Saints vs. Falcons Thursday Night Football Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

You would think holding an opponent to 13 points would mean you were utterly dominant, right? Yet somehow the Falcons had 91 yards rushing at 4.1 yards a clip and were 30-39 passing for 292 yards. Must have been a ton of turnovers then, right? Nope, just one. They must have been stuffed on 3rd down then, right? Nope, they were a totally respectable 6 for 12. Penalties must have killed them? They only had 3 all game. I guess the only explanation is the turnover, the missed field goal and a relenting pass rush that sacked Matt Ryan 5 times. I guess that's all it takes to be a good defense. That, and good red zone defense. On to the grades...

Cam Jordan: A for the game (3.09 for the season) The dude is just having a monster season. He did have a personal foul which costs him the A+ but otherwise he was in Matt Ryan's face all day. He had 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a tipped ball. He unquestionably deserves a trip to the Pro Bowl. I never imagined he would ever be close to this good, but he is a star. The Falcons simply could not block him.

Akiem Hicks: A (2.94) He gets an A for the second consecutive week. He also narrowly misses an A+ due to a missed tackle where he had Antone Smith all wrapped up around the line of scrimmage, and a sack that should have been flagged as a personal foul. Otherwise, like Jordan he was in Ryan's face the entire game. He was as good against the run as he was pass rushing. Hicks, like Jordan, has become a complete player that can do anything. He's just playing at an extremely high level right now. He had 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Brodrick Bunkley: B- (2.78) He was physical and played the run pretty well. He finished with 1 tackle but was very active in the trenches playing hard.

John Jenkins: B (2.70) He somehow ended the game with no tackles but played a lot in the second half and was excellent at collapsing the interior pocket. He was around Ryan on at least a couple sacks getting in on the fun. The Falcons had a really hard time blocking him and he was a major disruption.

Tom Johnson: B- (2.29) He had 3 tackles and was active but he seemed to always be a little slow in pursuit.

Glenn Foster: B- (2.46) He had a tackle has well as a nice QB hurry on Ryan that forced an incompletion. He also redirected Ryan into a sack once. He left the game due to an apparent knee injury.

Junior Galette: B- (2.79) Like Jenkins he had no tackles despite constantly getting pressure. His edge pressure on numerous occasions forced Matt Ryan to step up into a hit. It's really unlucky he didn't get a sack in this game because his pressure was constant.

David Hawthorne: C+ (3.00) He had 6 tackles but he missed a few as well and didn't do a great job in coverage. It was an up and down game for him.

Curtis Lofton: C+ (2.85) Like Hawthorne he had a high tackle total (9) but he also missed some tackles and was beaten in coverage on Tony Gonzalez a couple of times.

Parys Haralson: B (2.52) The run stuffer by trade held his block well, had two tackles, and even contributed a half sack.

Keyunta Dawson: A (2.56) He had 2 tackles and a half sack. He brought a tremendous amount of edge pressure when he was in and he caused a fumble that would create the only turnover of the game. That was probably the game's biggest play. He's quickly making a name for himself despite being a midseason nobody pickup.

Keenan Lewis: B (2.94) He was primarily responsible for manning up on Roddy White, and White finished with 2 catches for 24 yards. Enough said. Though, one of those was a 3rd and 10 conversion where the coverage was soft. Otherwise Lewis was blanketing his man most of the day. He had 4 tackles.

Corey White: C- (2.43) The Falcons went after him mercilessly all game long. It reminded me of Patrick Robinson last year. He led the team in tackles with 10 because the ball kept coming his way. The fact that rookie Darius Johnson was the one roasting him so badly is most concerning. He was also flagged for pass interference once, though I thought that was a bad call. He saves his grade a little bit by falling on the fumble though, and doing a good job of securing the recovery. Still, if he remains the starter that's a big concern moving forward if he can't play better in coverage. He was replaced a couple times, once for a play by Rod Sweeting (who played one snap so I didn't grade him), and seemed to get banged up at one point.

Chris Carr: C- (2.21) The lone play that stands out was a 3rd and 5 where he was easily beaten for a first down. He had one tackle.

Kenny Vaccaro: B (2.57) He wasn't great in coverage and to my surprise he was much more in the slot and much less on Gonzalez in this one. He was a tremendous help in run support, thanks to playing around the line of scrimmage, though. He had 9 tackles and a defended pass.

Roman Harper: B (2.92) He was very active in this game and pretty good overall. He also had 9 tackles and held his own when on Tony Gonzalez. He seems healthy and recovered.

Malcolm Jenkins: B (2.74) He jumped a route of Gonzalez perfect and just couldn't hang onto the football for an interception. Too bad, he really should have had that one. He had 5 tackles and never came close to getting beat over the top. Matt Ryan didn't even try.

Rafael Bush: B (2.64) He just had two tackles but he has nice speed and when he finds the ball he can lay some punishing hits. For him to stop Steven Jackson dead in his tracks at the line of scrimmage is impressive.

***

Garrett Hartley: B+ (2.88) He was two for two on extra points and made his only field goal attempt, a medium pressure 41 yarder. He didn't hit it great, though, as it kind of knuckled in and was kind of a line drive, he's fortunate it wasn't blocked. Anyway, he did his job.

Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.46) He had 4 punts for a 49.5 yard average, but one was a touchback. His net was still a solid 42.0, and he had a punt inside the 20. All four of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

Travaris Cadet: C (2.60) He returned one kickoff 20 yards and one punt zero yards. His fair catches on punts did not feel secure. He played a little offense, too, but only had one reception for 2 yards to show for it.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Akiem Hicks

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead

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