While 20 points is the most the Saints have given up in three weeks, this was by far their best performance of the three weeks. For the first time perhaps this season the Saints looked strong against the run, good at pressuring the passer and solid on the back end.
All in all, while the quarterback they were facing in Christian Ponder looked nothing short of abysmal, the defense's confidence has to be soaring after a solid performance like this. The Vikings passed for 102 yards, but that total was only at about 6 yards until the game got out of hand and the Vikings were able to total some garbage stats. Other than the shovel passes to Toby Gerhart and a short yardage run by Adrian Peterson, literally nothing worked against the Saints.
Most impressive was the Saints completely eradicating Percy Harvin's contribution to the Vikings offense. He's one of the more explosive players in the league and the Saints completely neutralized him. Harvin had just four touches for 7 yards from scrimmage, his worst performance of the season. That is absolutely fantastic defense. I can't wait to see how they respond to this performance with the follow up next Monday against the Falcons.
On to the grades...
Will Smith: B- (2.72) Quiet day statistically for the most part but he did apply decent pressure and he was stout against the run. He also did a good job sealing the backside by not breaking containment, something he's gotten really good it that most young players struggle with. I noticed the Saints brought him in on passing downs inside a couple of times to try something new and he was actually able to break down the line protection to open lanes for other rushers. On his lone tackle he dropped Adrian Peterson for a big loss. He also had a nice inside move that got him quickly in Christian Ponder's face, but Ponder was able to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid a sack there.
Cameron Jordan: B- (2.22) His lone tackle was also for a loss as he hit Joe Webb on a rushing play for a 3 yard loss. Jordan, like Smith, was quiet statistically but active off the edge. I also saw some improved penetration on passing downs so perhaps he can continue to improve in that area.
Junior Galette: B+ (2.39) His two tackles came on back to back plays. A sack of Ponder and a hit on Percy Harvin at the line of scrimmage on a screen play where he finished off Harvin's rushing attempt from the backside. Another solid effort from Galette who's growing as a player and continuing to show his explosiveness as a rusher. He now has 4.5 sacks on the season, not bad for a reserve player.
Jeff Charleston: B+ (2.21) Charleston also had a sack which yielded his custom Tarzan celebration. He also had 2 tackles and gave the Saints good reserve reps.
Sedrick Ellis: B (2.31) His hustle lately has been a noticeable change. He's finishing off plays and playing to the whistle which is making a big difference. He finished with 3 tackles and instrumental in run support.
Aubrayo Franklin: C (2.33) No tackles but he redirected some of Peterson's runs. There was a heavy rotation at defensive tackle and he saw less time once the Vikings passed more and became one dimensional.
Shaun Rogers: C- (2.17) No tackle for Rogers either and he didn't really have much of an impact on this game. Unlike Franklin, he did play a good big, but he wasn't able to make much of an impact.
Tom Johnson: B+ (2.40) He had 2 tackles and a sack. He's been a solid guy in the rotation for the Saints and the team was smart to keep him around when he was out with a calf problem that felt like it lasted an eternity.
Scott Shanle: C (2.31) Shanle was decent in coverage and while he was only credited with one tackle he was physical at the end of plays a few times near the football. He didn't have much of an impact, though.
Jonathan Vilma: B- (2.53) A good effort by Vilma considering his clearly injured. At this point I think it's time to shelve Vilma till the playoffs. He's not moving all that well and his knee is obviously bothering him. He took a decent shot at one point diving to make a tackle and struggled to get back up. Give him credit though, he's toughing it out and playing through pain. You can't question the guy's effort and commitment. Hopefully he can bounce back from this next season. He had 3 tackles and did a good job of absorbing contact.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C- (2.59) He had 2 tackles and a ball batted at the line of scrimmage for an incomplete pass. He over-pursued on Peterson's short yardage 39 yard run and had a clear shot at tackling him around the line of scrimmage but allowed him to slip away. On that play, Dunbar was pushed off the ball and was thrown off balance. A quiet day but that negative play is the one that stands out.
