New Orleans 38
The Carolina Panthers came into New Orleans with something to prove. It finished the season 7-9 and by all accounts (figuring out tie-breakers is not always as cut and dry as it would seem to be) came out as the second place team in the NFC South.
That came from a game in which Drew Brees became the first quarterback to throw for 15,000-plus yards and first to throw for three 5,000-plus yard seasons.
Of course the Saints defense also became the worst defense in terms of yardage given up. When all is said and done, the season ended in such a way that properly symbolized the Saints' season. It was full of promise, but was ultimately quite disappointing.
Overall Game Grade--B
For the day Drew Brees had 396 yards and four touchdowns, next to just one interception. In many ways, Brees was better than 118.0 quarterback rating. His decision and accuracy were next to perfect throughout most of the game.
His receivers and lineman didn't help him a whole lot for much of the game.
All in all, Brees had a nice finish to his season.
Pierre Thomas was placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday.
Mark Ingram ran hard in between the tackles and outside. He had a few nice runs that helped the offense gain some momentum at times. He did dance a bit too much in space, though.
Darren Sproles’ primary impact on this game was his work on a swing screen which he took 33 yards with great vision and speed in the open field.
Chris Ivory ran hard with the football in limited carries. Perhaps the approach in this game was actually to keep him limited so that no other team wants him. It’s hard to understand what the approach was in this game.
Travaris Cadet saw limited meaningful snaps. He was effective when used though as a returner.
Marques Colston had another wonderful game. This time Colston mostly limited his drops and mistakes. He also managed two touchdowns. Not a bad way to end for the borderline-Pro Bowl snub.
Lance Moore made another amazing catch over the middle—somehow climbing the back of the Panthers defender without touching him and earning a pass interference call. He was effective otherwise.
Devery Henderson had one silly reception. He was open on a deep post, but Brees threw to a triple-covered Moore instead for the easy interception.
Joe Morgan was an invisible man—at least in terms of impact. He took over Devery Henderson’s big play role, as he took his first reverse of the season, and also caught a short out-route.
Roby played and was mostly effective on special teams. He routinely sped to the end zone and caused one punt to be downed inside the five-yard line.
Jimmy Graham was open all day long. He made a few nice catches in traffic. His drops did continue though. One positive note was Graham’s rarely seen run-after-the-catch skills came out on his second quarter touchdown.
Thomas was rarely used in this game, and little effect on this game.
Higgins didn’t play in a game where he should have been active.
LT Jermon Bushrod—Grade—B
Bushrod was bull-rushed by Charles Johnson early in the contest. His effort was improved from that point on. Still, Bushrod should not be re-signed by the Saints after seeing his effort today and the entirety of the season.
LG Ben Grubbs—Grade—A-
Ben Grubbs had one of his most notably great football games. His effort on the swing screen was outstanding. His play all year long has been better than Jahri Evans.
C Brian de la Puente—Grade—C+
Brian de la Puente was also bull-rushed on the same play where Bushrod had problems. The veteran did some nice things as a run blocker, though.
RG Jahri Evans—Grade—B
Jahri Evans wasn’t bad by any means. He played well overall in pass protection. And his work in the running game was effective.
RT Zach Strief—Grade—C
Strief was worked on the outside later in the game. The Panthers had two significant pressures. One of them was primarily the fault of Strief.
Charles Brown did not play in this game.
Bryce Harris has been moved to the IR.
Robinson saw only a handful of snaps.
Olsen was used on a number of snaps as an extra blocker. His play was only average on the day.
DE Will Smith—Grade—B
Will Smith was consistent all year long. He didn’t have the mind-blowing statistics of past seasons, but as we saw today, Smith played well on the outside against the run and helped create pressure on Cam Newton.
DT Brodrick Bunkley—Grade—C
Brodrick Bunkley was seen all over the field on a number of drop backs. Unfortunately that effort didn’t seem to transfer over to his play in the rushing game.
DT Sedrick Ellis—Grade—D
Sedrick Ellis was nowhere to be found on the majority of the defensive snaps he took—which were not many. In fact, he was straight awful.
