New Orleans Saints Report Card Week 9: Grading Each Unit
Following the Saints' worst loss of the year against a winless St. Louis Rams team, the Saints looked much improved in every aspect of the game. From the blocking up front to the defense making plays, this is the Saints team that fans have grown to expect to see each and every week.
It was a great win for the Saints, and more importantly, it puts the Saints in the driver's seat in the NFC South.
After such a great performance against the Bucs, these are the Saints' grades following the victory.
And I quote every Saints fan who watched the game, "Now, this is more like it."
Drew Brees was slinging away, Jimmy Graham was getting open and snagging the ball, Darren Sproles was juking his way into the end zone and the offensive line was pushing the defense off the ball.
The Saints finally showed the balance that fans have been waiting to see, as Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas were running the ball physically and combined for over 100 yards rushing.
It was great to see the holes the big guys up front created, and this allowed Brees' patented play-actions to work like a charm.
Brees had an interception, but other than that, he was great throughout the game. And as for Sproles, well, he's staking a claim each and every week that he's the most exciting football player to watch. At this point, the Saints are just getting him the football and getting out of his way.
If the offense can keep this balanced attack up, very few teams in the league will be able to stop that freight train.
I have a feeling the Saints watched the LSU/Alabama game Saturday night and were inspired to play some really great defense, and they did just that.
The Saints shut down the Bucs rushing game and limited the Bucs to only 84 yards rushing. Not only did they shut the rush offense down, but they got pressure on Josh Freeman and made him uncomfortable.
This was an outstanding effort by a group who has been criticized a lot this season. I believe this unit answered all the questions and proved that they are more than capable of shutting down the rushing game.
Hats off to Greg Williams and the defense for bringing it on the defensive side of the ball.
Special Teams: B-
The special teams started off the game rocky with John Kasay missing a field goal early in the game, but the unit rebounded well.
Kasay ended up hitting two field goals, Thomas Morstead was great as always and the coverage teams held the Bucs' returners at bay.
While the special teams might not have brought their "A" game while playing against the Bucs, they still played well enough to contribute to a Saints victory.
Sean Payton and his staff were very successful in getting the Saints to play great football in every phase of the game, and that's all you can ask for.
With the exception of one series, I thought the play-calling was fantastic for the offense. The Saints tried to establish the run early, which they were able to do, and then showcased a balance attack for the rest of the game.
As for the defense, Greg Williams did an awesome job with play-calling as well. He confused Josh Freeman at times by showing blitz and then dropping eight guys in coverage.
It was just an all-around great job and great effort by the coaching staff.
If there was one aspect of this game that really didn't bode well for the Saints, it was all the flags that were thrown in their direction.
Sure there were a few bad calls like the passing interference in the fourth quarter, but eight penalties is far too many. Time and time again, the Saints would force a three-and-out, but then the dirty laundry on the field would become visible.
The Saints kept giving the Bucs multiple opportunities to continue their drives because of all their penalties, and they won't be able to do that against a great team and get away with it.
Even though the Saints made some bad penalties, the play-calling and the way they won the battle in the trenches was a beautiful sight to see.
The Saints defensive line and linebackers came up huge against a very physical runner in LeGarrette Blount without having Jonathan Vilma on the field, and the offensive line created holes for Thomas and Ivory all game long.
The Saints needed that victory in a bad way following a loss to a Sam-Bradfordless Rams team, and they came through big-time this week. Great performance.