I remain disgusted that this defense could play so well for really the first time all season and be rewarded by 5 interceptions from Drew Brees. The coverage in particular was outstanding even if the Saints were helped by some drops. To hold the Falcons to 1 for 11 on 3rd down is positively incredible, so major kudos to the Saints' defense and Steve Spagnuolo. And you know what? As painful as that loss was at least the defense for one week this year was a joy to watch. They really played great. So while that game hurts and it sucked, I can honestly say that after that opening drive I enjoyed watching the defense play. Make the jump for the grades.
Will Smith: C (2.42) He generated a little pass rush, but not much. He finished with just 2 tackles and his best play was a stretch run with Michael Turner in the red zone where he pursued well and met him for a loss. Otherwise, not a great game.
Cameron Jordan: A- (2.61) Excellent showing by Cam who mixed fantastic run defense with a good pass rush. He's coming into his own and starting to become a player I can see being a legitimate quality NFL starter. I love his hustle, the fact that he's pretty complete as an end, and that he keeps improving. He had 5 tackles and a sack.
Turk McBride: C+ (2.00) He unloaded on Matt Ryan a couple of times right as he released the ball and was victim of a couple holds that weren't flagged. He was not great against the run.
Sedrick Ellis: C+ (2.08) On the opening play of the game he embarrassed the rookie guard Peter Konz and hit Matt Ryan as he was throwing the football. The result of the play should have been an interception. He was solid pass rushing, creating some pressure and was able to knock down Ryan one other time. He was a non factor against the run. He has been playing slightly better as of late.
Broderick Bunkley: B- (2.30) Solid against the run yet again, where he had a tackle around the line of scrimmage and drew a holding call. He did a good job in the trenches which forced the Falcons to attack the perimeter with runs to be successful. He did get blocked out of a couple plays though that were makeable though. He also tipped a pass.
Akiem Hicks: C+ (2.39) He had one tackle and a tipped pass. He continues to be active and show good physical ability. He also had a good pass rush on a play where he got to Ryan, but got away with hitting him in the helmet which should have been a 15 yard penalty.
Jonathan Vilma: C (2.00) He's so tough to grade because he does some good things and some poor ones. Ultimately what is most obvious is he's physically just not the player he used to be, we know that. Plays he used to make in his sleep he just can't make anymore. He's not fast enough, and that results in him diving at player's legs only to see them escape. He makes up for that a little bit with smarts, and his play recognition was good. He put himself in an opportunity to make plays, but didn't more often than not. He finished with 4 tackles including one for a loss on a stretch running play. I gave his grade a boost for a very head's up time out preceding a field goal when the Saints had 12 men on the field.
Curtis Lofton: B- (2.78) He gave up the touchdown reception to Tony Gonzalez despite pretty good coverage and a decent job stripping at the football on the way down. He led the Saints with 8 tackles, including one for a loss, and a defended pass. He had a fantastic play taking on a blocker on a screen pass that could have gone for nice yardage if he didn't make an outstanding tackle. That play merited a rain of boos from the Georgia Dome. Overall he was very good tackling and attacking the ball carrier, and so so in coverage.
David Hawthorne: C+ (2.10) He had 3 tackles, most in pursuit, but he tackled physically and held up ok against the run. A quiet performance overall with no major mistakes.
Jonathan Casillas: B- (2.19) Did a good job as the nickel backer in coverage. Had 2 tackles and covered well.
Jabari Greer: B+ (2.40) Largely responsible for coverage Roddy White, he held him to just 1 catch for 20 yards thanks to terrific coverage. He finished with 2 tackles and a defended pass. He was helped out by a decent pass rush, poor accuracy by Ryan and a drop by White, but overall a solid performance.
Patrick Robinson: B (2.03) Like Greer he did a great job on Julio Jones. Jones had 5 catches for 48 yards but Robinson made none of them easy as he was tight and physical in coverage. He had 3 tackles. He's over 2.00 for the first time this season thanks to a pretty good 5 game stretch.
Elbert Mack: B- (3.00) Pretty solid in coverage once again, the Saints should have played this guy much sooner in the season. To me he's clearly their best nickel cover guy. He had 2 tackles.
Malcolm Jenkins: C+ (2.42) He missed a golden opportunity for an interception on the very first play of the game getting boxed out by Gonzalez after a tipped ball. In 2009 you know Darren Sharper comes up with that ball. He also whiffed horribly trying to tackle Michael Turner on that same drive twice leading to gashing runs. After that he was fine, and he had textbook one on one coverage downfield with Harry Douglas to knock the ball down. Offensive pass interference could have been called there. He had 3 tackles.
Roman Harper: C (2.39) The times he was on Tony Gonzalez he held up ok in coverage. Against the run he missed tackles that could have kept the Falcons' more in check. He did have 5 tackles featuring good physicality.
Rafael Bush: A- (3.05) The Saints picked themselves up a pretty good player with Bush. We already knew he was outstanding on special teams, but now we're seeing he can play defense too. He was good in coverage, stepped up and made some nice tackles in run support, and had good command of where he should be on defense. I was impressed. He had 4 tackles, and gave the Saints a little hope late with a fantastic strip/recovery of Michael Turner. He then raced to the end zone but was sadly deemed down by contact.
Garrett Hartley: A (2.86) He gets this A mostly for a critical 52 yard bomb that he nailed. A fantastic kick there that should hopefully give him some confidence. He was perfect on the day with a short field goal and an extra point as well.
Thomas Morstead: C (3.22) His net was only 37 yards on 4 punts, which for him is sub standard, though he put Patrick in a position to pin the Falcons down at the one and didn't get helped out by his teammate as it went for a touchback. His kickoffs were deep, though some were returned. He did do a good job of pinning the Falcons inside the 20 with backspin on one punt. His long punt was 52 yards, but it went off the side of his foot and was a poor kick and he was fortunate to get a nice roll from it.
Travaris Cadet: D (2.27) His stubbornness taking the ball out on kickoffs from very deep is maddening. He did it four times and barely got past the 20 only once. He averaged 23.5 yards on 4 returns and consistently gave the Saints very poor field position.
Will Herring: B- (1.95) He downed two punts. I wanted to give his GPA a little boost since I've been so hard on him this season.
Johnny Patrick: C- (1.81) Had a chance at an athletic play jumping and pinning the Falcons down at the 1 yard line, but his right foot was on the end zone line as he jumped up to make a play. In a game of inches, he lost on that one.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Rafael Bush
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley