Saints vs. Packers: Final Report Card, Grades for New Orleans
The New Orleans Saints walked into Lambeau Field and had the Packers right where they wanted them. Leading 27-21 with about nine minutes to go, and possessing the football, the Saints only needed to run the football effectively. If they could possess the ball for four minutes and score a touchdown or field goal, they would have left Lambeau with their first win of the year.
Instead, Pete Carmichael called three straight passing plays. The Saints went three-and-out, the Packers came back and not surprisingly scored easily.
The rest is history. Garrett Hartley missed a 48-yard field goal, after making a 43-yarder which was nullified by a bad holding call against Dave Thomas. And that was that. Game over, essentially.
Quarterback Drew Brees
Overall Game Grade--A
Drew Brees had his finest game of the year. Sure he escaped one or two possible interceptions, he didn't throw any today. That is certainly a positive to take home for he and the team. In fact the team won the turnover battle 2-0.
And Brees was efficient to say the least. His throws were as spot on as they've been all year. You might say this is the Brees we've always known. Minus some of the protection issues, the New Orleans Saints offense was flawless when Brees dropped back to pass. Well I should also add: minus the drops.
The point is that Brees was outstanding throughout the contest. He was a true leader and nearly gritted his team to the victory.
Tying Johnny Unitas for the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass made this one a little sweeter.
Thomas’ numbers were not good. Much like the rest of the running game, Thomas was limited by the number of reps he was given and the fact he was asked to run against an eight-man box. But even in the screen game and the rest of the passing game, Thomas did little to prove he is the Saints best player, as I labeled him thusly earlier this week.
Ingram was asked to run against loaded boxes on a number of occasions. It’s impossible to blame Ingram for his paltry numbers on the afternoon. There isn’t much else to say about Ingram’s day.
The key play that stands out in my mind is Sproles’ drop on third down in the flat when the Saints could have held onto the football longer and either drove down to the goalline and scored a touchdown or at least held onto the ball long enough to end the game with a field goal.
At least Sproles continued to make some nice plays in the passing game as a receiver—most notably the touchdown he hauled in the whip route he caught at the five and ran the rest of the way even with two Packers’ defenders in front of him.
For a guy who wasn’t cleared to play until an hour or so before the game, Marques Colston’s impact on this particular football was more than outstanding. He crushed it. He regularly created space and got open against the Packers secondary. He dropped a few passes, which is the only reason he does not earn a straight up A. His ability to get open over the middle and haul in some huge third down conversions made his impact crucial.
Though Lance Moore made some beautiful catches, he also had a few key drops on the afternoon, and a few of them were nearly picked off on the ricochet. An interception would have been the fault of Moore and no one else.
Henderson was rarely used Sunday in the passing game, catching one deep out route. He may have even lost his primary deep threat role to Joseph Morgan.
Morgan didn’t do much, except use his blazing speed to pick on Sam Shields who he ran right at, causing the veteran corner to shut his feet down. Morgan used that to get about 10 steps on him and caught Drew Brees’ long pass. Morgan did the rest, using his track-like speed to finish the longest play of the Saints’ season.
Graham was used early and often Sunday against Green Bay. Much like Colston, Graham found himself open over the middle quite often. In fact, Sunday was one of the few times Graham didn’t get popped hard while going over the middle. He created great space and had little trouble earning yards after the catch.
Though Thomas made his first memorable catch of the season, it was the holding call on the made field goal that will be remembered at the end of this game. Thomas finally played a role in the Saints’ offense, and that is a small part of why the team looked better than it has through the first three games.
LT Jermon Bushrod—Grade—B+
Bushrod did a good job of keeping pass rushers away from Brees on the day. Most of the created pressure from Green Bay was from the inside. In the Saints’ blocking schemes, that is not the fault of Bushrod by any nature.
LG Ben Grubbs—Grade—B
It would be easy to blame Grubbs for some of the protection issues, especially as I mentioned that most of the Packers’ pressure came from inside the tackles. But Grubbs also did a great job on some of the few runs in his direction. And the pancake block he had in the third quarter was too good to overlook.
C Brian de la Puente—Grade—C
When a team is getting beat with interior pressure, the center is the easy guy to blame. In the case of de la Puente, that seems to be a fair assessment. Not only is he responsible for the line calls, but he needs to make sure stunts and A gap blitzes do not beat the line. Sunday that is how Green Bay got home.
RG Jahri Evans—Grade—D
Evans is generally thought of as one of the best guards in the league. But he had a key holding penalty early in the football game and was a culprit in the difficulties the Saints occasionally had in pass pro. Additionally, he was unable to open a chunk of holes when the Saints ran to the right.
RT Zach Strief—Grade—C
The good news is that this week Strief doesn’t have to feel as if he is ultimately responsible for the loss. The bad news of course is that Strief’s performance still was not great. Though he wasn’t responsible for any particular sack, pressure was still created by getting around Strief.
DE Will Smith—Grade—B-
Smith nearly got to Aaron Rodgers on two consecutive plays. Aside from those two plays, Smith was neutralized. He and the rest of the d-line did a better job of making life tough for the Packers’ running game, and that is the primary reason he gets a grade close to B.
