NO-SF grades: Drew Brees earns game-high grade in Saints win
New Orleans Saints 41, San Francisco 49ers 23
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the New Orleans Saints’ 41-23 Week 9 victory over the San Francisco 49ers:
Quarterback grade: Drew Brees, 82.9
Another day at the office for Mr. Brees
Drew Brees left the field in this one as the game’s top player. The 49ers were able to pressure Brees on seven dropbacks, but on the 12 plays on which they utilized a blitz, Brees instantly identified the coverage flaws and averaged 13.8 yards per attempt at an 83.3 completion percentage. Brees proved especially lethal targeting depths of 10 yards or greater, completing 7-of-11 such attempts for 145 yards, including a 32-yard strike to rookie WR Michael Thomas.
Top offensive grades:
C Max Unger, 82.0
WR Michael Thomas, 81.9
RB Mark Ingram, 78.5
RT Zach Strief, 74.1
RG Jahri Evans, 73.2
Saints win with a balanced, patient offensive attack
When Brees wasn’t distributing completions to 10 different receivers – without a single dropped pass — the offensive line skillfully paved lanes for the backfield to generate 250 rushing yards and a 5.9 per-carry average. While RB Tim Hightower would draw the start and lead the backfield with 23 carries, RB Mark Ingram was the star and ably placed himself firmly back into the offensive game plan. After surrendering a fumble returned for a touchdown in Week 8 against the Seahawks, Ingram exploded to collect 85 percent of his 158 rushing yards on runs between the guards, including a 75-yard touchdown run off of right center. Rookie wideout Michael Thomas from Ohio State also played an integral role in the victory, scoring on a one-yard back-shoulder fade within CB Jimmie Ward’s coverage, and another on a high-pointed 32-yard dart collected over the coverage of Tramaine Brock.
Top defensive grades:
FS Jairus Byrd, 79.2
CB Delvin Breaux, 78.1
ED Cameron Jordan, 77.5
LB Craig Robertson, 76.7
CB Sterling Moore, 75.4
Early blunders nearly surrender lead
The most memorable factor taken from the defensive performance of the Saints came from busted coverages. The New Orleans defense likely gave the impression that 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick had revived his career. Even in the second half when the Saints held their opponent to three points, most of the credit would fall upon the abysmal play by the 49ers’ offense. Saints SS Kenny Vaccaro was torched for 133 receiving yards on seven targets – 70 of which were collected by TE Vance McDonald.
Quarterback grade: Colin Kaepernick, 42.0
Box-score stats don’t accurately capture Kaepernick’s performance
The San Francisco box-score statistics might deceive some into believing the franchise had found its quarterback of the now and future. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as the signal-caller collected 144 of his 398 passing yards and both touchdowns on a trio of busted coverages by Saints defenders Kenny Vaccaro and Craig Robertson. To be fair, a few throws would magnify Kaepernick’s strong arm – a trait he’s always possessed – but the overwhelming majority of his throws were egregiously off target. When scrambling from the pocket, Kaepernick was again able to highlight his impressive speed and agility, but an overall grade of 42.0 should leave the 49ers brass contemplating another change at the position.
Top offensive grades:
TE Vance McDonald, 81.1
LG Zane Beadles, 79.8
RT Trenton Brown, 76.8
WR Quinton Patton, 75.2
RG Joshua Garnett, 72.8
Niners get little help from offensive supporting cast
Most of the success on the part of the Niners’ offensive line or the skill positions was a result of New Orleans’ blunders. Troy alum DuJuan Harris put together a productive day but would close out any thoughts of a comeback with a fumble on the team’s final drive. WR Quinton Patton and TE Vance McDonald should receive some credit for solid play, but Kaepernick’s inability to connect with receivers at greater than 10 yards and outside the numbers (one-for-five, 19 yards) allowed the Saints to contain their offensive efforts and put the game out of reach.
Top defensive grades:
FS Eric Reid, 83.0
CB Tramaine Brock, 82.9
ED Eli Harold, 76.1
CB Jimmie Ward, 74.2
SS Antoine Bethea, 71.7
Defensive line significantly overmatched
No position group on the field was as outplayed as the 49ers’ defensive line. The defensive interior of Quinton Dial (37.7 PFF grade) and DeForest Buckner (37.9) proved relative no-shows, and edge defenders Ahmad Brooks (43.4) and Cornelius Carradine (47.2) were not much better. Injuries have been a big factor, but that can be said about many defenses around the league, and those units haven’t struggled to the same extent that the Niners have.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Drew Brees
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