2013 NFL Grades, Week 4: Saints a serious Super contender

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Saints coach Sean Payton was asked about Peyton Manning and the Broncos after New Orleans' dominating 38-17 win over Miami. It's unnecessary but it's what happens when two teams are putting up historic offensive numbers.

"Next question."

Not long after Payton bolted the podium. He didn't need to talk, though. The Saints did their talking on the field Monday night, throttling the Dolphins in every aspect of the game. The Fins never had a chance with the Saints jumping out a 21-10 halftime lead and Drew Brees winging the ball over the place.

But what made New Orleans' performance so impressive wasn't the Saints' offensive prowess. We know the Saints can score points. It was the defense in conjunction with the high-flying O. When you add the pass-rushing abilities of Rob Ryan's unit -- both Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette picked up another sack -- to a potent scoring group it makes the Saints difficult to defend.

Once they had a lead, New Orleans pinned their ears back and made life tough for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The offense didn't let up on the gas, either, continuing to put up points well into the fourth quarter.

They're probably (definitely?) fueled by anger from a lost 2012. With the complete nature of this team right now, it's possible they get a legit shot at redemption as early as this season. Seattle remains undefeated, but New Orleans, with their explosiveness on offense and suddenly dominant D, has an argument to be the top dog in the NFC as well.

