Saints vs. Raiders: Final Report Card, Grades for New Orleans
New Orleans 38, Oakland 17
Drew Brees was just one part of the equation that led to a Saints victory at Oakland. The Saints also benefited from a truly opportunistic defense that made plays, including Malcolm Jenkins' long interception return for a touchdown.
Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory continued their electric running. And Lance Moore had two deep touchdown receptions. The Saints' blowout victory was exactly what the team needed, after having won the past four games by a combined 32 points.
The 21-point differential was just what the doctor ordered.
Overall Game Grade—B+
The effort of the Saints’ quarterback(s) in this one was outstanding. No turnovers, three touchdowns and an incredibly efficient effort. That was the characteristic of Drew Brees’ play in this contest.
Chase Daniel finally got an opportunity to see some action, and looked great. This was a great effort by the Saints’ dynamic duo of quarterbacks (if you can call them that).
Brees continued his streak of 20-plus pass completions to reach 45 straight games. And he extended his touchdown record to 53 games. Not bad, huh?
Thomas played running back well in this game. It wasn’t his best performance—he was outdone by Mark Ingram and to some extent Chris Ivory—but he was still great in this game. His role was expanded from a week ago. That’s all you can ask from the always trustworthy Thomas.
Mark Ingram had a couple of dynamic runs in this game. His 25-yard touchdown run to begin the third quarter was obviously the preeminent example. But Ingram churned out yards with regularity and was consistent in getting five yards per carry, at least in the first three quarters. His play late in the game dropped, but that was mainly because Oakland loaded the box to stop him.
Darren Sproles did not play due to surgery on his wrist.
Chris Ivory has proven me wrong. I admit it. While not as good as in the past two games, he still had a few explosive runs. His presence has improved the play of Mark Ingram and to some degree Pierre Thoams.
Travaris Cadet was great in the return game and he made a play or two in the offensive package. He seems to gain confidence with more repetitions.
Marques Colston was constantly open in the slot. In fact, that’s pretty much the only place he lined up on the field on Sunday versus Oakland. The result was beneficial for New Orleans as Colston helped move the ball down the field. He was a safety valve of sorts for Drew Brees.
Lance Moore did what Lance Moore always seems to do—made tough catches in traffic. His two touchdowns came in traffic. He even beat the Raiders on a deep post route, similar to the one Robert Meachem caught against Green Bay in the season opening loss last season.
Devery Henderson had a catch. The end.
Joe Morgan was active this week. But he did nothing of note.
Courtney Roby had his worst game of the season. He ran into the Raiders’ punt returner—causing the official to call an interference penalty on the play. Still Roby is an anchor on the Saints’ special teams units.
Jimmy Graham continued a mostly great role as the Saints’ primary weapon. He regularly was open over the middle of the field in intermediate zones. His touchdown catch was too easy.
Still, it was frustrating to see him go down so easily on a second down pass when lowering his shoulder would have guaranteed a first down.
I know Thomas dressed but that’s about all I know. He was featured in some of the Saints’ jumbo run formations. But he never really showed up much.
LT Jermon Bushrod—Grade—B
Jermon Bushrod was never mentioned on the broadcast. Remember that’s pretty much a good thing, when speaking about an offensive line.
But some of the pressure on Drew Brees came from his blindside—the area Bushrod has been charged for protecting.
LG Ben Grubbs—Grade—B
Grubbs’ play has improved the past few weeks. Sunday was no different. He was a key player in the Saints’ run game. And his work in pass pro aided the Saints and Drew Brees in getting the ball pushed up the field.
C Brian de la Puente—Grade—B
Brian de la Puente was called for holding. Aside from that, his play Sunday was outstanding.
RG Jahri Evans—Grade—B
Jahri Evans actually did not have a penalty in this game. It seems like a first for him. It was awfully nice to see his play improve today. It’s a big reason the offense was so successful.
RT Zach Strief—Grade—N/A
Strief did not play due to a surgery.
Charles Brown took over for Zach Strief in this game, and performed quite well. The running game had some positive plays on the right side of the line. And pass pro on the right side was great. This great should also occupy the play of both his replacement Bryce Harris and the play of extra tackle Eric Olsen in the Saints’ six-linemen packages.
DE Will Smith—Grade—B
Will Smith was consistent in this game. It’s odd that the Saints could give up most of its rushing yards to the outside and still say the defensive ends are playing well in the running game. Yet, it’s true of both Smith, and Cam Jordan.
Smith has been creating pressure in the pass rush as well, and did so in great fashion Sunday.
DT Brodrick Bunkley—Grade—B
Brodrick Bunkley never has been a pass-rushing threat. Yet, he made a key bat-down of one of Carson Palmer’s passes. It wasn’t the play of the game or anything, but was key nonetheless.
