Saints vs. 49ers Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

Wesley Hitt

I have to say, the Saints' 23-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers was a complete team win. The Saints got critical plays from all phases of the game. You had the Cadet return and the big Hartley kicks. You had Meachem, Brees and Colston on offense. But the defense holding the 49ers to 196 total yards from scrimmage and just 81 on the ground was monumental. That's what allowed this team to survive three turnovers. By the way, interesting to note that each unit was responsible for a turnover (Drew Brees on offense, Lance Moore on special teams, Corey White on defense). But the stops this defense continually makes in the clutch is perhaps what is most promising for the team down the road. On to the grades...

Cameron Jordan: A- for the game (3.00 for the season) He was relentless after Colin Kaepernick all day long. He may have only had 2 tackles and a sack, but his presence was so much more than that. He batted a 3rd down pass and he hit Kaepernick as he threw on another 3rd down pass to force an incompletion. He had a physical and dominant game. Clearly his ankle feels better.

Akiem Hicks: A (2.83) The last five weeks have been utterly dominant from Hicks. He's run defense is just ridiculous right now. He's plugging the interior, he's getting pressure, and he's running sideline to sideline with scary speed for his size. He is always around the ball. He was a huge reason for Frank Gore getting nothing going on the ground. He was second on the team with 7 tackles and a sack.

Brodrick Bunkley: B+ (2.80) He had 2 tackles but also had a nice game disrupting the running lanes in the trenches. He's played well since returning from injury.

John Jenkins: B- (2.67) He's playing less with Bunkley back but he's still plugging the nose the few times the Saints revert back to a 3-4. Just one tackle in this one but he did pretty well from the little I saw playing the run mostly.

Tom Johnson: C (2.24) He just had one hit on Kaepernick. Not much of an impact from Johnson.

Junior Galette: B (2.80) Not his most active game but he had two tackles for a loss. One was a critical sack late in the game that helped the Saints come up with a game winning stop, and one was a play in the backfield on Gore. He had two tackles and a sack. That's kind of Galette's game, though. He's not going to litter the stat sheet with tackles, he's just going to come up with a big play here and there to impact the game in a big way.

Curtis Lofton: B (2.90) Despite playing hurt he was physical and had 6 tackles, including one for a loss. Always just as good finding the ball.

David Hawthorne: B- (3.07) He was beat in coverage at times and missed a tackle short of a first down that would have gotten his defense off the field. He had a number of great plays too, though. He led the squad with 8 tackles, including one for a loss, and he was physical. He was good at locating the football and most of the time he finished plays. His speed didn't look too hampered from the toe injury.

Ramon Humber: B (2.67) With 5 tackles he continues to be the overachieving player of the defense. No one saw it coming but he made a huge impact and his involvement in the gameplan was necessary to shut down Frank Gore. Gore has one 24 yard run and besides that had just 24 yards on 12 carries.

Parys Haralson: C- (2.47) He played a decent amount but made no real impact. He was blocked well and a non factor against the run, and when he blitzed he was totally neutralized. He seems to be the least useful of all the linebackers on the roster at this point.

Keyunta Dawson: B- (2.27) He did a pretty good job rushing the passer and finished off Junior Galette's sack. The Saints seem to like him on the field in obvious passing downs.

Keenan Lewis: B- (2.93) He had a little trouble with Anquan Boldin on short 3rd down throws to move the chains. While Lewis is big for a corner, Boldin's size and physicality was tough to compete with. He hung in there, though, and had 3 tackles and a pass breakup.

Jabari Greer: B+ (2.50) He had two great pass breakups, making nice plays on the ball, before leaving with what looked like a gruesome leg injury. He's likely out for the season. The Saints will miss him. Greer is a great player and an even better person. I know he'll stick around and help the team as the vocal leader that he is.

Corey White: C- (2.50) How do I even grade his interception? He makes a sick jump on the ball, is head's up to get up and start running, takes it 43 yards down the sideline and tries to make it the end zone before fumbling out the back of it for a touchback. It was so awesome and awful all in one. He was also beaten on a touchdown pass to Boldin and he had a really bad fair catch interference penalty. He had 2 tackles and the interception/fumble. With Greer and Patrick Robinson both out for the year he's now gone from the #4 corner to the starter. I'm sure Rob Ryan will lean on his plethora of safeties in passing situations too but White will from now on have a very large responsibility and I'm sure quarterbacks will target him a lot. Up to him to respond. Based on how he's played this season I think he can impress us.

Chris Carr: C (2.29) He did a good job hanging on to Vernon Davis' leg short of a first down once. He was also beaten by both Boldin and Mario Manningham on third down throws for a first down. He had 4 tackles and a defended pass.

Malcolm Jenkins: C (2.71) He was quiet, with 2 tackles and a defended pass. He was beaten badly by Vernon Davis on a touchdown pass. He helped a little bit against the run. Good to see him back on the field most of all.

Rafael Bush: B- (2.60) He did have a nice pass breakup around the end zone to prevent a touchdown. He also had 2 tackles and a defended pass.

Roman Harper: C+ (2.89) The Saints allowed him to get his feet wet by not playing too much this week, slowly acclimating himself back to game speed. The gameplan seemed to be to have more linebackers and less DB's on the field in this one. Harper had 2 tackles and a quiet day overall, but one tackle short of a first down to force a punt.

Garrett Hartley: A+ (2.83) He was perfect on three field goals and two extra points. He nailed a 42 yarder to tie the game with just over 2 minutes left, and he hit a 31 yarder as time expired. Maybe not the longest kicks in the world but given the slump he was in those were just massive and so clutch. I'm so happy to see Scooter respond like that. Much deserved credit for a fantastic game with big time makes in high stress situations.

Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.47) He was booming punts, putting a little pressure on his cover guys but they responded. He averaged 51.3 yards per punt, and 43.7 net. Both solid numbers. He was 5 for 5 on kickoff touchbacks and also had a punt inside the 20 (sort of, a fair catch interference game it more yardage).

Travaris Cadet: A (2.75) His 82 yard kickoff return could not have come at a more critical time. The team was down 10-7 and momentum was with the 49ers after that bad Lance Moore fumble, but his return would set up a quick 14-10 lead. He showed good elusiveness there. Huge play in the game.

Kevin Reddick: B- (2.78) Another ho hum special teams tackle for him. He seems to have one every week.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: B (2.55) Give him credit for a beautiful open field tackle in punt coverage to prevent LaMichael James from doing any real damage.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Akiem Hicks

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley

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