There is no question the better team won this game on Sunday. The Saints' offense move the ball well and struck perfect balance. The offensive line played well, and while numerous mistakes were made, reflected in a very up and down game, the end result was 34 points scored in a win. What's not to like?
Drew Brees: A+ (2.76) To me this was his best game of the season. He finished 37 of 53 for 446 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Those numbers are shocking, considering he completed 70% of his passes despite numerous drops. The footwork and accuracy was on full display, and the ball was out and in the perfect spot on literally almost every throw. He didn't take many shots downfield as clearly the Saints recognized a mismatch with their backs against the Cbwboys' backers and Brees exploited that for the duration of the game.
Mark Ingram: B- (2.40) He was given numerous reps running the ball and the Saints really did commit to him on the ground. He finished with just 53 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown, but that wasn't indicative of how well he ran. He was blown up in the backfield a few times to hurt his stats, but he ran the ball well, particularly in short yardage situations. His touchdown run was a nice burst, he was tough to bring down running physically, and he also contributed a reception for 7 yards.
Pierre Thomas: B- (2.95) He had just 16 yards on 7 carries are wasn't really a factor on the ground with his delay handoffs and draws. He was, however, a major factor in the passing game, with 7 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. He also had two mediocre kick returns, one of which he mishandled. He did show off his usual trademark toughness after the catch and is never easy to bring down. I find myself saying "man, PT is awesome", at least twice every game and I know you do too.
Darren Sproles: A (2.78) He was a very positive influence in the running game with 48 yards on 9 carries, but he was deadly in the passing game with 104 yards on 7 receptions. He didn't break many tackles but he was elusive and did a good job beating people to the edge. He was a catalyst to the offense. He also had a kick return for 15 yards and two punt returns for 10 yards. Quite an offensive production.
Marques Colston: B (2.60) Tough game to grade. Colston's ball security was poor. He had one horrible drop right in his hands over the middle wide open, and he fumbled twice. One he was fortunate as the ball fell harmlessly out of bounds, but the other could have been very costly in overtime. He was fortunate Graham recovered that ball. I have noticed Colston is not the most secure ball carrier after the catch, something he'll need to pay attention to. That said, you can't deny his impact on the game. 10 catches for 153 yards. He repeatedly hurt the Cowboys' secondary and broke some tackles at the second level too. His 60 yard reception was a thing of beauty. He now has 1,000 yards for the 6 time and 7 years, yet he's never been to the Pro Bowl. He needs 101 yards next week for a career high season in yards. Very physical, made tough catches, and moved the chains.
Lance Moore: B (2.86) A somewhat quiet day for Moore, just 4 catches for 30 yards, but he made a nice grab for a touchdown. His end zone dance was once again ridiculous.
Devery Henderson: D- (1.90) Brees never looks his way anymore because he's never open, and Henderson has reverted back to his early career hands lately. He dropped a wide receiver screen that is probably the easiest catch he'll ever have. Made zero impact. Miserable season for the veteran.
Joe Morgan: C+ (2.30) Despite numerous plays in the game, he was only a decoy. Brees never looked his way, but he blocked OK and the Cowboys paid attention to him. That's valuable because it stretched the field, and allowed the Saints to exploit tons of underneath stuff.
Jimmy Graham: B (2.33) He's even tougher to grade than Colston. First off, he added to his league lead in drops with at least two very clear ones. One drop was arguably the worst one he has had all season long where he was wide open and it hit him right in the chest. He did finish with 7 catches for 88 yards, which is a worthwhile contribution. Most importantly, he made the play of the game and his grade deserves a big boost for this one. It won't show up on the stat sheet but if you watched the game you know exactly what i'm talking about, and this took effort which we haven't always seen from him this year. On a reception, Graham dislocated his pinky. If you re-watch the tape, you'll see his pinky dangling out of place in overtime and it's a little rough on the stomach. He then ran to the sideline and you can see the training staff pop it back into place and Graham wincing considerably in obvious pain. 2 plays later, he was back in the game. Colston fumbles, he beats everyone to the ball and recovers it inside the 5. That sequence won the game for the Saints, and most importantly it showcased what a warrior Jimmy Graham is. Major kudos there. He also had 2 false start penalties, so he probably deserves worse than a B but the recovery saved the game.
David Thomas: B (2.26) With Jed Collins absent he played a lot of fullback and blocked well. He also played tight end over Jimmy Graham a lot in this game unless it was an obvious passing down. He was decent overall but he was flagged for a holding penalty. He also contributed a 3 yard touchdown reception on a nice play fake that left him wide open.
Jermon Bushrod: B- (2.53) He was flagged for a false start and he had a really hard time with DeMarcus Warealmost getting Brees killed once. Ware was banged up and in and out of the game, though, and when Ware wasn't there Bushrod had a much easier time. His run blocking was solid. A decent showing overall. But he forced Brees to step up into the pocket a little too often.
Ben Grubbs: C+ (2.80) His pass protection wasn't as good as usual, and he got Brees hit once due to poor protection, though Brees was able to avoid the sack. He also didn't get the push on the interior we're used to seeing from him, but overall he played clean and didn't make any major mistakes.
Brian de la Puente: B+ (2.47) A solid and impressive game from the Saints' undrafted center, who had great push on the interior and was physical in protection.
Jahri Evans: A (2.93) Dominated at right guard. On the ground he was frequently at the second level finishing plays and surging the play for a yard or two more. He gave Brees a clean pocket throughout and demolished any pass rusher that came his way. Very impressive performance. PT has a very narrow lead over big Jahri for best offensive GPA of the season.
Zach Strief: B+ (2.21) Take away a holding call and he was precious in his performance as well. He's obviously feeling better because his lateral movement was clean and much improved, not getting beat off the edge. His size was extremely valuable and Cowboy defenders just couldn't get around him. Nice to have him back playing like that.
Eric Olsen: A- (2.38) He too was flagged for holding once, but with Collins out Olsen was run through the gauntlet of positions. The Saints asked him to do everything. He even ran routes as a safety valve on a couple of plays, which was just hilarious. The lead blocks he threw as a fullback in short yardage situations were fantastic. He moved pretty well for a guard off the edge, and gave the Saints a much needed presence off the edge. His best game of the season, bar none.
My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees
I noticed you use 60 minute stats. Do overtime stats not count? Colston had 169 yards, so he needs less then 101 to get the PR.
And Graham... drops an easy catch for 1st down. Then te play after catches the ball for first down and dislocates his pinky and still makes the catch. Then comes back in and makes the play of the game... Now let him get his wrist in check and let payton tell him what he should do next year and he will be 2-ce the player he is now...
I say "PT is awesome" a million times every game. Man, that guy is a monster. Colton probably needs to shake off coming back from his injury and just refocus. He's a monster, too. And yes, Graham is definitely a warrior for not only coming right back into the game, but diving on that ball, saving Colston's butt. And JAHRI! OMG Jahri. Every time there's a run play iI find myself screaming at the TV to whoever's carrying the ball, "Run behind Jahri, baby!" That run by PT where he was pretty much stuffed right away but STILL ended up with almost 5 yards (I think) was largely because of not only his beastliness, but the help of that amazing offensive line, led by Jahri Evans. Great offensive effort this game. Glad to see Brees is back to his old Breesiness. Awesome game for him.