DE Cameron Jordan—Grade—A
Cam Jordan wasn’t quite as dominant as he’s been at times this season. But he was all over the field, all the time. Jordan was always around his first name-sake. And the run game deficiencies were hardly the fault of Jordan.
DT Tom Johnson—Grade—B
Tom Johnson was constantly around the football on the day, when he was in the game. He didn’t have enough defensive snaps in my opinion.
DT Akiem Hicks—Grade—N/A
Akiem Hicks was placed on the Injured Reserve list this past week.
DE Junior Galette—Grade—B
Galette was used as a pure pass rusher most of the day. His impact on the game was quite limited.
DE Martez Wilson—Grade—B
Martez Wilson had an early pressure off the edge on a third down in which he simply ran around the left tackle and dipped his shoulder to get to Cam Newton. The result was not a sack, but a wide throw that brought up fourth down. After that, a lot of his play was average.
MLB Curtis Lofton—Grade—B
Curtis Lofton badly whiffed on Deangelo Williams’ initial long run for a touchdown. He also missed out on an opportunity to cause a turnover when the football was right in the middle of his helmet for the easy fumble causation.
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 made a key tackle on special teams. He is no longer even a reserve on special teams though.
Casillas was used mostly as the nickel linebacker. He was effective, though, it was also nothing special.
Jon Vilma played a nice football game in what could have been final contest wearing the black and gold. The zone coverage turned into a touchdown was one of Vilma’s finest moments as a member of the Saints.
David Hawthorne has come on in the past couple weeks. He is beginning to look like the player the Saints thought they were signing when they acquired him this past offseason. His play today was solid, though not spectacular.
CB Jabari Greer—Grade—N/A
The veteran Greer did not play in this contest.
CB Corey White—Grade—N/A
White was placed on injured reserve earlier this week, thus ending his season.
CB Johnny Patrick—Grade—B
Patrick started the game and showed improvement over a week ago. He was called for a pass interference penalty that was ridiculous.
CB Patrick Robinson—Grade—B
Patrick Robinson improved his play from a week ago when he was torched by Dez Bryant. He was beat on a few occasions, but his play resembled that of much of the season prior to a week ago.
CB Elbert Mack—Grade—B
Mack continued his solid play as the nickel corner. He was beat on a few occasions but never so badly that the team suffered for it.
S Roman Harper—Grade—B-
Roman Harper was almost non-existent in this contest. It’s interesting to see the evolution of his game from an in-the-box safety to more of a deep coverage type. That is the role he played most often Sunday. I wrote this a week ago as well.
S Malcolm Jenkins—Grade—N/A
Malcolm Jenkins was placed on Injured Reserve last week.
S Isa Abdul-Quddus—Grade—B
Quddus did a really nice job executing his role as the traditional free safety. He flew to the football and made key tackles. He also had opportunities to make a play and did not.
S Rafael Bush—Grade—B+
Bush was used in many of the sub-package nickel and dime defenses the Saints throughout the game. He was effective, though not nearly as flashy as he was in previous games.
Overall Game Grade--B
Thomas Morstead's attempt to take the crown as best net average punter in any one season, was admirable. Ultimately he came up short. Much of that was due to poor lane discipline from Will Herring and Co.
The return game was off and on, though at least the Saints showed more fight in the return game.
P Thomas Morstead—Grade—A
Thomas Morstead again played really well. His directional punting combined with hang time was more than effective.
K Garrett Hartley—Grade—B+
Hartley kicked one ginormous field goal at the end of the first half. And he had an opportunity to kickoff for once this year. It was awesome!
Overall Game Grade--B
This game should have been an evaluation game. Instead, the Saints decided to go all-out for the win, and lost. That's about the worst fate possible.
Joe Vitt should be blamed for more than the Saints' effort in this contest. He should also be blamed for not taking franchise quarterback Drew Brees out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Steve Spagnuolo's defensive unit seemed to give up in the fourth quarter. At least the offense looked better than it had at times.