The New Orleans Saints have improved their record to 6-1 after disposing of the Buffalo Bills 35-17 on Sunday. What started off as a sloppy game for the Saints offense ended up as possibly the best overall team performance of the season.
The pesky Bills hung in the game with physical play from their defense, but wilted under the pressure of an equally ferocious Saints defensive attack.
With the Bills offense not providing much help in the second half, the Saints were able to take advantage through a myriad of explosive plays through the air.
The Saints must now move on to another AFC East opponent in the New York Jets. The experience they got from playing the Bills should bode well against the Jets, as they are very similar in both offensive and defensive scheme.
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 for Week 8.
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.
Statistically, Drew Brees was back to his normal self in this game. Going 26-of-34 for 332 yards will earn you a high grade alone. When you factor in an additional five touchdowns with zero interceptions, you know you're in rare company.
Brees spread the ball to 10 different receivers, showing that a defensive focus on one target is the wrong approach.
The Bills got after Brees with four sacks and a ton of pressure, but he ultimately showed why he's one of the premier signal-callers in the NFL.
Pierre Thomas: A
Pierre did what Pierre does. His 14 carries for 65 yards were pretty impressive alone; adding in his three catches for 29 yards turns it up a notch. He's an unsung hero who needs his own song. As a matter of fact, he needs a video to go along with it!
Thomas was the lone bright spot on a mediocre day for the Saints' backfield.
Although Sproles was targeted four times, he failed to actually gain a yard. Uncharacteristically, Sproles didn't get a carry in the run game either. I can't grade what I don't see.
Khiry Robinson: D
Robinson runs hard, there's no doubt about it. Today wasn't his day, however, as he gained only seven yards on nine carries. He often ran up the back of his linemen, which is very Mark Ingram-like.
Robinson just needs to be patient and let the game come to him. He'll be alright.
Marques Colston: C
Colston had three catches for 18 yards, continuing a perplexing trend. I'm not ready to write Colston off as losing a step, but if a few more games go by in this manner, I might have to use this cool new pen I bought...
Kenny Stills: A+
Stills had a good game against the New England Patriots in the Saints' last outing. His performance against the Bills makes that one look rather pedestrian. His three-catch, two-touchdown, 129-yard performance was the best of any Saints receiver this season.
Stills is the first receiver on the team to go over the 100-yard mark in a contest—undoubtedly the first of many such games. What a player!
Lance Moore: B
Moore is an electrifying presence. When he's out on the field catching the ball and hamming it up, it ignites the entire team.
It was great to see him get his first touchdown of the season. He's obviously over the hand injury that robbed him of the last three games. His three-catch, 34-yard performance is hopefully just the beginning.
Robert Meachem: D
Meachem had one catch for 15 yards. He was targeted three times, but failed to get on the same page as Brees. He needs to get up to speed quickly or I'd like to see Nick Toon get his targets.
Jimmy Graham: A+
Jimmy Graham was the player of interest for the majority of fans and pundits alike. His foot injury in the last game was rumored to be a lot more serious than the Saints were leading on.
It turns out that he may be alright after all. He came away with three catches for 37 yards in limited action. He had two of those catches go for touchdowns!
Get healthy, Jimmy.
Ben Watson: A
Watson is the consummate professional. He does the dirty work, and does it with a smile. He had more of a presence in the pass game due to the Graham injury. His three-catch, 45-yard performance was timely.
He's the perfect complement to the athletic monstrosity that is Graham.
Josh Hill: B
Rookie Josh Hill got his first action (on offense) of his short career. His two catches on two targets looked rather beastly. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the 6'5", 229-pound athlete.
Pass Protection: D
Well, the offensive line was back to its normal horrendous play. Brees was sacked four times, hit six times and moved off his spot quite a bit. The Bills have one of the very best defensive lines in the NFL, but so do each of the teams the Saints will see in the playoffs. Tighten up, y'all!
Thomas looked good on most of his carries. As for the rest of the Saints' backs...not so much! In their defense, it's hard to establish a rhythm rarely running the ball multiple times in a row for the majority of the game.
Overall, it goes to show you how great Brees really is.
Cameron Jordan: A
Chalk another sack up for "Killer" Cam Jordan, as he's affectionately known (strange affection). Jordan only had one tackle to go along with it, but pushed the pocket all game long, making life hard on Bills QB Thad Lewis.
Akiem Hicks: B
Hicks piles up tackles on the interior of the line. He's a good player that will only get better. How scary is that? Hicks had six tackles (two for loss). He also assisted in pressuring the QB.
He will eventually garner the attention he deserves. Interior line play is for men—or tough women, I don't want to get in trouble—and Akiem is a man among boys!
Glenn Foster: B
I've sung the praises of Foster since he ripped up the preseason. He's beginning to get back to that type of play. His one-tackle (for a loss), one-sack and two-QB-hit performance is evidence of that.
Junior Galette: A+
Baby Dwight Freeney was back terrorizing offensive lines again to the tune of six tackles and one sack. His ability to mix finesse and power moves is uncanny.
Galette's blend of speed, power and agility makes him a tough assignment for any offensive lineman.
Parys Haralson: C
Haralson got a couple of QB hits in the little playing time he received. I'm close to moving Galette and Haralson to the line to match all the even-front alignments the Saints run. Haralson will continue to receive little playing time in that type of scheme.
Keyunta Dawson: C
Curtis Lofton: A+
Curtis Lofton is Batman! Every game, you can pencil him in for at least eight tackles, with many of the bone-jarring variety. This guy is the quintessential player in any defensive front. Players like him are rare.
Cherish this guy. The Falcons didn't...now look at them!
David Hawthorne: A+
David Hawthorne is Robin to Lofton's Batman! This stat-sheet-stuffer was back at it again on Sunday. His eight-tackle, one-sack and two-QB-hit performance is beginning to be the standard for this sideline-to-sideline athlete. The dynamic duo prevails once again!
Ramon Humber: Incomplete
After an impressive outing against the Patriots, Humber followed it up with...wait, did he even play? Humber failed to chart, which shows you just how deep the Saints defense actually is.
Humber will be back to his normal versatile role next week against the Jets.
Keenan Lewis: A+
Lewis had had his lucky rabbit's foot out again. Along with two passes defended, he recorded his third interception of the season—all of which were on under-thrown or errant passes.
Lewis is doing a great job of being in the vicinity to make plays. I'd actually like to see Lewis attempt to shadow the opposition's best receiving threat.
Jabari Greer: C
Jabari Greer was beat for another long touchdown. Fortunately for him, it was called back due to a holding penalty on Bills tight end Scott Chandler.
At one point, Greer was benched in favor of fellow corner Corey White. Here's hoping for more of that in the future. Greer did have two passes defensed.
Corey White: D
White finally got the playing time he deserved, and he wet the bed. His poor play was not due to being unproductive, it was due to silly technique that I'd like to see eradicated from football. On two separate occasions, White was flagged for unnecessary roughness for helmet-to-helmet contact on the QB.
White needs to get his head on the outside of the target when making a tackle. After defensive coordinator Rob Ryan finishes up with him in the film room, he will undoubtedly use proper technique going forward.
White will eventually be a stud, though!
Malcolm Jenkins: Incomplete
Jenkins suffered an injury late in the first half and didn't return. He is the best player in the secondary, so this could be a tough loss if it lingers on.
To his credit, Jenkins finished with five tackles in a little under two quarters of play. This guy is the truth!
Kenny Vaccaro: B
Vaccaro was on his way to being toasted by Bills receiver Stevie Johnson until Ryan made an adjustment within the scheme that moved Vaccaro mostly to safety. From there, Vaccaro collected four tackles (two for loss) and a pass defense.
Make no mistake about it, Vaccaro still dished out punishment in the form of hits in his usual fashion.
Rafael Bush: C
Bush didn't make the same impact that he normally does. His two-tackle performance is a departure from his regular production. He should return to form against the Jets.
Kicker Garrett Hartley missed two early field goals that would have helped put the game away a lot earlier. Hartley is an above-average kicker that has had some excellent moments. You have to think that, if it came down to it, he'd deliver in a pressure situation.
It might be time for the obligatory kicking competition.
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