The Saints may have lost to the Cardinals, but it was through no fault of the defense. I realize Max Hall is no household name, but anytime you hold a team to under 200 yards of total offense, you should win by 30 with no questions asked. Especially when Drew Brees is your quarterback. A big tip of the hat to the defense for a outstanding performance. Sadly their grades are combined with those of special teams. Too bad, because special teams was crap in this game. They don't deserve to be roped together this week. Make the jump for the grades. As always, the letter grade represents that player's performance in the game. The GPA in parentheses is the player's cumulative effort for the season.
Alex Brown: B (2.00) Hey look who showed up to play this week! Ok Alex, I take back the Charles Grant comparisons for now. He finished with just two tackles, but one of them was a sack and he was in Max Hall's face with solid pressure for much of the day. His pursuit of plays showed the kind of effort and energy I've always blasted Grant for ignoring. I even saw Brown at one point covering a running back in the flat and running with him step for step. He also had a huge tip of a pass by Hall that forced the Cardinals to give the Saints another chance at coming back by punting. I hope that Brown can duplicate this kind of performance now.
Anthony Hargrove: B- (2.14) He was credited with a sack, and it took me forever to figure out when that happened. I think they must have gone back and decided that the play where he blew up Max Hall and almost literally killed him at the 2 yard line was slightly behind the line of scrimmage, hence the sack. On that play, Hargrove jarred the ball loose and got the assist on Levi Brown's scoop and score. Seriously, though, it was really bad luck for the Saints there. The worst kind of luck you could ever experience. Hargrove made a huge play for the Saints, though. He saw a quarterback running up the middle of the field and he put the kind of "remember me hit" that will make Hall think twice before ever running up the middle again. There is no way a lay person would come away from a hit like that without needing life support. That was his lone tackle and he was quiet otherwise, but hey, he almost spared Brees and Betts the shame of that ridiculous turnover inside the Saints' 5.
Jimmy Wilkerson: C (2.11) He finished with two tackles and was overall quiet. He was decent in run support, but the guy just doesn't get much penetration on passing plays. What happened to that guy that looked so promising in preseason?
Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.74) Just one tackle for the Saints' middle man, but he got interior push all day. The Cardinals ran the ball 24 times for a 1.7 yard average. Enough said.
Remi Ayodele: B+ (2.93) He finished with 2 tackles and a sack. On his sack, he stripped a scrambling Max Hall and showed a decent amount of athleticism for a big run stuffer. Sadly, Alan Faneca would fall on that loose ball for a nice gain. Just the kind of game it was for the Saints. Can't blame Ayodele for that, though, as he was excellent all day in plugging up the middle. Through 5 games his play has been nothing short of outstanding. He's been a real find for the Saints' front four, and he seems to be getting better each and every week. Again, when the opposing team averages 1.7 yards per carry and they came into the game averaging 5.6, that's a testament to how your interior is breaking down the offensive line and how your linebackers are tackling.
Jonathan Vilma: A- (3.27) Vilma was all over the field. My only regret from his performance is that he didn't come up with the fumble recovery either time Hall put the ball on the turf, because he was in the middle of the pile. He had 7 tackles and was often dominating around the line of scrimmage, taking advantage of the tackling opportunities the defensive line set up for him. He came blitzing several times, sacked Hall once, and came very close to sacking him another time. He knocked Hall out of the game briefly thanks to the hit he laid on him.
Scott Shanle: B- (2.53) He had two real tackling opportunities, both times as Beanie Wells went around the edge, and both times he showed perfect technique taking him down. Other than that, not many opportunities for Shanle to show his stuff. He was around Larry Fitzgerald when the Cardinals' superstar receiver caught passes way too often, but that was the scheme of the bracket coverage more than Shanle's fault. I don't think anyone can expect him to do an effective job of limited a top tier NFL receiver downfield.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C+ (2.47) Like Shanle, he had 2 tackles, but it seems clear that the Saints are using Clark a lot more on running downs. Dunbar's reps are limited defensively because of it. He did a decent job in coverage, surprisingly, defending a pass.
Danny Clark: A- (3.11) Clark out of nowhere is all of a sudden a run stopping force for the Saints. He was laying a thumbing on Cardinal backs all game long. As the Cardinals had a lead and tried to run clock, Clark stuck his nose in the line of scrimmage to make sure the plays went absolutely nowhere. His aggression, tackling ability and ferociousness wasn't that of a journeyman veteran at all, but that of a solid NFL starter. Maybe he deserves to be a starter. He's always been solid in run support throughout his career, and has had a reputation for being very limited in coverage. In this game, though, I saw him pick up Tim Hightower a couple of times and do a solid job there too. Any way you slice it, he's been a very nice surprise and he's solidified himself in my opinion as a significant role player on this roster. He finished with 6 tackles, most of which came in the second half. Expect to see a lot more of him based on the way he played.
Marvin Mitchell: B- (2.54) Like Clark, he was helpful in run support and he was good on special teams. He had 4 tackles total, 2 in run support, and 2 in special team coverage. He's a great interior role player, too.
