Saints vs. Cowboys Sunday Night Football Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

If you go looking at the stat sheet from the Saints' 49-17 beatdown over the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, you may not grasp how good the Saints' defense was in this game. They didn't really top the run (89 yards at 5.6 per carry), they didn't really get sacks (3 but a couple were in garbage time) and they didn't get turnovers. The tackle numbers weren't very high either, so you'd look at that and be surprised they held the Cowboys to just 17 points. But the key stats that jump out are that they held Tony Romo to 10 of 24 passing, or 41.7% completions and the Cowboys were 0-9 (!!!) on 3rd down. The Saints held the Cowboys to 193 total yards by not allowing them to move the chains and playing best on 3rd down which got them off the field consistently all night long. On to the grades!

Cameron Jordan: B- for the game (2.93 for the season) He had just 1 tackle but when the Saints rushed for he was always the guy getting the initial pressure and forcing Tony Romo to escape the pocket. He was robbed of a sack when he hit Romo on an intentional grounding play. He could have played the run better.

Akiem Hicks: C+ (2.70) His lone tackle was impressive as he moved from sideline to sideline laterally to chase down DeMarco Murray, impressively showcasing his speed for his size. Other than that he was disappointing rushing the passer.

Brodrick Bunkley: B (2.67) He had 2 tackles, including one for a loss, and was physical in the trenches. He did get pushed around a little bit and didn't eat space as well on the interior as I'd like all the time, but most of DeMarco Murray's big runs came off tackle. It's great to have him back.

John Jenkins: C (2.67) He's definitely playing a good deal less with Bunkley back in the mix, instead really just coming in as a situational rotation run defender. He had one tackle and made little impact.

Tom Johnson: B (2.28) His lone stat was a sack that was great and I'm sure that felt awesome for him. He hasn't been great this season so his confidence needed that.

Glenn Foster: B+ (2.43) The rookie finally showed some of the burst that helped him land a roster spot in preseason. He had a sack in this game and also batted down a wide receiver bubble screen by showing terrific play recognition. Nice to see him making plays out there.

Parys Haralson: C+ (2.56) He's a run stopping specialist but got swallowed on a couple running plays particularly down on the goal line that allowed Murray to get a yardage and eventually a touchdown. He did have a sack on a blitz, though.

Curtis Lofton: C- (2.89) Whatever his injury was it clearly limited his effectiveness in this game. He missed numerous tackles on Murray and was largely to blame for the success of the Cowboys' running game. He was beat in coverage and fortunate a couple of times that the Cowboys couldn't catch (and that Romo was innacurate). He had 4 tackles.

Junior Galette: C- (2.78) I actually thought he was one of the Saints' worst defenders on the day. He was knocked on his behind often and completely neutralized rushing the passer. The Cowboys attacked him in the run game successfully. Definitely not his day. He had 1 tackle.

Will Herring: B- (2.73) He boosts his grade a bit on special teams by having a nice day in coverage with 2 tackles. On defense, though, he was not impressive. I didn't like his run defense in particular. He was decent in coverage and finished the day with 5 tackles.

Ramon Humber: A- (2.61) He was tied for the team lead with 5 tackles, including two for a loss. He looked very physical and fast to the football. I was thoroughly impressed with how he looked in this game. He reminded me of Jo-Lonn Dunbar in his prime minus the poor coverage. Humber may have a future as a starter in this league.

Keyunta Dawson: B (2.17) He had just one tackle but looked good out there, particularly blitzing. He caused some heavy pressure late and was the initial pressure on Romo which allowed him to walk straight into Haralson for the sack.

Keenan Lewis: A- (2.96) If it wasn't for that juggling reception by Dez Bryant for 44 yards, which would be his lone catch, Lewis would have played the perfect game. Sure he had over the top safety help and double teams to lighten his load at times... but Lewis was very physical at the line of scrimmage with Bryant and completely took him out of the game with excellent coverage. Bryant never had a chance. Lewis' coverage was so good, in fact, that Bryant gave up on his routes numerous times and just went through the motions. A dominant game by a fantastic free agent pickup - that turned out to be the key to the whole defensive gameplan. Stop Bryant, stop the Cowboys' passing attack. He had 1 tackle because the ball never came his way. I did give the defensive player of the game to Humber over him, though, because Humber didn't have double team help.

Jabari Greer: B (2.41) Other than getting beat badly on a 21 yard touchdown pass to Terrence Williams, Greer was excellent too in this game. He had two pass breakups on third down in particular to get the Saints off the field. He also would have had a gimme pick 6 jumping a route but he dropped a very catchable ball. He had 2 tackles and 3 pass breakups. Give him credit for helping against the run, too. Too bad for the TD pass that hurts his grade, otherwise he played extremely well.

Corey White: B+ (2.59) White was excellent in this game in coverage and quite physical. His best play came on 3rd and 2 when he was beat on a slant route by Cole Beasley but managed to recover and come up with a diving pass breakup, timed perfectly, to force a Cowboys punt. Terrific skill and effort there. He had two pass breakups.

Chris Carr: B- (2.33) He did a great job pushing DeMarco Murray out of bounds as he was catching the ball on a 3rd and 6 to force a field goal attempt. He also had a really nice tackle on Jason Witten behind the line of scrimmage. He was fortunate on a couple misses and drops but his coverage was decent. He had two tackles, but also had a penalty on special teams blocking a guy out of bounds.

Kenny Vaccaro: C (2.52) He had 3 tackles and a defended pass. He came up with a nice hit on Jason Witten as he was juggling the ball to force an incompletion. He also had a stupid illegal use of the hands penalty to gift wrap a first down for the Cowboys. He would leave the game with an apparent concussion. That is his second in three weeks I believe, which has to be a concern.

Rafael Bush: B+ (2.59) He had one tackle at the second level on Murray, limiting what would have otherwise been a big run. It was in coverage that he made a difference, giving Keenan Lewis help both around the line of scrimmage and over the top depending on the coverage.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: C+(2.46) A quiet game for IAQ who just played the back end and kept everything in front of him. He had no stats but was pretty good in coverage.

***

Garrett Hartley: D- (2.67) He made all 7 of his extra points but just pushed barely wide right his lone field goal attempt from 37 yards out. At this point from kick to kick I have no idea what to expect from him. But the confidence has to be low right now as he's missed 4 of his last 6. These misses have all been very makeable distances too. Kicker is starting to become a pretty major concern.

Thomas Morstead: B- (3.48) He was only 3 for 7 on kickoffs for touchbacks, which is less than he normally gets. Dwayne Harris is a very dangerous return man so I would have preferred to see him neutralize him better. On his lone punt he could've pinned it inside the 10 but got unlucky with some backspin that bounced it back to the 16 for a 33 yard punt. It was still inside the 20 though.

Kevin Reddick: C+ (2.80) He had two tackles in coverage but hit Harris very late and out of bounds on a kickoff return. He was really fortunate to not get flagged for a personal foul there because he deserved it, as that was pretty stupid. Harris would shaken up on the play and at first it looked really serious but fortunately he returned.

Defensive Player of the Game: Ramon Humber

Special Teams Player of the Game: Will Herring

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