It's all over here in Raymond James Stadium—Garrett Hartley drills the game-winner as the clock expires after Drew Brees set him up for a chip shot with a 31-yard connection to Marques Colston. 16-14, Saints.
Check below for final grades and analysis!
|Positional Unit||1st Half Grades||Final Grade|
Pass Offense: Drew Brees wasn't exactly vintage in Week 2, completing just 56 percent of his passes, throwing two picks and getting sacked four times. One of Brees picks was returned 85 yards for a touchdown by Mason Foster early in the fourth quarter.
Still, the veteran quarterback made the plays he needed to, most importantly on the final five plays, 54-yard drive to set up the game-winner from Garrett Hartley.
Jimmy Graham was incredible, racking up 179 yards receiving, but he was limited to just 23 yards in the second half. Behind Graham, only Colston made a significant impact in the passing game, hauling in a 31-yard catch in the final seconds to set up the Saints' winning field goal.
Rush Offense: Pierre Thomas came on strong in the second half, with 5.8 yards per carry in his five touches. Mark Ingram continued to struggle as the Saints relied on Brees a little too heavily on offense. Against good secondaries like that of the Buccaneers, the Saints may have problems offensively in the future.
Pass Defense: The Buccaneers pass defense was phenomenal for the entire game, holding Josh Freeman to just 125 yards passing at a rate of 5.7 yards per attempt. Malcolm Jenkins registered a big interception and Junior Galette recovered a fumble from Freeman.
The Saints have hung their hat on an explosive, big-play offense for several years now, but Weeks 1 and 2 this year proved they can rely on their defense to keep them in games and make big plays at critical times.
Run Defense: Doug Martin went off in the second half as the Buccaneers attempted to hang on to a narrow lead by eating the clock and keeping Drew Brees off the field. Martin totaled 144 yards at 5.0 yards per carry, including a 28-yard rumble in the second half. Still, the Saints were able to keep the Bucs runners out of the end zone and force Freeman to make game-changing plays on a night when he couldn't do so consistently.
Special Teams: Thomas Morstead landed four punts inside the 20, including one downed by Corey White inside the 5-yard line. Darren Sproles was largely a non-factor as a returner, bringing back one punt for a loss of two yards and one kick for a 23-yard return.
Garrett Hartley knocked in three of his four field goals, including the game-winning 27-yarder as time expired.
Coaching: Sean Payton's play-calling at the end of the first half nearly cost his team the game, as his conservative runs halted a key drive at the 1-yard line and his decision to go for it on 4th-and-goal backfired. Still, his offense was masterful in engineering a five-play, 54-yard drive to set up the winning field goal. Payton's explosive offense is back and New Orleans' defense looks as good as it has in years. That's a scary combination for opponents.
Pass Offense: Jimmy Graham led the charge for the Saints offense. He managed to get behind the defense for a 56-yard touchdown rumble that put the Saints on top late in the first quarter. He's had a very impressive day, racking up eight catches for 156 yards in the first half alone.
Drew Brees completed 59 percent of his first-half passes for 216 yards, one touchdown (the strike to Graham) and one interception. Brees was sacked twice and also lost a fumble.
Rush Offense: Darren Sproles was reasonably effective in limited touches, averaging 4.0 yards per carry on five total carries. Mark Ingram has struggled again so far, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry and getting stuffed on a big fourth-down goal-line attempt at the end of the first half.
Pass Defense: The Saints looked like an elite defensive team in the first half, holding Josh Freeman to just a 45 percent completion rate and 31 total yards (2.8 yards per attempt). The Saints have long relied on Drew Brees to win shootouts, and it's an encouraging sign for Big Easy fans that their team appears poised to compete in low-scoring affairs with a revitalized defense.
Rush Defense: Doug Martin was effective in the first half for the Bucs with 47 yards on 10 carries, while Josh Freeman had a 13-yard scramble, but neither rushing threat was able to break free for a backbreaking gain (Martin's longest run was just 12 yards).
Special Teams: Darren Sproles went backwards on his only punt return and Garrett Hartley missed one of his two field goal attempts.
Coaching: Sean Payton was a little too conservative in his red zone play-calling on the Saints' final drive of the first half, choosing to hand it off to Pierre Thomas on 3rd-and-goal. When an offsides on the ensuing field-goal kick put the ball at the 1-yard line, Payton called an eerily similar play: off-tackle to the left side with Mark Ingram. Once again, a Saints RB was stacked up just short of the goal line.
The aggression to go for it on fourth down is encouraging, but the quality of the play-calling in that critical situation was less so. The Saints are a passing team and Payton needs to play to his team's strengths in big moments.