Here's your grades on the defensive side of the ball, and special teams. Defensively, you have to give a big huge tip of the hat to our troops. What a sensational effort they put out. You're never going to lose if you give up under 10 points with that offense. It will just never happen. Kudos to Gregg Williams who came up with a genius gameplan.Will Smith: C (2.00) He didn't have much of an impact in this game. Despite his usual high motor and good effort he was largely neutralized. He finished with 2 tackles and didn't provide much in terms of a pass rush. I'm sure we'll see more of a contribution from him as the season progresses. He did draw at least one Visanthe Shiancoe hold.
Alex Brown: C- (1.67) Brown finished with 1 tackle, and he was even less prominent or relevant in the defensive effort. The Saints didn't get much pressure from their ends, with the middle of the pocket collapsing more often when Brett Favre dropped back to pass. Brown's performance was about the same as what I came to expect from Charles Grant. Let's hope he shows us more next Monday night.
Anthony Hargrove: B (3.00) Despite playing a good deal less than Brown and Smith, Hargrove was a menace out there. He was in Favre's face a couple times, and got a nice hit on him. He also helped bring down Adrian Peterson and showed off his never quitting spirit. He also got in the mix with some Vikings players after the plays talking trash. I love his intensity. Finished with 3 tackles.
Jimmy Wilkerson: C- (1.67) Wilkerson mostly got snaps at defensive tackle in the rotation, and he was pretty quiet. He finished with 1 tackle, and didn't really show us much either. Brett Favre had a good amount of time to throw most of the game as the Saints often dropped 7 to 8 players back in coverage. The front four didn't do a great job of getting pressure.
Sedrick Ellis: A- (3.67) Ellis was the best of the front four, by far. He recorded the lone sack for the team but he also got terrific pressure up the middle all day long. He pushed the pocket and moved the interior pile at will. His sack was a little anti-climatic, as Favre was lightly touched before collapsing, but it was nice to see the big man rewarded for his efforts. He was in on numerous plays that slowed down Adrian Peterson, and he was a major reason the Saints limited him to 87 yards. He finished with 5 tackles.
Remi Ayodele: B- (2.67) I was shocked to see that he ended up with no tackles, because he was involved in a number of plays and I thought he actually played pretty well. The guy eats up a lot of space, and he did a great job holding his ground. Ayodele proved it's not always about the numbers, as I thought he executed his responsibilities in the trenches well. He forced the Vikings to respect him, which opened up lanes for Ellis to make all those plays. If not for Ayodele, Ellis would have seen double teams all night long.
Scott Shanle: B+ (3.33) A very solid outing by Shanle overall. He put on a tackling clinic out there and played well within his game. He finished with 7 tackles, all of which were made with very solid and sure technique. He showed slight limitations in his speed moving sideline to sideline, but when he got his hands on someone he put them to the turf. He was beat once on a seam route pass to Visanthe Shiancoe because his back was to the play and he didn't get his hands up. Besides that, he did his thing out there leading by example.
Jonathan Vilma: B+ (3.33) So much for him being a game time decision with that injury, Vilma showed no ill effects. He did a good job tackling and in pass coverage. He finished with 4 tackles and for the most part he did a fantastic job on Shiancoe. He was flying around and laid some nice hits. His big play was the interception he made off Favre thanks to a great read and quick hands.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: B (3.00) You have to feel pretty good about Dunbar's first start of the season, as the de facto starter thanks to Scott Fujita leaving, and the Clint Ingram and Jonathan Casillas injuries. For the coaching staff's third option as the starter, he looked pretty good out there. He was all over the field and he tackled well. He finished with 7 tackles, including one for a loss. He wasn't the primary tackler on about half of those, so while he wasn't making plays you have to give him kudos for helping his teammates. Personally, I can't wait to see him get comfortable in the lineup because I know once he plays with more confidence, he's going to lay some wood people. He's a big, physical backer, and he's going to make some people suffer. This was a promising game for the young unproven player. He did look like his head was swimming at times, but that's to be expected.
Marvin Mitchell: B- (2.67) The Saints ran numerous plays out of the 3-4 defense, and Mitchell often came on as the second interior linebacker. He finished with 4 tackles, and he provided very good help in run support. His coverage, however, left a little to be desired. He was flagged for a personal foul facemask, which was questionable at best, and offset anyway by a Vikings' penalty on the same play. He also knocked Favre on his behind once blitzing.