Saints 38, Dolphins 17
CNot as bad a showing as the score might indicate for the Dolphins. They were simply overmatched here and got behind too quickly in the Superdome. Ryan Tannehill made some young mistakes, and the Fins couldn't establish Lamar Miller (or protect Tannehill). Mike Wallace was completely bottled up.
AA primetime performance on the biggest NFL stage puts the Saints at 4-0 and has them squarely set up to contend for another Super Bowl. Drew Brees is rolling, Jimmy Graham is doing ridiculous things and the defense is playing better than anyone could've imagined.
Patriots 30, Falcons 23
B+Took their medicine early with the young wide receivers and suddenly have a potent offense again. Everyone contributing, including LeGarrette Blount. Tom Brady's body language is much better, thankfully. Most important? This defense is secretly quite stout. Heck of a game from Aqib Talib on Julio Jones.
C+The good news: Tony Gonzalez got more involved this week. The bad news: it didn't matter much. Heck of an effort to comeback and have a shot at tying the game late, but it was all for naught. Julio Jones was bottled up and this offense isn't the same with Roddy White struggling to stay healthy. The offensive line is a major issue for Matt Ryan right now.
Chiefs 31, Giants 7
FVictor Cruz had a huge game, finishing with 164 receiving yards, but the Giants as a whole were a dumpster fire once again. They're 0-4 now after Eli Manning had another disastrous game with three turnovers. David Wilson got a little bit going with 55 rushing yards and the defense was carved up, especially late.
AThe Chiefs are 4-0 and though Alex Smith threw his first two picks of the season, he also tossed three touchdowns. Jamaal Charles picked up 120 all-purpose yards and Dexter McCluster pulled off game-turning return for a touchdown. Kansas City just swept the NFC East and is very much a playoff contender.
Titans 38, Jets 13
FNew York was outclassed in about every aspect of this game. Geno Smith had a few turnovers that led to Titans touchdowns and couldn't stop Tennessee -- both Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick tore them up -- all day.
A-The Titans still don't have a turnover on the season, which is incredibly impressive. Alterraun Verner had a pair of picks and a monster game, while this defense continued to give opponents fits. Tennessee is a very frisky contender and close to being undefeated.
Redskins 24, Raiders 14
C+Massive win for Washington on a day when a loss would've ended their season for good. Robert Griffin III wasn't great and Alfred Morris suffered an injury (though Roy Helu looked good filling in). Thankfully the defense stepped up. Brian Orakpo was a nightmare for Oakland and rookie David Amerson took a pick to the house.
C-Rashad Jennings was Oakland's top receiver which is, well, yikes. The offense didn't score after a pair of first-quarter touchdowns and was simply faded by Washington as the game wore on. The Raiders are bad anyway, but really bad when Matt Flynn has to fill in for Terrelle Pryor.
Broncos 52, Eagles 20
DA depleted secondary matched up against the best offense in the NFL? The result was exactly what you'd expect: ugly as all get out. LeSean McCoy was kept in check and Michael Vick and Philly couldn't keep up with the Broncos, who are absolutely annihilating everything in their path right now.
AJust another massive, ho-hum game from Peyton Manning. 28 for 34 with four touchdowns? Boring. The defense did a darn fine job of shutting down the Eagles high-powered offense too.
Chargers 30, Cowboys 21
C-Dallas wasted a good Tony romo game and a strong early performance from Dez Bryant. They should really call his name more often than they already do. The defense scored a touchdown but was also shredded by the Chargers throughout this game.
A-No idea how these guys keep doing this, but kudos to Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt for reviving Philip Rivers career. Rivers completed 83 percent of his passes and hit Danny Woodhead on a pair of wheel routes. San Diego's 2-2 now and magically making something out of nothing. Antonio Gates had a throwback game.
Bills 23, Ravens 20
D-Give Baltimore credit for nearly storming back and winning this game but the Ravens -- and Joe Flacco, who threw a career-high five interceptions -- remain mediocre on the road during his tenure. Ray Rice had a stretch of like 15-plus minutes where he didn't even carry the ball.
B+Another huge home win for the surprising Bills. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were an effective tandem and the defense -- particularly rookie linebacker Kiko Alonzo, who looks like a star in the making -- wrecked the Ravens' afternoon.
Cardinals 13, Buccaneers 10
C-Arizona stole a win despite looking sluggish the entire day. The Cards' running game wasn't doing anything all day and Larry Fitzgerald was locked down for most of the day. They finally got going late, though, and squeezed out a win against an inferior squad starting a rookie quarterback.
C-Mike Glennon's debut was exactly as expected: up and down. He had some nice drives but the Buccaneers put him in a bad spot late in the game, forcing him to pass from under the shadow of his own end zone. The result was a pair of back-breaking interceptions that gave Arizona the win. Greg Schiano's seat isn't any cooler.
Vikings 34, Steelers 27
DThey nearly mounted a comeback, but Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers watched their season evaporate in a late-game sack that ended their game against the Vikings. Le'Veon Bell geared up the ground game some, which is nice but it probably too little, too late.
B-The Steelers' weak attempt at defense helped alleviate any concerns about Adrian Peterson's game -- 140 yards on 23 carries and two scores were the highlights of an impressive game for him. Matt Cassel likely exacerbated Christian Ponder's "rib injury" for a few more weeks. He's got to keep starting in Minnesota.
Colts 37, Jaguars 3
BImpressive final score and good on Indy for going on the road in two straight games and winning. Not getting trapped after a huge San Francisco victory last week was impressive. Trent Richardson still only averaged 3 yards per carry. Andrew Luck is amazing. Grade damaged by quality of competition.
FThis team has legit 0-16 potential, folks. Blaine Gabbert was 17 of 32 for 179 yards and three interceptions. Maurice Jones-Drew ran 13 times for 23 yards. They were worked over in every facet of the game Sunday.
Seahawks 23, Texans 20
C+A road win is a road win and this was a HUGE one, beating a tough Texans team after trailing at halftime. The Seahawks didn't look like a world-beater in the first half but it ended up not mattering. A Richard Sherman pick six of Matt Schaub set up a comeback and then Russell Wilson and Co. ripped the hearts out of Houston to get to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
D+Crippling loss that puts the Texans behind the Colts and (for now) Titans in the AFC South. Matt Schaub made some horrendous mistakes late that erased an impressive performance by the Houston defense and the run game.
Browns 17, Bengals 6
DCincy has to figure out how to take the leash off this offense. The Bengals aren't scoring the way they should be given their weapons. Kudos to Joe Haden for shutting down A.J. Green. There have to be concerns about Andy Dalton at this point.
ATanking? We don't need your stinking tanking. Cleveland is in first place in the AFC North after four weeks of football. I repeat: Cleveland is in first place in the AFC North after four weeks of football. Limiting the Bengals to no touchdowns says a lot about Ray Horton's defensive unit. Jordan Cameron is an absolute beast.
Lions 40, Bears 32
CBad Jay Cutler showed up for most of Sunday's game as he completed just 27 of 47 passes and threw three interceptions. The defense was able to take Calvin Johnson out of the Lions' gameplan but that didn't matter. Turnovers led to points immediately for Detroit and it led for a loss for Chicago.
B+As I noted before this week, when Reggie Bush plays the Lions offense hums. That continued on Sunday as he ran for 139 yards on 18 carries (and added another 34 through the air). Chicago closed the gap in this game but it was a dominant effort from Detroit, including an impressive performance by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.


49ers 35, Rams 11
B+Huge bounceback in a division road game after the embarrassment against the Colts last week. Colin Kaepernick can tweet all the haters now and the 49ers got back to doing what they do best: letting Frank Gore eat behind a mauling offensive line and playing defense. Having Vernon Davis healthy helps a ton. Strong showing from the D considering Patrick Willis was missing.
FDisaster game for the Rams who fall to 1-3 on the year. They've looked like a bottom-five team in the NFL the last three weeks. Sam Bradford might not be the answer (isn't the answer?). The running game is stagnant. Cortland Finnegan looks finished. What is the plan for Tavon Austin? Things are spiraling in St. Louis.
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