
Despite the Saints secondary giving up 320 yards through the air and allowing RGIII to complete 73 percent of his passes, the rookie will have a lot to learn from this game. That should benefit the Saints in the later weeks.
White had five tackles including a solo tackle. White finished tied for fifth on the team in total tackles. He also recorded a QB hit in his first career start.
The Samford University product has a lot to learn about covering NFL-caliber receivers. A game like this can be a great motivator, especially with a leader like Drew Brees in the locker room.