The statistics paint a pretty story for the Saints in this game. 9.1 yards per pass attempt and 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. They were only sacked once and turned the ball over once. If you promised me that every week, I'd probably take it, and it's unlikely they'd lose another game. Offensively it was largely another very solid performance. My only gripe is that there were numerous chances to put this game away and they failed to do so. When you let good teams hang around, bad things happen. No one knows that better than LSU against Alabama. This had a similar feel late - you had a bad feeling the Saints might let a game they had dominated slip away. In the end, though, 31 points was enough. Make the jump for the grades.
Falcons vs Saints boxscore
Drew Brees: B+ (2.85) I have to admit I was slightly terrified after his first pass was a horrendous interception that he'd put the team in an early 14-0 hole. Luckily the defense responded with a stop and he would drive the offense down to quickly make it 10-7 and a game again. Brees was largely solid, though one deep ball to Moore should have been intercepted, and he missed slightly high on a deep ball off of Henderson's fingertips. Otherwise, a largely masterful performance by the Saints' trigger man. He did make a questionable decision throwing into triple coverage before the Garrett Hartley field goal and almost got Colston killed, but that's just him once again fitting a ball in the tightest windows. He would have been even better if not victimized by a few dropped passes. He was 21 of 32 for 298 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Mark Ingram: B (2.15) Ingram is running with newfound purpose and he's actually getting the reps to showcase his ability. There is no question that Ivory being active has lit a fire in him. He had 67 yards on 16 carries and a good game overall, though he was neutralized in the second half. Still, he fought for some tough yards throughout.
Pierre Thomas: C (2.85) While Ivory and Ingram were busy carrying the load, in meant less playing time for PT. He finished with just 5 runs for a lowly 10 yards, and 1 reception for 6 yards. One of his most quiet outputs of the season. He never really had a chance to get going, but he didn't do much with his touches.
Chris Ivory: A (3.84) That 56 yard touchdown run was one of the more impressive dashes I've ever seen, reminiscent of Deuce McAllister in his prime. A perfect blend of power, speed and agility. That run alone earns him his A. He finished with 7 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown, along with a reception for 13 tough yards. He destroyed Dunta Robinson lowering his pads into him on a tackle, which was awesome. The only slight complaint I have is he still carries the football too far away from his body and it makes him susceptible to fumbles. I suspect that's why he didn't get more carries late in the game instead of Ingram, who has much better ball security.
Travaris Cadet: C+ (2.00) A positive contribution on offense from Cadet, who had 2 receptions for 16 yards. On returns, though, he just doesn't look comfortable. Perhaps he still has that fumble on his mind and he's preoccupied with hanging onto the ball. He had a punt return for 2 yards and 2 kickoff returns for an average of 22.5 yards per.
Jed Collins: A (2.67) The lead blocker threw numerous devastating lead blocks and helped in pass protection. For the second consecutive week he was incredibly physical in between the tackles and gave his runners monstrous lead blocks. Then, he comes on special teams and probably makes the biggest tackle of the game on Morstead's final punt. A tribute to his versatility. This is his second consecutive A, very well deserved. After all, the Saints ran for 148 at a 5.1 per pop rate.
Marques Colston: B- (2.59) The quiet storm was, ahem, quiet in this one. He did score a touchdown, though, tying him with Deuce McAllister for most scored touchdowns in team history. The next one will give him the lead to himself. On that touchdown he absorbed contact around the 5 and did a fantastic job to carry his tackler with him before stretching to the plain for the score. He finished with just 3 catches for 26 yards and a touchdown, a tribute toAsante Samuel. He also either ran the wrong route or a poor one on the interception.
Lance Moore: A- (2.84) That one handed diving grab down the middle of the field was one of the sickest catches he's ever had, and that's saying something. He had 7 catches for 91 yards and almost came up with a tough catch on a bad deep ball by Brees that should have been intercepted. He had a numbers of crucial plays on 3rd down to move the chains.
Devery Henderson: D+ (2.29) He could have maybe come up with a deep ball by Brees, where he had Robinson beat, but the ball was slightly high and off his outstretched fingertips. He also dropped the easiest catch he'll ever have on a 3rd down play crossing route in the 4th quarter that was a killer play. He had no catches. That said, as bad as his contribution was in the passing game, his lead block on Chris Ivory's touchdown run deserves recognition as it was tremendous.
Jimmy Graham: A (2.46) The sequence where he had a false start then a dropped 3rd down pass was consistent with his subpar season and incredibly frustrating. That's the only thing that costs him the A+. But so what, he bounced back to have 7 catches for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. I could write three paragraphs about what he did well, but suffice to say he dominated the game and was probably the biggest reason the Saints won.
David Thomas: B (1.93) A very workmanlike performance blocking. He brought no help in the passing game, but like Collins he had numerous solid lead blocks to help the running game.
Jermon Bushrod: B- (2.59) Overall he was pretty good, though the Falcons by far got their most pressure off the edge against him. Most times Brees would step into a clean pocket, though, and it was no problem. He did struggle to block Kroy Biermann on one running play that got Ingram blown up in the backfield. He struggled with John Abraham a little bit off the edge, but the star pass rusher only finished with 1 tackle - so job well done overall.
Ben Grubbs: A (2.70) Dominant throughout. Great interior blocking, fantastic run blocking that was physical and even more impeccable pass blocking pretty much all game long. It was a Carl Nicks-esque performance.
Brian de la Puente: A- (2.33) He's getting better, more comfortable and more physical every week. The way he's starting to push people off the ball is a really encouraging sign. There were less pulls and more north and south running in this game, and that seemed to suit his style more.
Jahri Evans: B+ (2.82) Brees was flagged for snap simulation, but Evans also false started on that same play. He also whiffed on a couple run blocks to slow down runners, but otherwise he was very clean and solid. Likely focused on helping Brown, he sometimes had lapses, but overall his pass blocking and run blocking was on point.
Charles Brown: A- (2.67) An excellent performance by the Saints' reserve tackle. He was a big source of concern with Zach Strief missing this week (and presumably others), but he was able to the task and ready to step in and perform at a high level. You'll remember that Jon Stinchcomb and Bushrod both took years in the Saints system before they were deemed ready and many of off were ready to write them off before they became full time starters. Maybe Brown fits into that category and has finally grown into a starter quality tackle? He was very solid in pass protection and run blocking with less help than you'd expect.
Eric Olsen: B- (2.67) The reserve guard was the "jumbo tight end" in this game and largely fantastic, actually. The extra push he gave off the edge was incredibly useful. I did dock his grade, though, for a stupid personal foul penalty at the end of a play trying to get a gratuitous push at the top of a pile. Totally unnecessary, and hopefully he learned his lesson. It was interesting, though, because the Saints have always used a tackle as their extra edge blocker in the jumbo sets, and with Strief out and Brown replacing him, they turned to Olsen who is a guard by trade. I'm sure it was challenging for him to play on the edge of the line, but he adjusted very well.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Jimmy Graham