Eagles vs. Saints: Final Report Card, Grade for New Orleans
Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory combined for 136 yards and a touchdown. Drew Brees threw for two scores and well over 230 yards. Meanwhile Patrick Robinson had a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown that began the Saints' scoring.
And the defense got Michael Vick to the Mercedes-Benz Superdom turf seven times on Monday Night Football. The Saints improved to 3-5 in the 2012 season.
Overall Game Grade--A-
It wasn't Drew Brees' finest game of his career. After all, he found himself strip-sacked twice in the contest. But he also routinely avoided pressure to make his offensive line look better than it played.
Brees took advantage of play-action to hit some big plays up the field and on both red zone scoring passes. Pete Carmichael's run-heavy game plan benefited Brees. Go figure.
Pierre Thomas took on Darren Sproles Monday night, and played it nearly to perfection. The numbers don’t indicate how brilliant Thomas was Monday night. His effect on the return game and passing game are secondary but just as instrumental to his role in the run game. All in all, Thomas was amazing.
I love Mark Ingram. I’ve defended him this entire season. Monday night, some of that faith paid off. More impressive than even some of his runs was the fact he caught the ball and looked explosive after the catch. This was definitely Ingram’s best game of the year, and probably his second best game as a pro.
Darren Sproles did not play due to surgery on his wrist.
As much as I like Ingram, I dislike Ivory almost as much. Yet, even I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that Chris Ivory had a positive influence on the New Orleans Saints’ offense Monday night. He ran with vigor and conviction and seemed to inspire Mark Ingram as well. His 22-yard rushing TD was the second most explosive running play of the Saints’ season.
For once Cadet got chances to touch the ball in the regular season. Unfortunately, he fumbled away a key opportunity. His to-the-house on an end-around, though, was beautiful and should net him more opportunities to touch the ball in the future.
Marques Colston caught a touchdown. He also made a string of other key catches. And he was effective in run blocking tonight. It wasn’t as big a game as he’s had this season. But it was very much effective.
You have to love Lance Moore’s versatility and ability to make big plays. He did an admirable job as a punt returner—as he hadn’t played back there in over two years. And ability to create space with his body and make tough catches was also on display Monday night. Loved his play tonight.
Devery Henderson has had better games. He got deep against Nnamdi Asomugha on a deep post and could not beat him or make a catch. He did make one or two easy catches though.
Joe Morgan was active this week. But he did nothing of note.
Courtney Roby did not play in this game due to an injury he sustained last week at Denver. His presence was not lost as much as supposed on special teams.
Jimmy Graham looked much more like Jimmy Graham than he did a week ago at Denver. The result was an impressive touchdown catch where he actually made a Philly defender miss in traffic.
He still dropped a couple key passes he should have had. And he struggled to make a Philly defender miss on a late fourth quarter catch where the team badly needed a first down. Nonetheless, it was a better effort on Monday night from Graham.
Thomas dressed but was rarely seen in the lineup and plays where he was even noticed were scarce. That’s the same thing I wrote about him last week. It should be noted, though, that he was effective as a blocker.
LT Jermon Bushrod—Grade—B
Jermon Bushrod did an admirable job of keeping Drew Brees’ pocket clean all night long and allowing him the space he needed to move within it and find open throwing lanes. And Bushrod did a nice job on the backside of the Saints’ run game.
LG Ben Grubbs—Grade—B
Copy and paste/read comments from Bushrod here to Grubbs. And no, that wasn’t a note I wrote to myself. Those are my actual thoughts.
C Brian de la Puente—Grade—C+
Brian de la Puente improved his play from a week ago against Denver. Most of the pressure Drew Brees faced came from the right side. And de la Puente played a crucial role in opening holes in the running game.
RG Jahri Evans—Grade—B
Jahri Evans did an excellent job in the running game, which is literally one of the first times I’ve ever typed that sentence. It feels like the computer is going to auto-correct that statement. For once, he was partially responsible for some pressure on Drew Brees. It was an odd game for Evans, but he was still effective.
RT Zach Strief—Grade—C
Strief left the game in the third quarter with an odd injury. Before leaving the game, Strief was adequate, and even did a good job in opening holes for the Saints’ plethora of running backs.
Charles Brown was used wisely as an extra run blocker early in the game. He had a key block on Chris Ivory’s 22-yard rushing touchdown in the first half. However, Brown took over for the injured Strief and was the primary culprit on one of Brees’ strip-sacks in the second half.
Still it was not a bad outing for the Saints’ young tackle.
DE Will Smith—Grade—A
Will Smith has played well as an individual in most games this season. Monday night he proved he still has a step on at least the worst of NFL offensive linemen. He made Philly tackles look like High Schoolers at times Monday night. The pass-rushing effort was impressive by Smith.
