Chiefs vs. Saints: Final Report Card, Player Grades for New Orleans
The Kansas City Chiefs came into New Orleans and did what few nationally thought they could do; win. Behind five Ryan Succop field goals, the Chiefs escaped the Crescent City with a dramatic and strange 27-24 overtime win that brought them to 1-2 on the year.
The hometown Saints dropped to unidentifiable and unimaginable 0-3 on the 2012 campaign. Even more than any other team, this team is starting to question its coaching staff, players and program. Losing at home to a team as bad as Kansas City will do that.
It's time to figure things out in New Orleans. The start is identifying the problem. We'll try to do that here.
Quarterback Drew Brees
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Overall Game Grade--B-
It wasn't all Drew Brees' fault that he or the team sucked. He was constantly under incredible pressure in the second half. He did everything he could to find open receivers and made some pretty good throws most of the time. His receivers continue to drop passes even on the best of Brees' throws.
If it weren't for Brees, who knows how bad this team and/or offense would look.
His QB Rating comes in much higher than the previous two games, and his 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is better than it's been this year.
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Thomas may not have put up the gawdy numbers he did last week in Carolina. But Thomas continued to make plays that were nearly unimaginable. His catch and wide open run to the end zone in the second quarter was a Sportscenter Top 10 play, even though it was called back after video review. Additionally, he had a tremendous blitz pickup in the first half that should not be forgotten, and should be applauded in the film room Monday.
His connection with Brees on “Oh-Crap-We’re-Screwed plays has bailed the offense out at least twice in the first three games of the year. If the Saints had 53 Pierre Thomas’s, the team would have won this game, and at least two of the first three games of the year.
Ingram barely saw the field Sunday, a week after one of his more impressive performances as a pro at Carolina. In limited action Ingram looked good as a runner, though he missed a blitz pickup—just one play before Thomas’ beautiful pickup of a blitz.
Part of this grade is an indictment on Sproles for his poor performance as a returner. As a runner he was outstanding, including his exciting scamper down the sideline on the game’s initial drive.
But his presence was missing in the passing game—where the Saints looked as lost as they ever have.
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Though Colston held onto the ball most of the time it was thrown his way (he did drop a touchdown pass early in the game), the veteran still wasn’t a difference maker Sunday. His injury is preventing him from getting the separation he’s been able to get in the past.
Moore was the Saints’ most productive receiver Sunday. His tip-toe, pylon-rubbing touchdown catch that was called back was a great catch on his part. Of course he also made a spectacular leaping/diving touchdown catch in the first quarter to give the Saints an early lead in the first quarter. But like Colston, his performance wasn’t game-altering.
During the game, tweets abounded on Devery’s hands. His gloves either had stick-em or Devery was borrowing someone else’s hands in this game. Either way, Henderson was the Saints’ pleasant surprise of this contest. Unfortunately, even the team’s pleasant surprise wasn’t enough.
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Sure Graham caught a touchdown pass and put up decent numbers throughout the week 3 contest. But even on his touchdown catch, Graham had butterfingers. He dropped the ball before dunking it over the goalpost.
And then throughout the remainder of the game, Graham’s hands were as reliable as the American education system (I can say that as I am a teacher).
Another game, another game in which Dave Thomas was underutilized.
Graham was utilized more than Dave Thomas, but his overall effectiveness was pretty much the same of Thomas.
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LT Jermon Bushrod—B+
As bad as the Saints were in just about every phase of the game Sunday, Jermon Bushrod stood out in a positive way. His downfield blocking allowed for two big plays from Saints running backs. And it was not his fault the Saints could not protect Drew Brees.
LG Ben Grubbs—B
Similar to Bushrod, Grubbs was large in the Saints’ ability to make big plays on the left side of the line. Unfortunately those were few and far between. Grubbs was not great in pass pro, but most of the pressure by Kansas City was created on the right side of the line.
C Brian de la Puente—B-
As we move further to the right of the line, the grades have decreased. Considering most of the pressure came from the middle and right of the offensive line, it only seems fair. In the running game, de la Puente was helpful but not so much in pass pro.
RG Jahri Evans—C+
Perhaps it’s sacrilegious to say that Jahri Evans was bad. But the reality is that Evans was not good in pass pro or the running game.
RT Zach Strief—D
Strief was awful Saturday. Many times over, Justin Houston beat him with a speed rush and even on occasion using a bull rush. Either way, Strief was overmatched Sunday against the younger and more athletic Houston.
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DT Sedrick Ellis—C+
Ellis did help provide pressure and make life tough on Chiefs’ QB Matt Cassel. But in the run game, Ellis got worked and over-pursued on many of the Chiefs’ inside running plays.
DT Brodrick Bunkley—D
No one expected Bunkley to provide a significant pass rush for the Saints. But no one envisioned Bunkley getting his butt kicked in the running game. In fact, he was supposed to make the Saints’ run defense one of the best in the league. Saturday he couldn’t clog a running lane or make a tackle. He was bad, and has been bad all season thus far.
DE Cameron Jordan—B+
Jordan continued Sunday to be the most improved Saints’ player in 2012. Though his play in the running game hasn’t been as good as a year ago, he has been wonderful in getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. He did not record a sack on Sunday, but he made life miserable on a number of pass plays for Matt Cassel.
