New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots: Full Roster Grades for New England
Over 2,000 years ago, the Greek king, Pyrrhus, led his forces against the Romans in battle and emerged victorious. However, his army suffered enormous losses that could not be readily replaced.
According to Plutarch, Pyrrhus said after the battle, "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."
Depending on how the injury report turns out on Wednesday—with Danny Amendola, Jerod Mayo, Aqib Talib and Dan Connolly leaving the game—the New England Patriots may have won just such a "Pyrrhic Victory."
Here are the full roster grades from New England's incredible 30-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Tom Brady: B+
Without the final drive—where Brady led the Patriots 70 yards in 68 seconds for the victory—Brady's grade would have been much, much lower.
His touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins notwithstanding, Brady was merely average.
He missed Amendola and Julian Edelman on sure touchdown passes and made a poor decision throwing an interception into double coverage late in the game.
Brady wasn't always at fault. Aaron Dobson, Brandon Bolden, Edelman and Amendola all had drops that would have extended drives.
The Patriots normally need a sharp Brady for 60 minutes to win with this young group on offense. However, the first half plus 68 seconds in the second was just enough on Sunday.
Ridley consistently picked up extra yardage due to quick decisions behind the line of scrimmage and keeping his pad level down. He was a force inside the 20-yard line, scoring two touchdowns on the day. Ridley also had a few nice blocks in pass protection.
LeGarrette Blount: D+
Blount was average on kickoff returns, averaging 25 yards. Running the ball was a different story, as Blount gave Patriots fans nightmares of Laurence Maroney dancing in the backfield and waiting for a hole to open. He ended the day with nine yards on seven carries.
Brandon Bolden: C-
Bolden had his moments, including a nifty 12-yard scamper in the first half, but his drop on third down late in the game nearly cost the Patriots a chance at victory.
James Develin: C
Develin had his normal night for the Patriots. He threw a few blocks in the run game and was a non-factor in the passing game.
Danny Amendola: C-
Amendola ended the day with two catches, one head injury and zero yards. Perhaps while recovering from his head injury, Amendola will be able to let his groin heal and regain some of the explosive lateral mobility he has been missing.
Julian Edelman: C
Edelman had the worst play of the day—perhaps year—when he tried to lateral the ball to Talib on a punt return. After that gaffe, he had a decent day catching the football, despite one key drop on the final drive.
Kenbrell Thompkins: B+
Thompkins could have worn a Yankees hat after the game and Patriots fans would still love him. His game-winning catch was one of three catches on the day, and he nearly came down with another touchdown grab earlier in the game.
Aaron Dobson: B-
Dobson started the day with a drop and nearly ended the day with one. However, he was able to come up with one more catch on the final drive and, more importantly, get out of bounds.
The Patriots might not have needed Brady's miracle if Dobson could have made that fourth-down catch, but his six catches, solid blocking and pass-interference penalty drawn can't be overlooked.
Austin Collie: A
Collie, who didn't record a catch last year, caught two for the Patriots after Amendola was forced out of the game. Collie could play an important role in New England if Amendola is out for next week's game against the New York Jets.
Michael Hoomanawanui: A-
Hoomanawanui had a career day, racking up four catches for 57 yards, including a crucial 3rd-and-18 conversion that kept the Saints off the field. He isn't Rob Gronkowski, but he was able to assist with his run blocking as well.
Matthew Mulligan: C
Mulligan didn't earn a target from Tom Brady, but he was able to contribute with his solid in-line blocking when on the field.
Sebastian Vollmer: C+
Nate Solder: C+
Logan Mankins: C
Ryan Wendell: C+
Marcus Cannon: C-
The Patriots were able to rack up 141 yards on the ground, but Brady was under seige for large portions of the game.
When the Saints only rushed three or four, the Patriots offensive linemen were able to handle the Saints defensive line. However, once the Saints started stunting and blitzing, communication issues started cropping up. Each side of the offensive line had issues passing off twisting linemen and picking up Malcolm Jenkins on the blitz.
With divisional games against the Jets and Miami Dolphins—and their impressive defensive lines—on tap the next two weeks, the Patriots line will need to get on the same page.
Dan Connolly: I
Connolly left the game early with a head injury and did not return.
