Rob Ryan once again found himself on The Sinners list following his defense’s poor performance against Philadelphia. Image by scott mecum (Flickr: Rob Ryan) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Today we are going to take one last look back at Sunday’s 39-17 loss for the New Orleans Saints at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints are now 1-4 as they head in to a Thursday night game against the 5-0 Atlanta Falcons in the Superdome.

Saints Offensive Grades

Passing: C-

When given any time at all, Drew Brees threw the ball fairly well. Credit Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael for actually attempting to throw the ball down field, as well. Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks had very nice games, but they are really the only two threats from the receiver/tight end position this year. The negatives begin with the five sacks allowed on Drew Brees, two of which resulted in fumbles lost and 10 easy points for the Eagles. Fletcher Cox dominated the Saints offensive line, recording three sacks of his own and both of the forced fumbles. There was pressure allowed from the left side by Andrus Peat, up the middle from Max Unger, Tim Lelito, and Senio Kelemete, and also from the right side by Zach Strief. In a season where the offensive line has had a lot of struggles protecting Brees, this was by far the worst overall performance.

Rushing: B-

I would have liked to grade the rushing offense a little higher, but I had a hard time doing so with such a small sample size. Let it be known that just the 20 carries between Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, and C.J. Spiller are the only negative I could really find. They averaged 4.9 yards per carry with limited opportunities, unfortunately being held back for majority of the second half once the game got away from the Saints. Hopefully they can carry it over to help the team be more competitive moving forward.

The Saints

Willie Snead: The second year player (basically a rookie) continues to quickly rise to the level of of what Lance Moore used to be for Drew Brees. If it was not already becoming apparent, it is now. Snead is Brees’ go to receiver. He was targeted on and converted multiple third and longs and ended up having the best day of his young career. Finishing with 6 receptions for 141 yards, Snead has earned a spot on the field for majority of the offensive snaps.

Mark Ingram/Khiry Robinson: I like to try and find two Saints and two Sinners for each side of the football, but I will certainly go with just one if I can not truly find another player, coach, or position to fill in. I was close to going with just Snead, but I do feel as if Ingram and Robinson deserve a little more recognition for a solid day on the ground in what has been a very rough beginning of the season for the rushing attack. I suppose the offensive line deserves credit for the run blocking, but goodness, it is really hard to give them much credit for anything in that disastrous performance. Nevertheless, Ingram and Robinson averaged 4.8 and 6.0 yards per carry, respectively.

The Sinners

Pass Protection: I already hinted that this was coming, twice, but there was no question that the pass protection for Drew Brees may have been the worst facet of the game for New Orleans on Sunday. The five sacks allowed was the season high, but Brees was under duress on many more plays than just those. I mentioned in the post game article that I am truly surprised that he made it out of the game without getting re-injured, considering how many times he was hit and driven in to the ground. It is sad to say, but I have my doubts if Brees will make it through the rest of the season if he continues to get beat up this much.

Marques Colston: It is so sad to have to keep saying this, but Colston is proving more so every week that he has nothing left in the tank. He has never been a receiver that specialized in anything except being sure handed. He never had speed, he was never the “throw it up high and let him go up and get it over defenders” guy, nor was he ever a yards after the catch receiver. His attribute that always made him so good was making tough catches. We have now come to the point where we are surprised to see him make a catch that hits him between the numbers with a defender no where near him. Colston has been nothing but class and a true professional for this franchise over the past 10 years, but it is unfortunately the end of the line. He sustained a separated shoulder during the second half on Sunday, so hopefully he is able get healthy, because I honestly believe that we are not only watching the end of #12 in black and gold, but possibly in his career.

Saints Defensive Grades

Passing: D-

The only thing keeping this grade from being a flat out “F” are the two interceptions by Brandon Browner and Delvin Breaux. The defense allowed the Eagles to march down the field prior to each of them, but it still does not take away how great both of the plays were. Browner made his pick with full extension and Breaux made a beautiful undercut diving catch on his. With that being said, the positives end there. Lack of pressure and wide open receivers plagued the Saints throughout the game. After his second interception, people were talking about whether Sam Bradford should be benched in the game. He ended up throwing for 333 yards and completing 71.1% of his passes. That is how bad things got for the Saints after the two takeaways. It was yet another game where I wore myself out by saying the same two words on nearly every drop back. No pressure. No pressure. No pressure. I will dive a little deeper in to issues in that department when we get to the Sinners.

Rushing: F

It was an all-around ugly performance against the run for the Saints. I discussed in the preview that they had done a pretty good job in their previous two games facing teams that can run the ball pretty well in the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys. Philadelphia was really struggling in that department heading in to Sunday’s game, so the question was whether or not the patterns for each team would continue. They sure didn’t. The Eagles ran for 186 yards, while DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Mathews, in particular, really did serious damage, rushing for 73 yards on just 8 carries. Both ran for a touchdown and broke tackles on many of their carries. Tackling has always seemed to be a problem for Saints defenses over the past few years, but it had been pretty solid coming in to this game. That was not the case in this one, as it seemed rare that the first defender was the one to make the tackle on most of the plays.

The Saints

Kenny Vaccaro: It is tough to find much of a silver lining following a defensive performance like that, but Vaccaro deserves credit for the way played Sunday, as well as the entire season. He led the team with 11 tackles and was the one sure bet to take down the ball carrier instead of missing the tackle whenever he had the chance. I tweeted during the game that we are seeing year one Kenny Vaccaro instead of the year two version that struggled so much last year, which is certainly very reassuring considering so many of Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton’s draft picks have been busts in recent years.