Martez Wilson: B (2.56) In limited play time he was able to stand out thanks to a nice tackle on a Toby Gerhart run where he looked physical, and a backside pass rush pursuit of Christian Ponder where he ran across the entire field to hit Ponder as he was throwing and cause an incompletion. The speed and effort from Wilson on that play in particular was impressive. This kid can fly and it gave me hope for the future with this young player. Gregg Williams will find ways to get this guy on the field in ways that suit his strengths because he's clearly a guy that could make play.
Patrick Robinson: A (2.64) Robinson was rewarded for an outstanding day with an interception on the final play of the game. Yes it was in garbage time and it was meaningless, but I honestly felt like it was important for the team's confidence to get that turnover and actually catch a freaking ball. Robinson deserved that pick based on his play, too. He was physical, jumping on routes around the line of scrimmage, stride for stride with receivers downfield, and around the ball. He finished with an interception, 2 tackles including one for a less, and 3 defended passes. He played a huge part in Percy Harvin's embarrassing performance.
Jabari Greer: B+ (2.76) He had 4 tackles and was overall pretty good in coverage. Two of his tackles were in run support around the line of scrimmage, too, so for a little guy he did a good job of finishing off plays with some physicality. He's currently .04 points better than Will Smith with 2 games left, so he's the front runner for my defensive player of the year... though P-Rob isn't far back either so he's got a chance to get in the mix if he plays well down the stretch.
Johnny Patrick: C+ (2.33) He filled in for Tracy Porter who was pulled early in the game due to an unspecified injury. It doesn't sound too serious but hopefully he comes back next Monday. Anyway, the youngster had 2 tackles and decent job as a fill in in coverage.
Malcolm Jenkins: C+ (2.33) An incredibly quiet day for Jenkins who was barely called into duty at all. Give him credit on Adrian Peterson's lone long run, though, because he redirected him and slowed him down enough to prevent him from scoring a touchdown.
Roman Harper: A- (2.31) He was flagged, yet again, for a personal foul for barely hitting Ponder as he was sliding. That's the rule, though, you can't touch a quarterback once he's begun to slide. Harper just nicked him on that play with his forearm, but you can tell he went to blow him up and tried to avoid him once he realized Ponder was sliding. He did get a piece of him though, so while it was weak sauce, I agree with the call. I don't blame Harper, though, he tried to let up. That play was actually his "sack", so while he did get one it resulted in a 15 yard gain. He finished with a team leading 4 tackles and I will say two things about his play aside from that penalty: he was outstanding in coverage. Shocking, I know, but I do feel that's an area of his game he's improved. He was excellent the times he was in man coverage on Visanthe Shiancoe, who's supposed to be a decent tight end. He held him catchless. Harper was also very good in run support, giving Peterson fits.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C- (2.34) He came in long enough to drop an interception and add to the defensive backfield's total, which I can only assume is an NFL record for dropped interceptions in a season by a team at this point.
John Kasay: C (3.09) He made all 6 extra points and missed his lone field goal attempt from 50 yards. It had plenty of distance but hooked left. Long distance kicks continue to be a problem for him and I hope that won't come into play at a pivotal time late in the season. Where art thou Garrett Hartley?
Thomas Morstead: A (3.45) A very solid performance and once again this guy probably won't make it to the Pro Bowl, which is sad, because he really deserves it. Maybe you guys can go on NFL.com and vote for him like 500,000 times a day. His kickoffs were solid, his execution on the onsides kick couldn't have been more perfect, and his lone punt was a booming 51 yarder that wasn't returned. He's only second to Brees by .07 in GPA this season, and Brees is putting up an MVP like campaign. Says a lot of our punter.
Courtney Roby: C (2.81) He forced a fair catch with good punt coverage and he had a beautiful open field tackle on Percy Harvin in kickoff coverage. He was also responsible for the Saints not coming up with that onsides kick. There was no one around him and it was as easy of a recovery as you'll ever get in the NFL. He did do some good things out there so I won't rail on him too hard, but man, isn't he supposed to be a receiver by trade? Terrible hands there.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Patrick Robinson
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead