After a heartbreaking 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints head into their bye week, sitting pretty at 5-1. The Saints seemingly had the game won with just a little over two minutes remaining, but failed to seal the deal with uncharacteristic play from the team as a whole.
This game as a whole was a bit of a mixed bag, with the pass game stuck on ordinary, and the run game looking superb. The defense couldn't stop a nosebleed in the run game, but was extremely effective against the pass (until the very end).
Despite the loss, the Saints sit comfortably in first place, but now must keep pace with the elite of the elite to ensure home field throughout the playoffs.
The Saints have a ton of positives to hang their hats on. Conversely, there are areas where they should hang their heads as well.
Let's see who stood out in victory. Here are the complete roster grades from Week 6.
Note: Players are graded on the standard scale. Higher grades are given for splash plays (TDs, INTs, sacks, etc) and proper technique. Conversely, lower grades are given for turnovers and improper technique.
Drew Brees: C
Brees was not his normal self in this game. With his No. 1 target tight end Jimmy Graham somewhere on "Aqib Talib Island," and his No. 2 threat receiver Marques Colston not far behind, Brees struggled to present himself in the light we are normally accustomed to seeing.
But make no mistake about it, when he needed to make plays, he came through more times than not. If Brees wasn't as great as he is, the Saints would've, undoubtedly, gotten blown out with as dynamic of a game as the Patriots played on defense.
Brees went 17-of-36 for 236 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. His play was nothing to phone home about for most of the game, but his 34-yard touchdown to receiver Kenny Stills most certainly was.
I know because I called my mom and asked if she saw it...
Pierre Thomas: A
It's hard to point out a negative in Pierre Thomas' performance. He made the most of his 11 carries by gaining 51 yards off them. His lone catch went for 29 yards as well. He's holding up quite nicely as the Saints' primary back.
Darren Sproles: B-
Sproles didn't have the type of impact I expected, although his six-catch, 58-yard performance is nothing to sneeze at. His five carries for 15 yards were underwhelming, and his six catches came on 12 targets. He still seemed very hard for the Patriots to corral, and his production was a necessity.
Khiry Robinson: A
Robinson sure knows how to enter a party. He's the guy who comes in late and catches the attention of most women (none that are with me, though), while getting high-fives from everyone and still has time to chow down on some food. His seven-carry, 53-yard performance was like money, no matter when you get it, it's seemingly never late! What a player...
Travaris Cadet: A
When playing time is sparse at best, it becomes paramount that you take advantage of your given opportunities. For Cadet, make that singular. Cadet's lone play on offense resulted in a TD on a jerk route.
Overall Grade: B-
Marques Colston: F
There's an APB for the whereabouts of one Mr. Colston. Anyone with information, please contact Bleacher Report. He was last seen with one catch for 11 yards (on three targets).
Nick Toon: C-
Toon got wide-open for what seemed to be a routine catch, but was overthrown by Brees. He seemed to be on the field a lot more than I've noticed before. I firmly believe he will eventually be the best receiver on the Saints. He's a great athlete. Toon finished with one catch for seven yards on four targets.
Kenny Stills: A+
Stills finally built off his eye-opening Week 1 performance with a three-catch, 64-yard performance. He's indefensible in the short-to-intermediate game because of his superb route-running ability, but it was his 34-yard TD that stood out the most.
Robert Meachem: F
Meachem dropped his only target. The Saints need production from him, or they may need to fill his roster spot with another player.
Overall Grade: D
Jimmy Graham: F
If there's a football version of the Amber Alert, I'm sure Graham would've been on it. The last time he was seen, he went to some secluded place with Patriots' corner Aqib Talib where he failed to chart stats-wise.
The next time he'll be seen, may be on a milk carton. On a serious note, here's hoping Graham's lower-leg injury is not serious.
Ben Watson: A
Watson was fired up to play against the team that drafted him, and it showed in his production. His three-catch, 61-yard performance, was the finest of his short tenure in New Orleans. He showed he can pick up some of the slack if Graham falters. He's a wonderful addition.
Overall Grade: C
Pass Protection: B
Brees was only sacked once and hit another three times. He was pressured numerous amount of times, but nothing out of the ordinary. This was one of the better performances from the line. But I must stress, the Patriots have ordinary talent on their line.
But with that said, great teams dominate inferior units. The Saints didn't do anything of the sort, but they had a solid performance overall.
Run Blocking: A
This is the game I've been looking for as far as the run game goes. The Saints bloodied the mouth of the Patriots in the second half, while finishing with 131 yards on 26 carries. The holes were provided, and the tenacity followed. I have no complaints in this area...except for the final two series!