Jabari Greer: A- (3.67) He looked even better than last year, to be honest. He was physical in run support and at the line of scrimmage, and he was excellent downfield in man coverage. This tandem of corners we have are scary good. Honestly, I wonder if any team in the NFL has 2 corners this good. 5 tackles, 2 for a loss, and 2 defended passes. Favre went at Greer often with terrible results. What a terrific start to the season for him. The only thing missing was a pick!
Tracy Porter: B+ (3.33) Like Greer, he was hitting hard and tight in coverage. He finished with 4 tackles and 1 defended pass. He was very solid, though slightly less active against the run than Greer. These two are complete players and we're just very lucky to have them.
Randall Gay: B- (2.67) 3 tackles for Gay. He didn't make many mistakes, and didn't really do anything of major help to the defense. He wasn't tested much but he showed a physical side which is definitely an attribute of his.
Roman Harper: A (4.00) Harper was excellent both against the pass and against the run. He was all over the field all night long. He was making plays around the line of scrimmage stopping the run. He drilled Brett Favre as he released the football and played a big part in the interception Vilma had. The Saints also struggled a bit covering Shiancoe, so towards the end of the game Harper started to cover him at that was the end of that. He did a great job defending passes and shutting down the big tight end. This was one of the best games I've ever seen him play, and he was a huge reason why the Vikings scored 9 points. Way to go, Roman, you were a beast out there.
Malcolm Jenkins: B- (2.67) Just two tackles and a defended pass for Jenkins. He played pretty deep a lot of times and was more of a safety valve "don't get beat deep" guy than anything else. He didn't really get that involved in run defense or in the passing game, as Favre never really tested him vertically. At some point, with his speed being a question mark coming out of college, you figure someone will try to test that. He did lay some serious wood on Percy Harvin at one point, though. If that dude has migraine issues, Jenkins did nothing to help them with that hit. He also intercepted a Favre pass down the sideline but couldn't keep his feet in bounds. I thought it was promising but not amazing.
Garrett Hartley: D- (0.67) I can live with an occasional miss from 46, but the miss from 31 was inexcusable. Hopefully it's early season jitters, and just an anomaly for our usually very reliable kicker. If you've followed my grades you know it's not too often I had out F's. Almost never. Jermon Bushrod got a D- against the Cowboys last year for crying out loud! But I'm sorry, Hartley has one job to do and he failed at it miserably. Better days ahead, everyone is allowed a bad game once in a while. He is human. I give him a passing grade because he did at least make his extra points, and he got the crowd fired up by hitting a pair of 57 yarders and a 62 yarder in warmups.
Thomas Morstead: A- (3.67) He averaged 43.2 yards on 5 punts, including a booming 58 yarder, 2 punts inside the 20, and no touchbacks. He did have a kickoff out of the end zone, too (but that kickoff came from the 45). The punt returner, Bernard Berrian, only return 2 of the punts for a total of 2 yards. Impeccable job. His average was also brought down because he punted once from the Vikings 40 and it was downed at the 11. Poor guy does his job with a 29 yard punt and he gets a lowered average out of it. I will say the guy's shoulder looks VERY injured. In warmups he didn't look like he could even hold his shoulder high enough to drop the football to his foot. I guess you don't need a shoulder to punt, but if it's half as bad as I thought like it looked, it's got to effect his ability to punt a little bit, no? That 58 yarder he blasted wouldn't lead you to think so, but he did struggle a bit in warmups. I can't complain about his performance in the game, though, although his kickoffs were a little shorter in depth than usual save the one touchback. The Vikings were dealing with a long field all day, so give Morstead a ton of credit for being in large part responsible.
Courtney Roby B+ (3.33) This man earned his grade as a gunner, not as a returner. His 3 kickoff returns for a 23.3 yard average were pedestrian. His coverage skills were superhuman. He finished with 2 tackles and was the first man down causing disruption on almost every kick, also forcing at least one fair catch. This guy was just made to play on special teams. Like Morstead, Roby played a bit part in the Vikings' continued terrible field position.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Roman Harper
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead