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The offensive line played their best game

Quick, what happens if Rich Braham, Levi Jones and Bobbie Williams are injured? Arguably, the best offensive line performance all season long. Stacy Andrews was well complimented by Bengals great Willie Anderson.

"He was amazing. This is one of the toughest arenas in the NFL to play in. For a guy to come in and step in like that was impressive. Stacy came in and he did a great job in pass blocking. He gave the guy in the three technique trouble. Athletically, there is nobody in this team that has the abilities that Stacy has. He played a great game today."

When I watched Andrews on passing plays, he'd make the initial contact at the line and then stepped back to regain his balance for the opposing pass rusher. On running plays, Andrews never let off a block unless he was going to the second level. I didn't see an instance where the guy he was blocking made a play on Rudi Johnson or Carson Palmer around the line of scrimmage. His size and speed impressed me enough to ponder the question, "should we have given Bobbie Williams an extension?". Don't get me wrong; Williams is the starter for a reason. But Andrews officially went from project to legitimate NFL guard with a taller ceiling -- in terms of potential -- than Williams.

Anderson was impressed several times Sunday -- including one that saved a sack. On second-and-ten at the Cincinnati 28-yard line with 7:45 left in the first quarter, Palmer dropped back to pass. Jeremi Johnson came out of the backfield and clipped defensive end, Charles Grant -- the guy Willie Anderson was blocking. After being clipped, Grant spun so fast that Anderson, unable to readjust, fell to his knees. Andrews having no one to block watching those annoying blitzers, came over and picked up Grant saving a sure sack.

On second-and-two at the Cincinnati 27-yard line with twelve minutes left in the third, Palmer completed a 25-yard pass to Chad Johnson. On the play, two Saints defenders blitzed. One went directly into Andrews hitting a brick wall. The other ended up blowing up Palmer. This was an instance where there were more defenders than blockers. Normally Rudi Johnson would pick up the other blitzer but he went out in a delayed (blocking then releasing) route.

Usually when I talk about the offensive line, I write down the amount of times the defenders they blocked made the play. This doesn't include defenders that make the tackle that were initially blocked 4-5 yards deep. For example, Eric Ghiaciuc, on the third-and-goal at the Saints three-yard line, locked up with defensive tackle Rodney Leisle. As Palmer approached the line of scrimmage, Leisle pulled off Ghiaciuc’s block and made the tackle. That would be an instance where the offensive lineman's assignment shed off the block and made the play at the line of scrimmage. On another play, Eric Ghiaciuc blocked Hollis Thomas 4-5 yards back and Thomas shed off the block to make the play. Rudi gained four yards on the play. That would be an instance of a successful block because Rudi gained nearly half the yardage required for a first down. That's called a "success" by DVOA standards. I also didn't count secondary tackles or linebackers that were unblocked (I don't know if the play calls for that person getting blocked).

After the game, my blocking sheet was nearly empty. Andrew Whitworth missed Will Smith early in the game that led to a sack. At the snap, Whitworth looked inwards a little too long while Smith ran around the outside. Whitworth was late in rocking back and never caught up. Eric Steinbach had two defenders he was blocking shed off to make plays. Reggie Kelly had one and Eric Ghiaciuc had one.

But you don't need me to explain that the offensive line had a great day. Palmer was only sacked once and Rudi averaged 4.1 yards per gain. Of Rudi's 27 carries, 13 were stopped by the Saints' secondary. I believe Eric Ghiaciuc has become the most improved lineman since he was reinstated as the starter after being demoted against Tampa Bay. Stacy Andrews convinced me he's ready for more playing time and Whitworth has been solid 90% of the time. We were worried about our offensive line early this season. But as the line has find cohesiveness, we've seen this offense go from frustrating back to high-scoring. All the while having lost three first-team linemen along the way.