Jabari Greer: C+ (2.80) It was an up and down game for Greer overall. He picked off Max Hall's second pass of the game on the opening drive, and ran that interception back 26 yards. That big play would end up giving the Saints a 3-0 lead early. Greer was charged with covering Larry Fitzgerald, and the results were mixed. Truth be told, throwing to Fitzgerald was the only play that really gave the Cardinals any sort of chain moving potential. The Cards finished with 194 yards of total offense, and Fitzgerald was responsible for 93 of those. That's right, if not for Fitzgerald, the team would have amassed 101 yards. Greer did a fantastic job of tackling Fitzgerald, I will say. He was giving a tremendous amount of size to Fitzgerald giving his slight frame, and the fact that #11 is a mammoth, but he was still able to be physical with him. Twice I was impressed with Greer's ability to bring him down in the open field. He finished with 5 tackles, but he was beat a number of times.
Patrick Robinson: B+ (2.55) Robinson was very good overall, and he was physical all game long. He lent a hand in run support and tackled very well. He ended up leading the team with 8 tackles. Some of that was him getting beat in coverage, but he was pretty good in coverage at other times. He broke up one pass, going low on Stephen Williams who couldn't hang onto the football as he slammed to the turf. My only gripe with Robinson is, as a rule of thumb, if you're going to be dumb enough to commit pass interference on a 3rd down play, at least make sure the guy doesn't catch the ball. He held Andre Roberts pretty blatantly before the ball got there, allowed Roberts to catch it, and then run after the catch for a first down. Come on Patrick, if you're going to commit an automatic first down penalty, at least make it good. That play aside, I think we have a lot to look forward to with Robinson. Very promising stuff from the rookie.
Randall Gay: B- (2.78) No tackles from Gay, but when he was in Max Hall never even dared look his receiver's way. His coverage was very tight all game, like a blanket. He almost deserves a better grade, but he just didn't really get involved enough to warrant it. Still, a tip of the cap to Gay for doing a great job of limiting Hall's ability to make plays downfield.
Roman Harper: B+ (3.42) Harper was great in run support, and pretty good in coverage. He showed no ill effects from his injury, and showed that usual force around the line of scrimmage. He finished with 7 tackles, a defended pass, and he hit Hall once on a blitz. Late in the game with the Saints down 3 he forced a Ben Patrick fumble that once again didn't get recovered by the defense. If the Saints come up with that ball, though, it's a heroic type play from Harper, because that would've given the Saints the time and field position to tie the game. Harper did get isolated on Fitzgerald once and beat for a fairly big play, and his help over the top was suspect at times. No real surprise there, we all know by now that Harper's strength is not down the field but around the line of scrimmage.
Malcolm Jenkins: C (2.34) He finished with 3 tackles and a defended pass. On that "defended pass" he had a shot at an interception in the end zone that would have killed a Cardinals' touchdown drive. Too bad he didn't come up with that play. Many times he tried to help on Fitzgerald, and was of no help whatsoever. He missed tackles on him, grabbed his facemask to add 15 yards to an already big gain, and didn't do a great job in coverage. Give Jenkins credit on one deep ball, though, for physically muscling Fitzgerald to the turf which cause the ball to pop loose for an incomplete pass. I thought his tackling, overall, was pretty spotty. He did do a great job on the aforementioned play by Harper, diving for the ball as it was close to going out of bounds, and shoveling back in bounds to give the Saints a chance to recover it. That was a very high IQ and head's up play by Jenkins. Unfortunately his hustle wasn't rewarded, as guess who, Larry Fitzgerald was there to fall on the loose ball.
John Carney: D (2.34) He was looking solid like last week, 2 for 2 with both kicks right down the middle... then he missed a 29 yarder. What is with our kickers having issues with that 29 yard kick? I mean, seriously? Some teams don't go 3 years missing two kicks inside 30 yards. That miss was ridiculous. It's time we just go back to Garrett Hartley and just take our lumps when he misses. I still can't believe he shanked that. I still can't believe Hartley missed the game winner against Atlanta. Just awful. The Saints have been killed by easy field goal misses in their 2 losses. Shameful.
Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.40) On his three punts, he averaged 46 yards. Which is pretty good. His net, though, was 44.7, which is exceptional. It really doesn't get any better. None of those were inside the 20, though. Arizona's kicker seemed to have no problem routinely getting the ball at least 5-8 yards deep in the end zone on kickoffs, whereas Morstead was hit or miss. Too bad, because LaRod Stephens-Howling gashed the coverage units for returns of 60 and 48 yards. It's lame the Cardinals' terrible offense that was incapable of moving the ball got rewarded by ridiculous field position all game. Unfortunately, the kickoff coverage units and the offense giving away the football made the game play out that way. Morstead was pretty good, I just wish he had kicked the ball just a bit deeper, or shorter, to stop Stephens-Howling from hurting the Saints.
Courtney Roby: B- (3.33) He had yet another tackle on special teams, but this one was in Saints' territory after Stephens-Howling's monster return. Good job chasing him down, I guess. He averaged 27.8 yards per kick return on 4 returns, which is really good, but benefited from extra yardage thanks to taking out a few kicks that were pretty deep in the end zone. Still, he deserves credit for never getting hit inside the 20.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Jonathan Vilma
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead