My one big regret that will stay with me for a long time from this game will be Gregg Williams' decision to leave man coverage when trying to seal the game while sending the house blitzing with under two minutes left and 85 yards to go. Given the Saints' complete inability to stop Vernon Davis all game long, that decision was shocking. And of course, that decision also had dire consequences.
What's incredible is how well the defense played all game until four minutes left in the 4th quarter when they had an epic meltdown to completely piss the game away. What's so hard to stomach about those last two 49er drives that went for 80 and 85 yards respectively is they only had a measly 242 yards of total offense leading up to that point. That means the 49ers gained 41.5% of their total offense in the game in the final 4 minutes of the 4th quarter. Sickening. What was a heroic performance for three-and-a-half quarters is thus completely ruined by a complete failure at the end.
For the last time this season, here are your very final player grades. The GPA's represent the player's performance in the playoffs only (2 games)Will Smith: C- (2.00) He had 1 tackle and 1 qb knock down. He really faded down the stretch this season and had a very quiet game in this one. He has a huge contract and the Saints are so bad at end I doubt they will let him go, but you never know. After starting off fast returning from suspension he just didn't play that well down the stretch. In this game he struggled to do much of anything.
Cameron Jordan: B+ (2.50) It would be nice if this guy could rush the passer, but what we saw in this game was a fantastic job holding his block, and a superior ability in run support. His ability to shut down the run game on his side was impressive. Yes the 49ers rushed for 143 yards, but if you take away the 42 yarder by Frank Gore at the end of the game and Alex Smith's 28 yard touchdown run, they ran for 73 yards through more than 3.5 quarters. Jordan also did a good job getting his hands up to clog up passing lanes and he was able to tip at least one ball. He finished with a 6 tackle game. He was able to knock Smith on his behind once, as well. Solid game.
Junior Galette: C- (1.84) The pass rushing "specialist" spent a good amount of time on his rear end due to the physical nature of the 49ers' offensive line. He played less as the Saints remained totally committed to stopping the run, but he brought no value whatsoever when he was in.
Jeff Charleston: C (1.50) He had 2 tackles. He kind of sucks. That's pretty much all I have to say about him. I hope the depth at DE is better next year.
Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.00) He had just 2 tackles but I thought he did a decent job of getting pressure on Smith and he was helpful in run support. For a small statistical output he was really quite active. Still, this season has been by far his most disappointing. On a couple of occasions he got to the sack JUST after the blitzer.
Aubrayo Franklin: B (2.84) He had no stats but he controlled the interior line of scrimmage. His ability to plug the middle gave Jonathan Goodwin fits and it was instrumental in limiting the 49ers' run game. I'd be in favor of bringing him back at a similar price, I think.
Shaun Rodgers: B- (2.50) He had a tackle and a QB knockdown. Like Ellis is was quite active despite his low stat total, and like Franklin he was solid plugging up the middle. I can't complain at all about the interior's performance in this game. They put their teammates in a position to make plays most of the day.
Tom Johnson: C (2.00) He had 1 tackle and did fine. The 9ers were able to break one big run on a play he was in the game but it's hard to point the finger at him.
Scott Shanle: C (2.17) Probably the most frustrating play was the final Vernon Davis touchdown where he ran to cover the flat instead of undercutting the route to Davis. I realize you need to man up on the back but Smith was clearly going to Davis there. I guess I'm asking Shanle to ignore his assignment there, but sometimes that's what you've got to do when you have superior awareness like Darren Sharper (I miss him). He had 4 tackles and was mediocre in coverage mostly on Frank Gore. He'll be under contract again next season. I wonder if he manages to start yet another year under what will likely be a new defensive coordinator.
Jonathan Vilma: B- (2.50) He had four tackles, including one for a loss, and he recovered a fumble just before halftime. He laid one of the best hits of the game on Ted Ginn, too. Overall it was nice to see Vilma play a decent game. It will be interesting to see if he comes back next year. He looked like an old man this season due to injury and a bad knee, and he's scheduled to make ~$5 million next year. If this is his last game as a Saint he was a good one, and J-Vilma in his prime will be very tough to replace.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: B- (2.17) True to form he was physical against the run but I noticed a loss of poise at times out there. He got caught off guard with how frequently the 49ers would throw or play action on 1st down. He did finish with 4 tackles, though, including one for a loss. He was solid in run support.