Joe Vellano: B-
Vellano bounced back with a much better game against the Saints. He was pushed back at times, but his hustle and effort helped him notch eight tackles on the day to lead the Patriots.
Chandler Jones: A-
Jones was one of the few Patriots to get pressure on Drew Brees. He totaled two tackles for loss—including one sack—and didn't allow Brees to feel comfortable in the pocket for most of the night.
Rob Ninkovich: B
Ninkovich helped collapse the pocket and was solid against the run. It has been a while since we've seen Ninkovich create a turnover—something he is known for in New England—so look for him to get back on track against the Jets next week.
Marcus Forston: C+
Forston saw a handful of snaps and was able to notch an important tackle for loss late in the game, saving the Patriots some precious seconds on the clock.
Chris Jones: D+
Jones played on ice skates for much of the game, consistently being pushed back three yards or more. He needs to keep his pad level down and anchor better if the Patriots are going to play better against the run.
Michael Buchanan: C
Buchanan had a tackle on special teams, but was unable to get much pressure on Drew Brees when the Patriots went to their "speed" package.
Jerod Mayo: B-
Mayo had a difficult assignment, at times matching up the shifty Darren Sproles one-on-one in pass coverage. Sproles had six catches, but Mayo and others were able to keep the damage to a minimum after the catch.
Look for Dont'a Hightower to become even more involved in this defense if Mayo's shoulder is a lasting injury.
Dont'a Hightower: C-
Hightower wasn't in on a tackle, and Brandon Spikes seems to have jumped him on the nickel package depth chart. That said, statistics don't always tell the whole story. I'll have more on Hightower after watching the All-22 replay.
Expect Hightower to wear the helmet with the green dot—signifying the in-helmet microphone—if Jerod Mayo is out next week.
Brandon Spikes: B-
Spikes wasn't as effective as he was against the Cincinnati Bengals last week—that is a tough standard to live up to—but he continues to make up for the loss of Vince Wilfork with his strong play inside. Spikes isn't his best in coverage and was beat by former Patriots tight end Ben Watson.
Jamie Collins: C
Collins was in on the final play of the game, recovering a fumble on the kickoff to seal the victory. He still hasn't found his consistent niche in this defense, but he might get a chance to if Mayo isn't able to go next week.
Dane Fletcher: B+
Fletcher continues to play on the nose in goal-to-go situations and was a force on special teams, recording two tackles.
Aqib Talib: A+
Talib left the game with a hip injury. If he is out for any length of time, the Patriots are going to have to rely on rookie Logan Ryan to play even more.
Alfonzo Dennard: A
As good as Talib has been this year, Dennard has nearly matched him step for step. Dennard held Marques Colston to a single catch and was a mere inch from breaking up the Kenny Stills touchdown catch that nearly won the game.
If Talib is out against the Jets next week, look for Dennard to step into the top cornerback role.
Devin McCourty: B+
McCourty was in charge of a masterful performance by the defensive backfield. He lined up at corner on Jimmy Graham for a few snaps after Talib's injury and was equally as effective.
Steve Gregory: B-
Gregory was late getting over to help Dennard on the 3rd-and-20 conversion, but he was a solid tackler against the run.
Kyle Arrington: B
Arrington was able to flash his ball skills again against New Orleans, coming down with an interception and breaking up a near-touchdown pass to Graham. He had a tough time covering Stills in the slot, but was effective overall.
Duron Harmon: C+
Harmon saw time again this week with Tavon Wilson out again this week. He played the high safety in Cover 1 at times and looked like a veteran.
Logan Ryan: C+
Ryan saw an uptick in his snap count with Talib on the sideline. He responded well, seemingly sound on all his assignments in pressure-packed situations.
Stephen Gostkowski: A
Gostkowski was absolutely key against the Saints. He was a perfect 3-of-3 on field goals—including a career-best 54-yard kick—and kept Darren Sproles bottled up in the return game.
Danny Aiken: A
I still haven't heard Aiken's name mentioned this year. That means he is having a great year.
Ryan Allen: A
Allen had another good day punting the football, averaging 47.5 yards per kick. The Patriots have not missed Zoltan Mesko.
Marquice Cole: A
Cole had two big special teams tackles on Sproles, saving the Patriots acres of field position.