DE Will Smith—B
Smith recorded his first sack of the season Sunday. And that was not the only time he in the backfield and making life tough for Matt Cassel. Unfortunately, the pressure seemed to come at the expense of excellence in the running game.
DE Junior Galette—C
Galette did little to show he’s capable of being a starting defensive end. He is more than capable of being the rush end the team has placed him in. But he does not contain the run any better than any player on the field in the base defense.
DE Martez Wilson—B
Wilson continued to play well on special teams, and finally got a significant amount of reps on defense. Unfortunately, he did little with those reps.
DT Akiem Hicks—B
Hicks’ presence in the run game was close to the lone bright spot, at least in that area of the game. He regularly clogged up running lanes and forced the football to the sideline. From there, the outside contain guys were able to slow down Jamaal Charles.
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MLB Curtis Lofton—B+
Lofton had his finest game of the season. He looked quicker in diagnosing plays, tracking them down and making the tackle. He came very near an interception or two and made some big time plays in this game. Eventually his presence in the middle will allow this defense to excel. It’s coming!
OLB David Hawthorne—B
It’s too bad Hawthorne left the game with an injury because he was playing his best football of the season. He was regularly around the football, making tackles and the like.
OLB Scott Shanle—C-
Shanle regularly looked lost in coverage. He got beat on a number of occasions and in no way helped the team in pass coverage. Yet, his performance could actually have been worse.
OLB Jonathan Casillas—B-
Casillas’s performance was 100 times better than Shanle’s, but that is an incredibly relative statement. Casillas got beat often too. At least my comfort level is a million times higher with Casillas in the game.
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CB Jabari Greer—B
Sunday was not Greer’s finest performance ever. He was beat by Dwayne Bowe a few times. But he also stepped in to intercept a Matt Cassel pass and almost took it all the way home for a touchdown. It’s too bad he did not, at least for him. It may have improved his grade to a “B+”.
CB Patrick Robinson—B-
Robinson was flagged for a pretty egregious pass interference penalty on one of Kansas City’s 80 second half field goal drives. But he was also the victim of a few possible offensive pass interferences courtesy of Dwayne Bowe.
CB Corey White—C
White did not cost his team anything in this game. But neither did he step up and do anything significant. It was pretty sad.
S Roman Harper—A-
Harper had two opportunities for an interception in the end zone. One would have been a ridiculous catch—and he was lucky to prevent Jon Baldwin from making the play—while the other he should have made. Harper actually had his best game against the run, despite the incredible numbers. It was by far his best game of the season.
S Malcolm Jenkins—C
It isn’t as if Jenkins had a poor game. He may have had his best game (sometimes as a safety it’s best to not have your name called). But Jenkins did not make an impact play when the team needed him to do so. For being such a talented player, Jenkins has struggled to make big plays.
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Overall Game Grade--B
For a unit that did not grade out lower than an "A-" in any quarter prior to this week, the unit was not itself Sunday. Some of that was to be expected given that Kansas City is one of the few teams in the league equal to the Saints in special teams play.
P Thomas Morstead—B+
To ever call Morstead’s performance disappointing or poor is odd. But it could be argued that his line drive kicks did not help the Saints’ coverage units Sunday. Since everyone is getting blame today, Morstead must as well.
K Garrett Hartley—C
Hartley missed a key field goal, which may have been one of the differences in winning and losing this particular game. Aside from the miss, Hartley was fine. But fine isn’t good enough when your team is 0-2.
Ace Courtney Roby—A-
Roby was one of the few players who actually excelled in this game. Even saying that seems wrong though. Roby really didn’t make any impact plays the way he did in the first two games of the year. But he was more solid than most guys on the team.
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Overall Game Grade--C
I didn't realize it was possible to be outcoached by Romeo Crennel. Yet, Aaron Kromer and the Saints' coaching staff found a way to make it happen.
The offensive play-calling wasn't horrific but it also didn't make things easy on Brees and the Saints' offense. Defensively the team could not figure out what Kansas City was doing in the running game (simple zone blocking and cut back).
The end result was very sad.
For once it is reasonable to blame the Saints' coaching staff. The two timeouts which gave Kansas City an easier third down conversion on the tying field goal were the fault of Aaron Kromer and Co.
And the lack of production in all three phases are ultimately their responsibility alone.
It's hard to determine exactly what the adjustment is that needs to be made to stop the run. But clearly Steve Spagnuolo needs to figure something out to slow down the Kansas City Chiefs and their running game in this game.
Pete Carmichael could be questioned for all the pass plays, but the Chiefs secondary is vulnerable. Overall the coaching staff is still not the primary issue.
Whether offensively, defensively, or in game management the Saints' coaching staff had a great second quarter. Only the team's execution could cloud what the coaching staff did in the quarter.
Steve Spagnuolo made great defensive adjustments in the quarter. And Pete Carmichael's offensive play-calling was as good as it's been at any time this season.
Pete Carmichael's initial game plan to start the game was a bit odd. But you have to love his power sweep toss call on third-and-two. The play ended up netting a 47-yard gain. It was refreshing to see Sproles actually garner a carry (after officially getting none in the first two games).
Defensively, Steve Spagnuolo's crew was a bit slow to adjust on their lone first quarter drive, but played solid football inside the red zone.
Aaron Kromer's decision to act as if the team would go for it on fourth-and-two before the first quarter ended was a wise one. The decision to then kick the field goal made a ton of sense.