DT Brodrick Bunkley—Grade—B
When the opposing team has so many explosive run plays, it is difficult to give the team’s primary gap-plugger a positive grade. But Bunkley was also active as a pass-rusher—which could not have been said of him in previous games. That was encouraging for New Orleans.
DT Sedrick Ellis—Grade—N/A
Sedrick Ellis was noticeably absent from the lips of ESPN Play-By-Play announcer Mike Tirico on Monday night. He made zero impact on the football game—good or bad. It is becoming more and more clear that Ellis’ time in New Orleans is nearing its culmination.
DE Cameron Jordan—Grade—A
Cameron Jordan was amazing Monday night. Not only was he constantly in the face of Michael Vick, but he was also getting off blockers and forcing LeSean McCoy to cut back. It is not his fault no Saints defenders stepped up to make the necessary tackle.
DT Tom Johnson—Grade—C
Tom Johnson’s play has leveled off a bit the past few games. Johnson, like Sed Ellis, made no significant impact on the game—good or bad.
DT Akiem Hicks—Grade—B
At least Akiem Hicks was in the game when the defensive line showed improvement against the run on Monday night. He wasn’t in the face of Michael Vick often, but still was effective.
DE Junior Galette—Grade—N/A
Galette left the game very early. He did not return.
DE Martez Wilson—Grade—C
Martez Wilson was awesome on Monday night. He was flagged for an incomprehensible roughing-the-passer early in the game. But he did not allow that to deter him from continually rushing the passer. The result was positive for the team, and Wilson.
MLB Curtis Lofton—Grade—C+
Curtis Lofton was regularly around the football. In this game, though, he did not wrap up as regularly as he normally does. There was even a play I recall him taking a bad angle (gasp) on Shady McCoy and overran the play. Doing so cost him and the team a chance to wrap up McCoy and cut down on an explosive pass play.
OLB Scott Shanle—Grade—N/A
Scott Shanle did not play in this game, at least not often enough to warrant a grade.
OLB Will Herring—Grade—Incomplete
Herring didn’t play enough to warrant a grade.
Casillas was used frequently in coverage Monday night. And he was always successful. In fact, he played a key role in Patrick Robinson’s pick-six, as he had great coverage on Brent Celek and forced a bad throw by the inaccurate Michael Vick.
Jon Vilma was the Saints’ best linebacker on Monday night. He was flying to the football and diagnosing plays quickly. Vilma has brought key leadership to this team, at just the right time.
CB Jabari Greer—Grade—B
Jabari Greer was never really challenged on Monday night. That’s the good news. Other good news was that Greer was often found around the football against the run. Perhaps an indication he is feeling healthier, finally?
CB Corey White—Grade—B
White truly is improving each game he plays. Monday night he was regularly seen covering well and making plays on the football, even in the run game. This was probably White’s best performance as a pro so far.
CB Patrick Robinson—Grade—B
Patrick Robinson made the most impactful defensive play of the game. His ability to take an interception to the house makes him a valuable player for this defense, and the entire franchise. He is inconsistent, though, as he was the primary culprit on the lone long pass play the defense gave up Monday night to DeSean Jackson.
S Roman Harper—Grade—C
Roman Harper missed a few tackles and did nothing of great importance. He never killed the team, though, either.
S Malcolm Jenkins—Grade—B
I liked the game Malcolm Jenkins played Monday night. Though he was sometimes tentative to come up and make a tackle at the line of scrimmage, he flew around the field and made plays on the ball with regularity.
S Isa Abdul-Quddas—Grade—B
It seemed, at times, that Quddas was replacing Harper in the lineup at safety. His coverage and hard-hitting were key to intimidating Philly’s weak-minded receiving corps. It was huge in the game.
Overall Game Grade--B
Thomas Morstead was outstanding. Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore were good in relief in return situations (and even Cadet was until he fumbled).
Garrett Hartley missed another long field goal. Never mind that, though. The special teams unit was effective Monday night.
P Thomas Morstead—Grade—A
Thomas Morstead had his best game in a while. His directional punting was brilliant—and the hangtime was as well. And his kickoffs were also executed to perfection.
K Garrett Hartley—Grade—C
Hartley did his job on extra point attempts. He missed a long 52-yard field goal—and frankly was way off. It’s hard to be too hard on Hartley though in this one.
Overall Game Grade--A-
Steve Spagnuolo's defensive game plan was the most comprehensive and effective plan he has implemented in 2012. Execution was improved as a whole, but the blitz-heavy scheme fits this unit's personnel.
And, minus one coverage lapse, the coverage schemes worked extremely well also.
Offensively, Pete Carmichael must be applauded for finally truly committing to the running game for once. The result was a dynamic and explosive running game that made life much easier for Drew Brees and the Saints' offensive line in the passing game.