DT Brodrick Bunkley—Grade—C
Bunkley was better Sunday than he’s been, which is true of the entire defensive line. But he still isn’t making any plays that help teammates stop the run. And he certainly isn’t making any stops himself.
DT Sedrick Ellis—Grade—C
Ellis continued his string of average to below average performances. He did nothing to make life difficult on Aaron Rodgers, and his play against the run was nothing more than average, as usual.
DE Cameron Jordan—Grade—B-
Jordan had his least impressive game of the season. He was unable to beat a poor offensive line, and especially poor tackles. His play in the running game was OK. All in all, Jordan can play a whole lot better.
DT Tom Johnson—Grade—B
Johnson was most notably seen with his helmet off after making some hay. His effort alone seemed to spark some renewed interest from the group of Saints defenders. But his actual performance wasn’t any better than anyone else’s.
DT Akiem Hicks—Grade—C
It’s hard to imagine Hicks did anything wrong when he wasn’t in the game as much as a week ago (don’t quote me on that). But he was seen four yards off the ball on a zone running play, which should never happen.
DE Junior Galette—Grade—Incomplete
I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember seeing Junior Galette in the game. Perhaps he made an appearance. If he did, he gets an “F” for not even being seen anywhere near Aaron Rodgers.
MLB Curtis Lofton—Grade—A
Lofton seemed like the only player who wanted to make a tackle all day long for the Saints. Sure he didn’t make a big play as we hoped, but his play allowed the Saints other talented defenders to do things they are capable of doing.
OLB Scott Shanle—Grade—D
Perhaps I’m too hard on Shanle, but he can’t cover a soul. He was regularly beat in coverage. I understand he is not the athletic guy that David Hawthorne is, or that his eventual replacement will be, but Shanle just has to do a better job of staying with guys in space.
OLB Will Herring—Grade—D
Starting for David Hawthorne, Will Herring did nothing. Literally he did nothing. I’m not even sure he played. That is partially because the Saints played a ton of nickel and dime defenses Sunday. Nonetheless, to not record a tackle, while playing linebacker, is bad.
CB Jabari Greer—Grade—C+
I nearly gave Greer a “D” for his efforts Sunday. But then I remembered he was still the team’s best corner Sunday despite the fact he got beat multiple times by James Jones. It really isn’t his fault that James Jones made what a friend of mine called a “Madden catch” against him. It is on him that he got burnt so bad on a slant early in the second quarter for an easy Green Bay touchdown.
CB Corey White—Grade—C
Corey White wasn’t that bad. I mean he wasn’t the one regularly getting beat by Green Bay receivers. He did pass off Greg Jennings in the end zone on a zone coverage when he should have stayed with him. Aaron Rodgers immediately hit Jennings for an easy touchdown.
Robinson got torched one time after another Sunday. Whether it was Jordy Nelson or James Jones, Robinson looked lost and couldn’t stay with anyone. But he did make amends when he undercut a route and made a great leaping interception in the third quarter. It was quite an odd day for P-Rob Sunday.
S Roman Harper—Grade—B
Roman Harper was never targeted or responsible for any big pass plays Sunday. In fact, his coverage Sunday, in limited opportunities was quite good. Interestingly he also played a little bit of linebacker in six DB subpackages. He tackled well—in fact he was the best tackler overall.
S Malcolm Jenkins—Grade—C+
As much as I love Malcolm Jenkins I continue to be underwhelmed by his performance. Though Steve Spagnuolo is putting him in more unique positions to allow him to make plays, he simply is not. You can joke about the whole bounty thing today, and yes he did recover the fumble that resulted from that. But Jenkins can be so much better. He is the most talented player on this defense, and he is not playing like it.
Overall Game Grade--B
After starting the season with great special teams performances in the season's first two games, the unit has taken a bit of a step back in this area in the past two games.
It isn't only the struggles of Garrett Hartley and Thomas Morstead in the kicking game. It's also the difficulty to regularly gain field position advantage in the return game.
P Thomas Morstead—Grade—B-
Morstead did a great job in the fourth quarter of trapping Randall Cobb on the sideline with a punt. But he also shanked one, and was not fully his usual self as a placekicker.
K Garrett Hartley—Grade—B
I am not going to blame Garrett Hartley for not making the second field goal, the one that counted. He had already made one. If anyone else out there who is writing about that kick, or reading my estimation, thinks they could make that second kick. Go get an open tryout for the Saints’ kicking job. Do it!
Overall Game Grade--B-
There were certain elements of the Saints coaching approach that worked well Sunday. Carmichael was excellent in the particular pass plays he called.
Spagnuolo excelled in keeping the ball in front of him. Green Bay did not hit a pass over the top of the defense. Kromer made a good decision to call a timeout when it appeared the Saints were going to get a delay of game penalty on a key fourth down.
But so much also went wrong. The lack of commitment to a running game is most notable. And the lack of a pass rush only magnified the Saints struggles in pass coverage. Those were the worst issues on the day.
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