Jonathan Casillas: C (2.00) He had one tackle on a nice hit, but he wasn't a factor blitzing.
Martez Wilson: B+ (2.17) He had 3 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Saints blitzed him frequently and he did a good job getting to Alex Smith. His speed for a linebacker is great and hopefully the seasoning he got this year will make him ready to start next season with a year under his belt and a full offseason in the program to improve.
Jabari Greer: C+ (3.00) Often matched up against Tim Crabtree, he did an ok job limited the damage. He was beaten once on a slant route by Crabtree for a touchdown, fairly badly, but he also broke up a big third down pass with good physical coverage. He had one tackle and wasn't tested very often by Smith.
Tracy Porter: B+ (2.00) The 49ers saw how bad he was against the Lions and so they attacked him quite a bit. What they got was solid coverage a good tackling from Porter. Night and day how he played. This could be his last game in a Saints uniform. If so, a decent way to go out. He had 4 tackles.
Patrick Robinson: C+ (2.17) He had 4 tackles and he was ok in coverage, but at times he left way too much cushion. A good season overall by P-Rob and he's a sure fire starter opposite Greer for next season. The only big regret he'll have from this game was an interception chance that ricocheted right into his hands that he wasn't able to hold onto in the 4th quarter. If he makes that pick the Saints probably win.
Malcolm Jenkins: D- (0.67) The only reason I don't fail him is I feel like at times he did a great job recognizing the underneath throw and tackling soundly. He led the team with 8 tackles and he also had a sack. So it wasn't all bad. Make no mistake though, the Saints trusted him to cover Vernon Davis man to man most of the game - including in the closing stages when the outcome was yet to be determined, and the end result was a loss and a 7 catch 180 yard 2 touchdown performance by Davis. Particularly bad was Jenkins diving to tackle Davis and taking out Roman Harper in the process to allow the first TD. The playoffs were a complete disaster for Jenkins, who will be labeled the goat of the postseason. I'm just not convinced this guy is any good. Major, major regressions in his second season with the Saints. I hope he rebounds, but the Saints may want to look for a better long term option at free safety if Jenkins can't cut it.
Roman Harper: B+ (2.83) Lots of chatter that Harper would be better utilized as a linebacker. We'll see, I'm not convinced. He'd have to add 20lbs at least, still be able to run as fast, be able to withstand more beating from linemen and stay healthy... there's a lot of variables there, that's not an easy move. This game was a microcosm of Harper's strengths and weaknesses. The times he covered Davis, he looked awful, and the times he blitzed he looked like a hall of famer. He had 8 tackles, a defended pass and 1.5 sacks. He was by far the most active player in the box and he was constantly wreaking havoc. His only liability was in coverage. On Davis' final touchdown you can't blame him for injuring himself trying to jar the ball loose with a devastating hit that Davis absorbed. He gave it his all. He also forced a fumble.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C+ (2.00) He did a good job hitting Gore behind the line on a screen pass. He had 2 tackles. He's definitely not the long term answer at safety depth.
John Kasay: A (3.67) He nailed a huge 48 yarder to keep the Saints in the game. I was shocked he made that, but Kasay has been solid all year. He probably won't suit up for the Saints again and I'd like to be the first to thank him for what was a very solid campaign. The Saints are so fortunate he stepped in as a kicker off the street and didn't miss a beat.
Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.33) He did a mostly great job on kickoffs. On punts, he did take some risks and outkicked his coverage at times. He averaged 45.4 yards per punt on 5 punts with 39.6 net average. Still pretty solid, just not as good as he's been lately.
Courtney Roby: D- (0.67) When Pierre Thomas got injured, the Saints pulled Darren Sproles from kick return duty to not risk injury. At the time I thought it was a solid move since Roby is an accomplished returner. In hindsight, Roby hadn't returned all year and to put him in that position in those stakes with no reps was a bad move. He dropped a kickoff, picked it up, and them fumbled it as he was tackled. Shameful. That play killed the Saints. He averaged 7.7 yards on 3 returns. HORRIBLE. He also had a tackle.
Korey Hall: B (3.00) He had 3 tackles on special teams. Not bad! Although one of them was on Darren Sproles' fumbled punt return. Ugh. And clearly his blocking on returns was not good.
Defensive Player of the Game: Roman Harper
Special Teams Player of the Game: John Kasay