The Sinners

The Front Four: When I mention the front four, it is never the exact same four players. On Sunday, it was always some combination of Cam Jordan, Hau’oli Kikaha, Kevin Williams, John Jenkins, Tyler Davison, and Kaleb Eulls. Regardless of what that combination was, they failed miserably against both the run and the pass. I am going to single out the pass rush right now, though. Bradford had all day to throw throughout the entire game, which made it easy for him to have by far his best game of the season. I will give Kikaha the benefit of the doubt, because he spent most of the day facing off with Jason Peters, who just so happens to be one of the best left tackles in all of football. He will have to learn how to be successful against guys like that in the future to have a good career, but to expect that in his fifth NFL game would be naive. As for the rest of them, there is no excuse. As a whole, the Eagles offensive line is far from special. That is why they had struggled so much to run the ball and were allowing about two sacks a game on Bradford. The sacks allowed had not been terrible, but they were far from unbeatable, which is exactly what they looked like against the Saints front four.

Rob Ryan: Ryan’s name is becoming a reoccurring trend amongst my criticisms of this team thus far this season and I continue to stand by my belief that his time in New Orleans has run out. He was given the benefit of the doubt following last year’s poor defensive performance, mostly because of how well his unit played in 2013. I see a lot of people on twitter and message boards saying that Ryan does not deserve the blame and he’s dealing with a lot of rookies. Let me fill you in on a very true reality. The rookies are producing roughly 90% of the productivity and positiveness that is so hard to find in one of the league’s worst defenses. Heading in to the game, Hau’oli Kikaha led the team in tackles, sacks, and forced fumbles. Stephone Anthony and Bobby Richardson led the team in tackles for loss. Delvin Breaux is tied with Brandon Browner for the most passes defended and interceptions. If the rookies are the issue, where are the veterans? Cam Jordan, John Jenkins, and David Hawthorne have been non-existent. Kenny Vaccaro has been the best of the “veterans” and he is only in his third year. I believe it is a giant cop out to blame the rookies for this defense’s issues, simply because they are rookies. You want to know why Ryan deserves blame? I have three big reasons. Scheme, game plans, and adjustments. First off, we saw a few times on Sunday that players are confused while on the field. There have been issues with knowing where to line up, who to cover, and who is even supposed to be on the field. Of course the players should also be held accountable when they are mistaken, but those types of issues begin and end with the coach. It is his job to have his players prepared for what to do and then it is also on him to keep it from continuing to happen like we have been seeing. Moving on to game plan. I will try to keep this rant limited to Sunday’s loss, because after all, that’s what this article is about, but the issues I am about to talk about were evident in the first three losses as well. As for Sunday, I drove home the stat that Bradford had only converted one first down when being blitzed this season. There is absolutely no way that I know that and Rob Ryan, an NFL defensive coordinator, does not. You would think that having known that, the Saints would blitz early and often, even if it is just with one extra guy, right? Wrong. He continued to rush just his front four and even rushed just three on some passing downs. My final point is making adjustments. Again, this problem extends back to the first game of the season, but I will keep the discussion to this game. So even after the game plan that Ryan went in to Sunday’s game with was not working, he still did not make any adjustments at half time or any other point in the game. Yes, it was only 10-7 at half time, but anyone who watched that game knew that the Saints should have been losing by a lot more. Philadelphia had 300 yards of offense after just the first two quarters. You would think that after the four man pass rush could not force any pressure on Bradford, Ryan would then realize that his game plan was ineffective and he should start trying to blitz, right? Wrong again. We have all heard the saying about the definition of insanity, but I will remind you…”Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I am not calling Rob Ryan the human being insane, but I am 100% saying that that’s exactly what his coaching style and philosophy is. If this keeps up, and I fully imagine it will, I will likely put together a full article discussing all three of my issues with Ryan throughout the entire season. We are just about half way to the bye week, which would be a good time for it, assuming he makes it that long.

Special Teams Grade: D+

Zach Hocker was not asked to do much on Sunday, but he succeeded in what he was called upon for, following up his disastrous missed field goal to win the game a week ago. He made a 21 yard field goal and both of his extra points. Brandon Fields was signed this week to fill in for Thomas Morstead, who injured his quadriceps in the Week 4 win against Dallas. Fields struggled, averaging just 39.5 yards per punt, which would be 31st in the NFL if he had enough punts to qualify. For comparison, Morstead has not been much better this year, as he was averaging 43.2 yards per punt for 27th in the league. Fields also shanked two of his punts, one in particular that came at a very poor time as Philadelphia was starting to pull away. In the return game, Marcus Murphy was able to return three of the kickoffs and averaged 22.0 yards per return, which is not terribly good. If he is returning the ball from three or more yard deep in the end zone, which is generally the case, not making it back to the 20 yard line is considered a failure. I recall one return that he took from a few yards deep in the end zone and was cut down around the 12 yard line. When the offense is already struggling, starting a drive under the shadows of their own goal posts never helps. Murphy has proved he is a very good return man, though, so I anticipate him being better throughout the season.


That’ll wrap things up for Week 5 coverage. With the short turnaround and the game on Thursday night this week, the Week 6 preview will be pretty hot on the heels of this article. Keep an eye out and please stick with us, regardless of the Saints struggles. Let us know how we are doing and remember that you are more than welcome to drop a comment here, on our forums, or to me on Twitter. I am always eager to hear your thoughts! Try to keep your heads up, Who Dat Nation. Let’s hope for the best!

Follow David Billiot Jr on Twitter @DCBilliotJr