Saints - Vikings: Report Card

The Saints know they didn't play their best game against the Vikings, but they did do enough to hang around to have a chance at the end. Fortunately head coach Sean Payton kept the team focused through their adversity. Here is the report card for the Saints 31-28 NFC Championship game.

REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- The Saints weren't as productive as they usually are, but they were plenty efficient in their victory against the Vikings. Drew Brees completed 17 of 31 passes for 197 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked just once, which was a must for the Saints against the Vikings' formidable defensive line, and he had a passer rating of 106.5. Devery Henderson was the leading receiver with four catches for 39 yards and a 9-yard TD. Pierre Thomas caught a 38-yard pass to open the scoring for the Saints and Reggie Bush scored the final touchdown of the night on a 5-yard catch from Brees.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Vikings had the second-best run defense in the NFL in the regular season and the Saints saw why, although Thomas had a nice day with 61 yards and a 4.4 average on 14 attempts. He had a TD run of 9 yards and a long gain of 12. Bush found the going tough, however, and had just 8 yards on seven carries. To make matters worse, the Saints failed to convert on three third-and-1 situations in the contest. One problem was the Saints didn't have a lot of chances to run as they snapped the ball just 55 times -- with 45 of them coming in regulation.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The pressure that the Saints put on Brett Favre helped the grade out as he hit on 28 of 46 passes for 310 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Favre was constantly hit even after he delivered the ball and finished with a passer rating of 70.0. Wide receiver Bernard Berrian caught nine passes for 102 yards and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe had 83 yards on four receptions. The Saints did a decent job on Pro Bowl wideout Sidney Rice as he caught just four passes for 43 yards and a 5-yard TD.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Saints went into the game ranked 21st against the run and the Vikings exploited that as Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor had some big gains. Peterson rushed for 122 yards on 25 carries with a long of 27 and recorded TD runs of 19, 1 and 2 yards in picking up 4.9 yards a pop and Taylor had 28 yards on six carries and a long of 14. The Vikings finished the game with 165 yards and a 4.6 average on 36 attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-plus -- The Saints did a solid job in the kicking game, which was topped by Garrett Hartley's game-winning 40-yard field goal in overtime. Punter Thomas Morstead also had a big day with a 51.3 average on seven punts and had a net of 49.1 with a long of 63 yards. He also had three touchbacks among his five kickoffs. They allowed just 5.0 yards per punt return and 16.5 yards per return to Percy Harvin on kickoffs. On the other side, the Saints averaged 30.5 yards on six kickoff returns with gains of 61 yards by Courtney Roby and 40 yards by Thomas. The only miscue was a muffed punt by Bush, but the Vikings failed to capitalize when they turned the ball over just two plays later.

COACHING: A -- Sean Payton and his coaching staff pushed all the right buttons in getting their team to stay focused throughout the long season and it worked again Sunday night when they qualified for the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

NOTES:

--WR Courtney Roby took a blow to his right knee on a kickoff return late in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, but coach Sean Payton said Monday he doesn't think the injury is too significant.

--CB Malcolm Jenkins, who sustained a hamstring injury in the Saints' regular-season finale and had a setback in the divisional playoff round, was inactive for the NFC title game but could be back for Super Bowl XLIV.

--TE Jeremy Shockey, who played against the Vikings after missing practice all last week with a right knee injury, had no setbacks in the game and should be ready for the Super Bowl.

--RB Lynell Hamilton came out of Sunday's game with a left ankle injury, but is expected to be available for the Super Bowl.

--WR Robert Meachem was able to play against the Vikings despite a sprained ankle that he suffered in the divisional playoffs.

--LDE Bobby McCray, who has been bothered by a back injury all season, started for the second straight week in place of an injured Charles Grant.


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