Overall Grade: B+
Cameron Jordan: A
Cam got back in the sack column, while being the normal nuisance he is to quarterbacks. The Saints struggle with premier pass-rushers, which is a title that most certainly fits Jordan at this point in his career. Jordan finished with three tackles, one QB hit and that aforementioned sack.
Akiem Hicks: B
Hicks showed his worth in the even-front alignment at defensive tackle. He's normally known as a pass-rusher, but he proved his versatility with seven tackles. Having that monster anchor the interior of the line is quite beneficial.
Tom Johnson: B
It seems like at least one of the rotational defensive linemen comes up with splash play per game. Johnson notched his first sack of the season, when I believed it would be Glenn Foster or Tyrunn Walker who would contribute in this fashion. The Saints are deep at defensive line.
Overall Grade: B+
Junior Galette: C+
Galette didn't get to the QB, but he made himself useful in other ways. His tackle-for-loss was timely, as well as his general pressure. Patriots' left tackle Nate Solder is a much-underrated player. He's one of the best athletes at the position. Galette finished with two tackles.
Parys Haralson: C
Haralson got more playing time this game and finished with two tackles. His run-defense prowess was certainly needed this game.
Martez Wilson: Inc
Wilson was out to lunch. He failed to chart for the second week in a row. I hope his elbow injury is what's holding him back.
Overall Grade: C
Curtis Lofton: A+
Curtis Lofton is the truth! A physical team like the Patriots must make his mouth water. His 12-tackle, one-sack performance was his best of the season. It almost seemed as though there were two Lofton's on the field. He was everywhere!
David Hawthorne: A
Hawthorne was everywhere as well. His sideline-to-sideline performance had him totaling seven tackles with one being for a loss. He's definitely living up to his billing as a superb athlete at the position of linebacker.
Will Herring: B
Herring had a couple of noticeable plays. His coverage in special teams forced an errant throw, and his man-to-man coverage on receiver Aaron Dobson forced an incompletion. Good to see everyone get involved.
Ramon Humber: B+
Humber might be an even better athlete than Hawthorne and Lofton! His ability to cover, blitz and hit is unparalleled. Humber's stat line read: four tackles, a half-sack and a QB hit. I believe he's only scratching the surface of what he will ultimately be.
He may have officially ended Jonathan Vilma's tenure as a Saint.
Overall Grade: A-
Keenan Lewis: C
Lewis had an up-and-down game. The Saints went at him, and he responded at times. He got his second interception of the season on a poorly thrown deep ball—that many thought sealed a victory.
But he also threw a receiver out of bounds, when the Saints were trying to run out the clock, on the subsequent possession.
Lewis had two pass-interference penalties, which occurred from poor technique. He also had a couple of deflections that were pretty impressive. Eventually, he will put it all together. Lewis also finished with seven tackles.
Jabari Greer: F-
Jabari Greer had another rough day. A game after getting torched by the Chicago Bears, he was pretty much torched again. It's becoming very apparent that Greer can no longer compete with the better athletes in the league, mostly due to age and attrition.
Greer allowed the game-winning touchdown by letting a receiver get behind him...with only five seconds left! If he could have just kept the receiver in front of him, he may have forced Patriots' QB Tom Brady to look elsewhere.
The loss is not fully on Greer, as many occurrences led to the defeat, but he must wear the proverbial goat tag for it.
Corey White: INC
White's services were not needed as much this game, as the three-safety set was in full effect.
Overall Grade: D
Malcolm Jenkins: A+
You can't tell me Jenkins is not the best player in the secondary. What can't he do (eight tackles, one sack, two tackles-for-loss and two QB hits)? His presence in the secondary brings a calm, as you know he will be where he is supposed to be and will make the necessary plays. He's a great player!
Kenny Vaccaro: B-
Vaccaro did his normal job with six tackles. He played more of a traditional safety role, as I'm quite sure the Saints didn't want him defending Patriots' slot receivers Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola one-on-one.
Vaccaro must have a lucky rabbit's foot, as he was beat by Edelman for what looked like a long TD, but Brady uncharacteristically missed him. This has happened to him numerous times. He needs work in coverage.
Rafael Bush: A
Bush continues to get better each game. He's now added ferocious hitter to his many talents. Bush finished with 10 tackles! Is there a better safety trio in the league? Color me skeptical on that answer.
Overall Grade: B+
Special Teams: C
The Saints weren't anything special in kick or punt returns. But neither were the Patriots. I miss the days when Darren Sproles would give the Saints supreme field position. Here's hoping those days return. And judging by this picture, so does Sproles!
No kiss for you, Tom!
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