In some ways I view the Saints' defense (worst in NFL history) saving their most putrid performance (which is really saying something) for week 17 against a divisional rival at home in front of their fans as the ultimate slap in the face. I can't mince words or paint this in a pretty picture.
If you want to read something positive you'll have to look elsewhere. Normally I am positive, but I can't ignore the effort, or lack thereof, that this defense put forward. It was inexcusable and only two players seemed engaged. Joe Vitt used the word "catastrophic" to describe it postgame, and I felt that was perhaps generous. To give up 210 yards on 21 carries to DeAngelo Williams, a back that has sucked all year, is unforgivable and anything short of a massive personnel overhaul wouldn't be reactionary enough.
Will Smith: C (2.42) Officially credited with 4 tackles and a tipped pass. He helped out decently against the run but was a non event pass rushing. Another average performance.
Cameron Jordan: C+ (2.63) Was much better rushing the passer than Smith, showing some nice burst and moves to get to Newton - only to blow the sack. He had 5 tackles and played the run decently at times.
Martez Wilson: C (2.23) Forced an incompletion on the Panther's opening drive on 3rd down with a nice pass rush where he hit Cam Newton as he delivered the football. I didn't really understand why he saw little action after a nice play like that, but he did blow an open field tackle.
Junior Galette: C (2.42) He finished with a tackle and a nice hit on Cam Newton thanks to a nice pass rush. He played sparingly, though.
Turk McBride: C (2.00) He finished with a tackle and good activity rushing the passer, including two knock downs and one devastating blow on Newton that knocked the Panthers' QB out of the game for an extended period of time. He also had a bad facemask penalty on Mike Tolbert to hurt the Saints.
Sedrick Ellis: C (2.15) He finished with 2 tackles to end a mediocre season. Once a dominant interior player, he was like this all year - fragile, only periodically relevant, and a shell of his former self.
Brodrick Bunkley: A- (2.45) What was most impressive about Bunkley's day was how well he moved laterally from sideline to sideline. Not only did he have an impressive 5 tackles, but so many of them were away from the interior. He was good against the run despite some correctable goal line stands and he even notched a sack. His best game of the season and he was one of the few on this unit that seemed to play hard on every snap.
Tom Johnson: C+ (2.36) In spot duty he had decent rush but was mauled in rushing attempts. He had 2 tackles and a nice hit on Newton.
Jonathan Vilma: B+ (2.24) His tackling was perfectible but it's hard to complain too much about his performance. He ran well sideline to sideline and made plays. He led the team with 8 tackles, and he had a beautiful pick 6 reading a screen pass to perfection. One of the best defensive plays of the season.
Curtis Lofton: C- (2.77) Poor coverage and a less impactful game than usual, he just wasn't all over the field. The cutback runs by Carolina seemed to cause him problems.
David Hawthorne: D+ (2.24) He finished with 4 tackles but missed numerous open field plays to turn what could have been average runs into big first downs. I'm not sold on this guy being a starter next year.
Patrick Robinson: C- (1.96) It's sad when he's the corner a quarterback goes after the most despite the fact that Corey White and Jabari Greer were absent, which SHOULD suggest the other guys are who you want to victimize. But no, Newton preferred to go after the opening day starter in P-Rob. This yielded mix results, but he did defend a pass and finish with 2 tackles. He was also helped out by a couple drops. He had a beautiful open field tackle early in the 1st quarter on Williams.
Elbert Mack: C+ (2.72) He was the best cover corner on the day, but missed some open field tackles that made him seem to lack physicality. He finished with 2 tackles and a break up.
Johnny Patrick: D+ (1.79) He had a couple decent plays, but too many bad ones, none worst than a back breaking defensive hold call on a third down in the 4th quarter. He's going to have to show much more to make this team next year.
Roman Harper: C (2.42) More of the same. He wasn't impactful enough against the run and seemed slow to the play. He was good in coverage, sometimes beat in tight coverage, other times breaking up a pass. He had 6 tackles and also a nice hit on Newton from a blitz. He was too slow in pursuit of Williams' big runs.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C+ (2.42) Did a good job tracking the ball and broke up some passes, at least a couple that could/should have been interceptions. He also finished with 4 tackles. He took bad angles as the last time of defense, though, and missed some plays that Malcolm Jenkins probably makes. It'll be a tough call for the Saints next year. Jenkins is a more solid tackler and last line of defense, but IAQ has infinitely better ball skills. Which do you prefer in your safety?
Rafael Bush: C- (2.76) He had 4 tackles and was always very late to the play making a tackle after a nice gain.
Garrett Hartley: A (3.00) That 53 yard bomb of a field goal before halftime was pretty impressive and had some room to spare. That was his lone field goal, added to five perfect extra points.
Thomas Morstead: C (3.04) Rough day net average wise where he lost the record due to some unfortunate set of circumstances. Some of it was on his gunners, some of it was on poor field position, and some of it was on him for flubbing a couple punts. Still an okay day with a 46 yard average on 6 punts with two inside the 20, but his net was only 29.8. Needless to say that's horrible. His kickoffs were good.
Courtney Roby: B- (2.72) Had one tackle but could have made a better impact.
Travaris Cadet: C- (2.07) His kick return prior to injury was lame at best.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Brodrick Bunkley
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley