New Orleans Saints: Winners and Losers from Saints Win

James ToljCorrespondent IISeptember 26, 2011

New Orleans Saints: Winners and Losers from Saints Win

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    The New Orleans Saints' Week 3 win over the Houston Texans didn't come easily. So who on the Saints came out ready to play and which players just never found their rhythm? 

    Some guys were red hot from the start and stayed that way, but others didn't contribute enough to the hard-fought 40-33 result.

    We will certainly look at the players who deserve praise for the win, but even in victory a team can and should be critiqued.

    Let's look at those who played up to their potential, and where the Saints should make an effort to improve next week. 

Winner: Jimmy Graham

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    Jimmy Graham, the young New Orleans Saints tight end, had another outstanding game for the team against the Houston Texans Sunday, grabbing four receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown.

    Graham and his quarterback, Drew Brees, weren't on the same page the whole game, though.

    Brees targeted Graham late in the third quarter, but instead of cutting the route underneath the defender, Graham went over the top which led to a Daniel Manning interception.

    Brees didn't give up on Graham after the mistake. Early in the fourth quarter, Brees found Graham for a 27-yard touchdown grab.

    The touchdown was part of a 23-point fourth quarter that propelled the Saints to a 40-33 victory.

    Graham's season has gone well so far. After three games, Graham has 14 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns, and it doesn't look like he will be slowing down anytime soon.

Winner: Darren Sproles

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    After just his third game with team, Darren Sproles already has Saints fans asking Reggie who?

    Sproles was brought in to replace Reggie Bush, and the addition of the 5'6" running back has been a monumental success.

    Sunday against the Texans, Sproles performance showcased his wide-array of talents. Sproles returned four kicks, a punt,  had two carries for 35 yards with a touchdown, and pulled in six receptions for 50 yards.

    Sproles looked like the Saints most dangerous running back, too, when he took a pitch 30 yards and burned multiple Texan defenders for a score. 

    Sproles production has increased each game, and the coaches are beginning to realize that the speedy back is a matchup nightmare for any defense.

    Expect Sproles to be used more and more throughout the season as the coaches take advantage of the glaring mismatches he creates when on the field.

Winner: Drew Brees

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    The leader of the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees, put the team on his shoulders once again Sunday against the Houston Texans. In a 40-33 shootout, Brees threw the ball 44 times, completing 33 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns.

    Brees also had two interceptions but never got flustered. Not even an earthquake could rattle the rock-steady Brees.

    After going down by 10 points in the first quarter, Brees and company stormed back and finally took the lead in the fourth quarter.

    Brees is the heart and soul of the Saints, and the teams' rise largely depends on Brees' success (although Brees can't win games by himself as evidenced by his Herculean effort in the Week 1 loss at Green Bay). 

    For those of you rooting for the scorching Brees to fail, don't hold your breath.

Winner: Lance Moore

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    After nursing a hamstring injury to start the season, Lance Moore returned to the field last week versus the Chicago Bears but only caught one pass for seven yards. 

    Sunday versus the Houston Texans, Moore went off, leading the Saints wide receivers in yards and receptions.

    Moore hauled in nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Many of Moore's receptions came late in the second half. He played amazingly well in clutch moments as well, hauling in a pair of two-point conversions.

    With Marques Colston out with a broken collar bone, it seems Moore is going to be Drew Brees' go-to receiver. 

    Fans weren't expecting too much from Moore after last week, but his fantastic game came as a pleasant surprise.

Loser: Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas

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    I hate to rain on the New Orleans Saints running backs' parade, especially after Mark Ingram got his first career NFL touchdown on an impressive 13-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter, but Ingram and Pierre Thomas just didn't do enough Sunday.

    While Darren Sproles has become one of the Saints' most dynamic weapons, the other running backs just weren't able to get much going Sunday.

    Ingram had nine carries for 38 yards and a rushing touchdown, and he pulled in two receptions for minus-three yards. 

    Thomas didn't do much better with seven rushes for 28 yards and one 15-yard reception.

    The game primarily featured Drew Brees and the passing attack, but Ingram and Thomas need to do more with the opportunities they are afforded.

Loser: Pass Defense

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    After allowing two 300-yard passers in the first three games, the New Orleans Saints pass defense needs to improve in order to relieve some of the pressure put on Drew Brees and the offense.

    The defense has given up seven passing touchdowns thus far this season, but the team has faced three solid passers in Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub .

    The Saints defense depends on pressuring the quarterback with confusing blitz packages, which they did very well against Cutler and the Chicago Bears in Week 2. But if the team can't get to the quarterback, Drew Brees will have to get used to throwing the ball all day long (although he is more than capable of doing so).

    The Saints had two sacks against the Texans on Sunday.

    The team did hold the Texans to a few field goals in the red zone and had a key interception, but overall the pass defense needs to play much better.