Below are the grades for the defense and special teams against the 49ers on MNF. As always, the letter grade represents the performance in the individual game and the GPA in parentheses represents the player's cumulative performance on the season.
Alex Brown: C- (1.67) I was all excited about Brown on the very first play of the game, when he stuffed Frank Gore on a running play dead in his tracks. I thought, finally, he comes out and makes a play to start the game on the right foot. What happened after that? He went invisible. He finished with just 1 more tackle, and his pass rushing was completely non-existent.
Anthony Hargrove: C (2.50) Quiet game for Hargrove as he didn't do much. He finished with 2 tackles but he did look to have a high motor and be active. His pressures didn't amount to much but he was trying out there. He was flagged for being offsides once.
Remi Ayodele: D+ (2.00) He had 1 tackle and he was pushed around like a rag doll. Did a terrible job plugging against the run. The Saints dropped him back into coverage once, and after a tipped ball he had a decent shot at an interception, and showed severe limited athleticism in trying to catch a batted ball.
Sedrick Ellis: D- (2.17) What happened to him? After the monster game he had against the Vikings he decided to take a week off. Ellis had ZERO tackles and was flagged once for being offsides. The 49ers neutralized him entirely.
Jonathan Vilma: A (3.67) Vilma was a monster. He finished with 10 tackles and he was all over the field. His tackling was superb. He did look a tad bit slow and a little gimpy, I think as a result of his injured groin. The fact that he played at that high of a level despite the injury was frankly shocking. The forced fumble he created by stripping the ball inside the Saints' 10 was a huge turnover and a big boost for his team. He also flew in on a blitz and smacked Alex Smith pretty good. This was one of Vilma's best games as a Saint. He was fantastic.
Scott Shanle: B- (3.00) Shanle did a very good job in coverage for large portions of the game. He finished with 3 tackles and he didn't tackle as well in open space as he normally does. I saw him whiff on a couple of plays he usually makes. Not his best game, but he was decent overall.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C+ (2.67) He looked lost for large portions of the game out there. He finished with 1 tackle and was a pretty big dud against the run. The Saints could have used his usually physical demeanor in stopping Frank Gore. I have his grade a huge boost, though, because he went up and tipped the pass that Tracy Porter intercepted. Another timely and huge turnover for the Saints that Dunbar was largely responsible for.
Danny Clark: B (3.00) I was surprised to see how much playing time Clark got, and he effective both against the run and on special teams. If he keeps playing this way, he may see more snaps than Dunbar on running downs.
Marvin Mitchell: B (2.84) Mitchell got extended playing time for the second straight game and did well. He finished with 2 tackles, but showed off some serious coverage skills. He was matched up against Vernon Davis a few times, broke up a pass and denied his routes a couple other times. Nice to see one of our young linebackers doing the little things.
Jabari Greer: B- (3.17) Greer was great against the run, and made a huge tackle on a 3rd and 1 wildcat play, stuffing Brian Westbrook. His pass defense was a different story. I was surprised that Drew Brees had such trouble throwing the ball downfield with the windy conditions, but Alex Smith seemed to have no problems with it. Maybe he's just used to it. Still, Greer's coverage was surprisingly not as good as usual. Vernon Davis beat him on a deep pass downfield, and while the coverage was decent on that play, it was a big play to give up. I'm sure he'll bounce back in the Dome against the Falcons. Greer was charged with covering Josh Morgan, who surprisingly exposed Greer a number of times and was quite effective against the Saints.
Tracy Porter: B+ (3.33) Porter gave up one 32 yard pass to Michael Crabtree, and I thought his coverage overall was spotty as well. Definitely not as shut down as the Greer/Porter tandem have been at times. Like Greer, though, he was helpful playing around the line of scrimmage and sticking his nose in physical plays. He finished with 7 tackles, and I thought he tackled well. His grade gets a huge boost from the big interception he came up with.
Leigh Torrence: B- (2.67) Just one tackle for Torrence, but he played a lot in the nickel once Randall Gay went out very early in the game with a concussion (hence no grade). I was shocked that Alex Smith didn't go after Torrence repeatedly, but I guess his coverage was pretty good. I did notice he was giving the underneath route and play way off his receiver, but he didn't allow anything behind him.
Malcolm Jenkins: B- (2.67) For the second straight game, I thought Jenkins was "pretty good" but not great. He had 6 tackles, and he recovered the fumble that was caused by Vilma. I did think his pass coverage and tackling was a little shaky, though. Gore was able to run him over on a play, and he didn't really provide much over the top help to Porter and Greer. He's doing a fine job, but I definitely miss the playmaking threat that Darren Sharper gave the Saints back there.
Roman Harper: A- (3.84) Another monster game from Roman Harper, who is playing at an extremely high level right now. Harper has the highest GPA of any Saint (offense, defense or special teams) right now after two games. He played around the box, was physical, tackled well, and even played well in coverage. And here's the most unexpected item: he showed terrific hands making an interception. Did you read that correctly??? Yes, you did. Alex Smith overthrew a back on a security valve route, the pass was tipped, and Harper came flying in to snatch it for another turnover. Harper also blitzed a couple times very well to disrupt Smith, including a nice knock down. It was a very complete game all the way around for Harper. I docked his grade slightly because he gave up a huge pass interference play to Vernon Davis that gave the 49ers a huge chunk of yards, but that play aside he was on point all night long.
Garrett Hartley: A (2.34) Going from D- to A is a pretty big GPA boost if you ask me. 2.34 still isn't good, so he'll have to string a couple more good performances together to shake that horrendous effort against the Vikings. Still, Hartley is clearly back. The 46 yarder he made with the swirling wind was especially impressive. His game winning 37 yard kick was tipped, but he somehow still hit it hard enough to clear the crossbar. Great job by Hartley to bounce back. I didn't give him an A+, because he could have avoided that heart attack tip field goal by getting more elevation on the ball. Fine point though, because Hartley was clearly the hero of the day.
Thomas Morstead: A (3.84) Dealing with wind issues as well, Morstead punted well and 4 of his 6 punts ended up inside the 20. His kickoffs had good depth too, even against the wind, and one went back for a touchback. His average was 46.7 yards off 6 punts, with a net of 41.8 yards. Both very solid numbers. It seemed like his coverage was excellent even when he outkicked them. For the second straight week he hit a 58 yarder, which is just, wow. When I said Roman Harper had the best GPA of any Saint, I lied, because Morstead is tied with him.
Courtney Roby: A (3.67) How about that? All three of our main guys get A's. Anyone who doesn't realize how important Roby is to this team is clearly not watching. The guy, for the second straight week, proved he is arguably the best gunner in the NFL. I don't know if any of you guys remember Bennie Thompson and how good he was, but Roby might be even better. Roby is Steve Tasker good in coverage. The diving fumble recovery he made showed playmaking ability, terrific hands, and uncanny athleticism. Oh, and he stuffed Phillip Adams on a punt return as the first man down making a terrific tackle. In fact, he was the first man down on almost every kick. He also averaged 27 yards on 3 kickoff returns, including a 35 yarder he ripped off to give the Saints terrific field position right after they went down 14-9. That ended up being a big boost that set up a nice drive for the Saints. Our special teams is awesome. God I love our players.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Jonathan Vilma
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley