New Orleans Saints Player Grades vs. Bucs: Defense and Special Teams

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

When you hold your opponent to 0 points, good grades are expected. Especially when the Saints turned in their best defensive performance of the season on defense.

What a fantastic performance by the Saints defense, led by improbable heroes in backup defensive backs that haven't really gotten much of a chance all season. To hold Doug Martin to 16 yards on 9 carries was worthy of the Baltimore Ravens defense in their prime.

This defense stuffed the run, clogged passing lanes, got pressure with four, and created turnovers. Steve Spagnuolo pretty much called the perfect game. You'll notice the worst grade on defense is a B-. That was somewhat on principle, but you'll agree it was mostly deserved.

***

Will Smith: A (2.50) Played what I thought was by far his best game of the season. Maybe putting the suspension hanging over his head behind him was what he needed. He was incredibly physical against the run and a constant menace to Josh Freeman. He finished with 3 tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for losses and 5 total hits on Freeman. Incredible activity.

Cam Jordan: A- (2.69) Wasn't quite as active as Smith, and he broke containment on one running play to allow a cut back lane, but he was otherwise solid. He also finished with 3 tackles, as well as a sack/strip/recovery trifecta. He's turned out to have a really respectable season. I'd like to see him finish the season with above 2.70 as a GPA. He leads the team with 8 sacks, which I never expected given his speed limitations. Color me impressed, this guy's got a real future if he can keep his weight where it is. GPA wise he still has a shot at beating out Lofton for my defensive MVP.

Junior Galette: A- (2.43) He had a quiet game statistically, but like Smith he rushed the passer well and was constantly hurrying Freeman. He seems to be getting his speed back after a bad ankle injury. He had 4 tackles and 4 knock downs.

Martez Wilson: B- (2.29) He was blocked well and didn't disrupt much, but he did come up with a nice hit on Freeman as he was throwing which caused an incompletion on a 4th down play to preserve the shutout. He had 1 tackle.

Brodrick Bunkley: B+ (2.33) He's the anchor in the middle and the Bucs had 67 yards rushing. You take away that 18 yard fake punt, and the final drive where LaGarrette Blount got some garbage yard, and the Bucs had 24 yards on 11 carries through more than 3 and a half quarters. He had 1 tackle but dominated the interior.

Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.14) A quiet day for Ellis overall. He didn't get much of a rush and he was good respecting his lane on run plays. He had one tackle.

Tom Johnson: B+ (2.28) Did you guys see that play where he ran from the middle of the field laterally and met Doug Martin near the sideline at the line of scrimmage and just demolished him? WOW! He showed exceptional pursuit and a tremendous finish on that play. He had 2 tackles and drilled Freeman once as well.

Jonathan Vilma: B (2.11) Because the Saints played in so many nickel sets, Vilma didn't get a chance to play much. He still managed 3 tackles, though, and played well against the run.

Curtis Lofton: B+ (2.79) Outstanding run support yet again and a defended pass to boot! He had 3 tackles, including one for a loss. It was good to see how physical he can play at times yet again.

David Hawthorne: B- (2.26) Finished with a tackle and a defended pass, which should have been an interception that just went off his fingertips. Did a very good job absorbing contact and running sideline to sideline. He, like Vilma, didn't play much because of the heavy nickel sets.

Jonathan Casillas: B- (2.18) Good in coverage when he was in. His most impressive play was a remember me hit he laid on special teams to stop a good return dead in it's tracks.

Patrick Robinson: B- (2.05) He was flagged once for holding on special teams which seemed incredibly unnecessary. He contested well with Mike Williams who he was lined up against for most of the game. Williams deserved to get flagged for OPI on a number of plays for pushing off. Williams finished with a decent game, 4 catches for 63 yards and P-Rob had 3 tackles. Not a great game by any means, but he played ok.

Jabari Greer: A (2.46) He was beaten a couple of times but overall played extremely well. He broke up two passes and intercepted two others, showing nice hands especially on a ball intended for Dallas Clark. He had 4 tackles. Incredible performance by the Saints' veteran.

Elbert Mack: A- (3.09) He continues to play extremely well as the Saints' nickel corner. Again, why he didn't get a shot earlier in the year is beyond comprehensible. I get that the Saints like Corey White, but Mack is playing as such a higher level it's not even funny. He covered well, was physical and showed great instincts. He had 5 tackles and a defended pass.

Johnny Patrick: B (1.82) Came in late and looked solid in coverage. He had a tackle and broke up a comeback route.

Roman Harper: B- (2.45) Of all the players on defense he is maybe most deserving of a grade lower than B-. He missed a couple of tackles and was victimized more than anyone else in coverage. One third down conversion in particular was his fault for jumping the line of scrimmage instead of staying with his man, D. J. Ware, who ran right by him. That said, he hit hard, he was very active and found the ball many times. To his credit he seemed to be everywhere. Led the team with 11 tackles.

Rafael Bush: A- (2.97) He had 2 tackles, showed good instincts and game up with a nice interception. On that pick, he returned it 40 yards, breaking tackles, zig zagging and largely looking like another R. Bush in a #25 Saints uniform. That return seriously looked like vintage Reggie Bush, and showed once again that Bush is a playmaker that the Saints need to keep.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: A (2.50) Outstanding play on the back end by the Saints' undrafted free safety. He tackled very well, recognized plays well, and once again showed superior instincts. He had 7 tackles and went up high to beat Dallas Clark on a deep ball for an interception.

Garrett Hartley: A (3.00) He was perfect on 5 extra points and 2 shorter field goals. Every kick was perfect and right down the middle.

Thomas Morstead: B (3.10) He was outstanding on kickoffs, rebounding from a poor game last week to boot most out of the end zone completely. On punts he really hit the ball as well, although he hit one for a touchback and outkicked his coverage a couple of times. Finished with a 53.6 booming gross average, but his net was only 41.8. Still a solid showing, though. He remains the special teamer with the highest GPA, but Garrett Hartley is giving him a run for his money with two games left.

Courtney Roby: C- (2.77) Was blocked out of a couple returns and knocked down to open up lanes. Didn't seem to get down the field as fast as he normally does.

Will Herring: B+ (1.96) Had two tackles.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Isa Abdul-Quddus

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley

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