DT Sedrick Ellis—Grade—N/A
Sedrick Ellis isn’t really alive anymore. He seems to just be a figment of your imagination.
DE Cameron Jordan—Grade—A-
Cameron Jordan had another underrated game. Without watching the film and doing a full breakdown, it would be nearly impossible to understand just how well Jordan played. His play in the run game was great. And he effectively created pass pressure.
DT Tom Johnson—Grade—B
Tom Johnson played really well in this game. He did a great job clogging holes in the running game. And he got such good pass rush he recorded a sack. It was great effort from one of the Saints’ most underrated players.
DT Akiem Hicks—Grade—B
Akiem Hicks did not make a ton of plays in this game. But his play was consistent. That’s about all you can ask for from a young rookie defensive tackle. He continues to improve each week.
DE Junior Galette—Grade—N/A
Galette did not play in this game.
DE Martez Wilson—Grade—B
Martez Wilson didn’t play as well as a week ago, and made a key mistake on special teams. Still his effort was great in the pass rush game.
MLB Curtis Lofton—Grade—B
Curtis Lofton beautifully diagnosed a screen in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t the only play he made. But it was the most memorable one. His play and leadership has been important for New Orleans’ turnaround in the past six games.
OLB Scott Shanle—Grade—N/A
Scott Shanle did not play in this game, as he was officially inactive.
OLB Will Herring—Grade—Incomplete
Herring didn’t play enough to warrant a grade.
Casillas was a little bit absent, due mostly to the increased repetitions for Jon Vilma. Still, Casillas played but was mostly unapproached.
Jon Vilma played more reps—as prescribed prior to the game. His play was huge, as he caused Roman Harper’s interception in the end zone in the second quarter by tipping the ball in the air. He also made key run fits and his sack was essential for a key stop in the third quarter.
Hawthorne was back in action. His run fits left a little to be desired, but his occupying of a block a blitz allowed Vilma to record a sack. And Hawthorne made other key plays on the day as well.
CB Jabari Greer—Grade—B
Jabari Greer had one of his better games in some time. His play Sunday was consistent. And he showed good instincts in zone coverage to come off the receiver nearest him to come make a tackle.
CB Corey White—Grade—N/A
White did not play due to an injury sustained a week ago against Atlanta.
CB Patrick Robinson—Grade—B
Patrick Robinson was thrown to a number of times. But he made some big plays—including one to prevent a touchdown on a fade thrown in the end zone where he stripped the ball in the receiver’s hands. Otherwise, Robinson was average Sunday.
CB Elbert Mack—Grade—B+
For a guy who hadn’t seen the field in the regular season for the Saints, Mack played really well. He regularly made plays on the ball. His near-interception and return was quite the play. His effort was much needed in the absence of Corey White.
S Roman Harper—Grade—B+
Roman Harper didn’t have as strong a game as he did last Sunday versus Atlanta. He was beat on a number of occasions, including to Marcel Reese on an out route out of the backfield. Then again, Reece is the best athlete Harper has seen since he was abused by Vernon Davis last January.
S Malcolm Jenkins—Grade—A-
Malcolm Jenkins made what might have been the play of the game—intercepting Carson Palmer on a pass over the middle and returning it for a first half touchdown. He was beat a few times in zone coverage—though it truly wasn’t all his fault. He also made some nice plays in the running game and in pass coverage.
S Isa Abdul-Quddas—Grade—B
Quddas did not have the same caliber game as a week ago. He also wasn’t used as often.
Overall Game Grade—B+
On the whole, the special teams outplayed the Oakland Raiders—who if nothing else, possessed two of the best kicking specialists (Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski).
Travaris Cadet was a standout today in the return game.
P Thomas Morstead—Grade—A-
Thomas Morstead was outstanding in his few punting opportunities. And his kickoffs were key to the team’s positive advantage in field position.
K Garrett Hartley—Grade—B+
Hartley had his longest field goal of the season. The ball seemed to knuckle in and out before finally curving within the confines of the field goal posts. He was also completely perfect on extra point attempts.
Overall Game Grade—B+
In full, the Saints coaching staff did a wonderful job of getting their team ready to play in Oakland. The team came out with more energy than Oakland. And the execution followed in the second half, especially.
Steve Spagnuolo’s game plan was one that mixed pressure with smart coverage schemes. The defense gave up some run yards, but knew it could afford to, so long as it didn’t give up the damaging play. The bend-but-don’t-break style has its benefits at times, as much as Saints fans may not like it.
Offensively, Pete Carmichael’s approach of balance and down-the-field passing was phenomenal today. The Saints’ offense executed the plan well.