Drew Brees is almost one-third of the way to reaching his interception total of last year with two picks tossed on Sunday, including one that was intercepted in the end zone that sealed a Dallas victory. He ended up 18-for-35 with two touchdown tosses but he needs to spread the ball around more.
It is hard to grade a guy that barely got used down the stretch and was not used in the passing game. LaDainian Tomlinson rushed 19 times for 78 yards. His longest gain of the day was ten yards out of a shotgun formation. Dallas was simply ready to see a lot of him and didn't respect the passing game without Antonio Gates.
Veteran wide receiver Keenan McCardell had nine grabs but it could not haul in the big catch when it counted. Eric Parker added five receptions and the top two receivers accounted for 198 of the 209 yards passing on the day.
Clearly Gates was not on the field and after looking at the tape it is unclear if any other tight end was. Kris Dielman reported eligible more often than Pamela Anderson (sorry Mr. Binn). Justin Peelle did more harm than good, catching two passes for negative yardage.
They were severely challenged by a Dallas defense that was blitzing on nearly every down and really did a good job of keeping Brees safe. Running lane holes weren't there very often and the line could not drive the seven men bearing down on them very often. It was a tough day to be a lineman but this unit held its own.
At times it looked like the defensive line would make more than a statement but in the end they did not get a whole lot of push up the field. They need to be more consistent for this team to have a shot.
Ben Leber had a monster day and was the most explosive linebacker on the field. Randall Godfrey also showed some nice lateral skills. Donnie Edwards may have led the team in tackles but it was a quiet day for the veteran. Steve Foley had a sack but was not the inspirational leader that changed several games a year ago. Shaun Phillips had the most energy on the field.
Quentin Jammer gave away two first downs on third and long via a pass interference call and a defensive holding. Sammy Davis could not keep close to a more physical Keyshawn Johnson. Terrence Kiel, along with the linebackers who also drew the assignment, was solid on Jason Witten, limiting the tight end to one reception. Bhawoh Jue's day was nondescript which is a good sign. They did give up one long gain on the day.
Darren Sproles was everything the team had hoped for as a returner, playing with a competent blocking unit in front of him. The coverage team was fantastic and Nate Kaeding had solid hang time on his kickoffs. Mike Scifres shanked a punt and it cost the team dearly.
The running lanes may not have been there but they had to be more creative to get Tomlinson the rock. Delays, misdirections, lots of movement for a newly implemented 3-4 defense would have challenged Dallas to know their assignments. Twelve men on the field and lack of discipline falls here.