Regardless of the yardage total they give up, you have to feel good about the defense only giving up 20 points or less in five straight weeks. With an offense like they have, that's more than enough to get the job done. The Saints did get gashed for an alarming 6.8 yards per carry, but they generated two turnovers and they limited the Panthers' effectiveness in the passing game. Seems like every week the Saints take away one aspect of an opponents offense and allow another to be successful, and in the end it usually translates into a sub-20 point output. I think I can learn to live with this. Below are the grades.Will Smith: C (2.67) He was double teamed often and wasn't a major threat to Cam Newton. Going up against Jordan Gross is of course no easy task. He finished with 2 tackles.
Cameron Jordan: A- (2.31) By far the most active Saints' rusher of the game, surprisingly. Hopefully this is something he can build off of, but he was disruptive and constantly chasing Cam Newton, a very tough man to bring down. He finished with 3 tackles and a sack. His sack was flagged for a horse collar, but that decision by Ed Hochuli was so horrendously bad I decided not to let it hurt his grade.
Junior Galette: C- (2.36) A very quiet day overall for Galette who was entirely too neutralized. Makes me wonder if he went out hard on new year's eve. Just kidding, sort of. He had 2 tackles.
Turk McBride: D (1.83) He came back from an ankle injury that kept him out forever, but he clearly wasn't right. McBride made no impact and struggled to hold his blocks or create any semblance of pressure.
Sedrick Ellis: C- (2.33) Clearly not interested in getting hurt, the interior defensive line took a game off, plain and simple. They all get C-'s (except for Johnson which I'll explain below). This is a season I'm sure he'd love to have over.
Shaun Rogers: C- (2.21) I hope to see more effort in the playoffs. Must be nice to be fat and happy coasting with the best offense in NFL history, right? He had no tackles.
Aubrayo Franklin: C- (2.35) He didn't play much as Carolina went to so many passing sets, especially after the 1st quarter once they got one dimensional. Not much to grade. He had no tackles.
Tom Johnson: D+ (2.20) He left huge holes up the middle. The Panthers were many times able to blow him completely out of the play and create huge middle running lanes on shotgun inside draws. He had 1 tackle and a qb knockdown.
Scott Shanle: B- (2.42) He was beaten a couple times in coverage and fortunate that Newton lacked accuracy. He was somewhat physical against the run, though, and his best play came on a nice tackle of the mouthy Steve Smith around the line of scrimmage on an end around. He finished with 4 tackles.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C+ (2.53) He did lead the team in tackles with 6 and he was physical against the run, but I did feel he left spaces in coverage and he missed a few key tackles on big running plays that kept drives alive.
Martez Wilson: C+ (2.50) He took over for Jonathan Casillas who left early with a re-injured knee. He assumes that blitzer role pretty well, I thought. He finished with two tackles and a mean sack. Unfortunately, he was also flagged for an entirely unnecessary late hit out of bounds on DeAngelo Williams.
Ramon Humber: C (2.57) He was flagged once for defensive holding and his tackles were mostly downfield to limit the damage. He was also beaten in coverage a couple times. He's a decent role playing backup, not much more. He had 4 tackles.
Jabari Greer: C (2.77) He had 3 tackles and mostly did a pretty good job in coverage all day but he was victimized by Steve Smith pretty badly for a touchdown early in the game. He had his hands full with that idiot. Otherwise, he had a quiet game but was mostly fine. He holds off P-Rob by .01 for the best GPA of the season among defenders.
Patrick Robinson: A (2.76) A very strong outing by Robinson who has gotten much better overall this season. He finished with 4 tackles including one for a loss, which was on a bubble screen he jumped. His ability to recognize that and avoid the blocker has been impressive many times this year. He also made a game changing interception in the Saints' end zone before athletically keeping both feet in both. One of the more outstanding plays of the season by the defense there.
Tracy Porter: B (2.45) His big play was the fumble recovery to kill a 2nd half Carolina drive and energize the Superdome. He did ok in coverage but was victimized a couple of times. He also had a nice open field tackle. He ended with 4 tackles.
Johnny Patrick: B- (2.56) Did fine in limited coverage reps but his best play was a beautiful open field tackle on Cam Newtown on a 3rd down play to force a punt. If Patrick doesn't make that tackle it's probably a first down and he took down a much larger player. Good technique.
Roman Harper: B+ (2.33) Harper got away with a pretty clear pass interference to break up a long end zone pass to Greg Olsen which fell incomplete. Olsen was concussed on the play. His coverage overall was pretty good. He had 4 tackles and 2 defended passes and mostly shut down Jeremy Shockey. He was helpful in run support.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: B (2.38) He played deep and tried to avoid anything over the top from killing the defense and he did his job. I did think he ran up and times to make nice tackles, and the force fumble on Smith was a big play. He had 4 tackles.
John Kasay: A (3.17) He hit all his extra points and his lone field goal attempt from 43 yards. I kind of needed to see him make that kick and I feel like the coaching staff did too. It'll help his confidence. He put together a pretty solid season I must say.
Thomas Morstead: B (3.48) The highlight was one kickoff that when through the uprights! He did allow 2 harmless returns, and he blasted a 64 yard punt that went for a touchback.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Patrick Robinson
My Special Teams Player of the Game: John Kasay