Saints vs. Seahawks Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Well this is it folks, the very last grades of the season. It's been fun. Many thanks to those of you who had nice things to say about this feature, I'm always looking for ways to improve it and I'll continue to refine it. The offseason is always a fun time to take a break from it, though, I have to admit. It's funny that the defense played so well despite not really stopping Marshawn Lynch at all, who had 140 yards on 28 carries. Bottling up Russell Wilson helped them get off the field way more on 3rd down, though, and that's why this defensive performance was better despite Lynch's banner day. Instead it is special teams that deserves the major part of the blame for this loss. Missed field goals, botched punts, penalties and poor returns were all on the menu for the Saints in this game. Clearly that unit needs a lot of work in the offseason. On to the grades...

Cameron Jordan: A for the game (3.67 for the playoffs) By far, in my opinion, the best defender on the field. He was directed to keep containment for Russell Wilson to remain in the pocket and he was still able to get a sack notwithstanding. He was one of the few player causing constant disruption against the run. The pro bowler played as such in the playoffs and stepped up for his team on the biggest stage. This kid will command a huge contract someday. He had 6 tackles, 2 for a loss, and the sack.

Akiem Hicks: B (2.84) He had 4 tackles and he too was useful against the run. He is such a powerful interior player it makes for a really nice tandem with Cam Jordan. He's another one that's only going to get better, and he didn't seemed too slowed down by his injury.

Brodrick Bunkley: A (3.50) 5 tackles for the interior player who was a beast against the run. Anytime Lynch was slowed down he was a key component. His presence in short yardage situations especially is critical. He carries a high cap number so it will be interesting to see what the Saints plans are for him next season. Hopefully he can re-structure.

John Jenkins: B (3.17) He wasn't nearly as impressive as Bunkley holding his blocks against the run, and Lynch was able to get some nice runs going more so when he was in. He did have a much quicker first step, though, which made him more of a factor on passing plays. He had a sack.

Tom Johnson: C- (1.84) The snaps he saw on pass rushing plays were very quiet. He made zero impact on the field and was neutralized a little too easily. He's a restricted free agent so the Saints will have to think hard about whether they want him back or not.

Glenn Foster: C- (1.67) The pass rushing specialist came in a handful of times and like Johnson had nothing to show for it. Too bad that monster preseason never really panned out this year.

Junior Galette: D+ (1.50) Give him credit for trying to come back and play through what was clearly a hampering sprained ankle. The bottom line is he was mostly a liability out there. He was swallowed on too many blocks and Russell Okung had his way against him in pass protection. He just didn't have the burst and once that was gone his main asset was neutralized. A bad playoff run for him.

Keyunta Dawson: C+ (2.33) He came in in spot duty for Galette and showed some things. He played the run ok and got a little pass rush going. Nothing special and clearly he wasn't anywhere near Galette at his peak performance, but some decent sub reps.

David Hawthorne: C (2.00) He led the team with 9 tackles. This is a tough one to grade because at times he was physical, found the football and made a fantastic tackle. Other times he blatantly missed a tackle on Lynch or over ran the play. On counter in particular, he had a clear shot at Lynch in the backfield but over pursued to the inside and gave Lynch a massive cutback lane that allowed a huge gain.

Curtis Lofton: A- (3.34) He had 8 tackles and a sack, and most of the time he was great at finding Lynch in traffic. Lynch is so hard to bring down and Lofton was always a willing and able tackler that would help finish off the plays bringing Lynch down. The weather prevented Seattle from isolating him in coverage at all, so that was to his game's advantage. He could focus on run defense and he did a good job.

Ramon Humber: C (2.34) I mentioned on last week's podcast that I thought he would play as the third linebacker in base situations over Will Herring because he was more of a thumper and the Saints would need his physical play against Marshawn Lynch and sure enough that's what happened. He had 4 tackles and played the run pretty well. He also had an incredibly stupid personal foul penalty on a kickoff return late in the game after the Saints' touchdown. He hurts his grade badly there because it was so unnecessary and plain stupid. Every yard counts and that's 15 yards of field position he cost an offense that needed all the help it could get.

Keenan Lewis: C (3.00) He played some of the slants thrown his way extremely well and he also played a deep ball to perfection with textbook coverage. He did give up a first down grab though and his coverage wasn't always as tight what we see every week. Obviously the weather made it tough not only on accurate passes, but Lewis was fortunate Wilson missed his open man a couple of times. He wasn't much help stopping the Seahawks' running game. He had no tackles and a defended pass.

Corey White: C (1.67) He had 6 tackles, including one for a loss. He had his hands full with Percy Harvin and he gave up a couple of critical first down throws. I still think he's a good player that will improve, but he's not starter quality. The Saints are better off if they can count on him in the slot.

Trevin Wade: C+ (2.17) He didn't play great as a reserve cover man, both in coverage and against the run. He did have a nice special teams tackle though.

Malcolm Jenkins: C+ (2.33) He played the back end very well and was disruptive to Wilson's looks downfield. He struggled slowing down Lynch, though, who ran through some of his second level tackles. He had 5 tackles. He's a free agent so this will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on if he can command any money on an open market. I doubt it.

Roman Harper: B+ (2.50) For possibly his very last game as a Saint, I thought he played well. He blew up a lead block in the backfield on a third down play that led to Lynch getting dropped short of the first down. On the next series he runs down Russell Wilson just one yard short of a first down on another third down play, and as he grabs the collar has the sense and IQ to let go before getting a flag. Smart play there. He had 8 tackles, and like Lofton, I thought the weather took away his weaknesses and allowed him to focus on his strengths.

Rafael Bush: D+ (2.17) The main play we'll all remember is a vicious remember me shot he put on a defenseless Percy Harvin that cost the Saints 15 yards and an early 3-0 deficit. Harvin was dropping the ball before he got there, so it would have forced a Seahawks punt, but instead Bush basically gave them 3 points. You can argue the hit was in the shoulder pads or whatever, but the bottom line is a hit like that in real time is drawing a flag 95% of the time. And it was just unnecessary and stupid. Some people will tell you it was a needed message that showed the Seahawks receivers the Saints were going to be physical and perhaps they heard footsteps after that shot. I do like Bush's physical play. But the flipside is there was no margin for error in a game like this. The offense was largely inept and giving away 3 points was something the team just couldn't afford. He had 2 tackles and was run over a couple times as well.

***

Shayne Graham: D- (2.50) He missed two field goals from appreciable distances in horrible conditions. The first may have been a bad hold by Luke McCown (just ask Cariello about Ray Finkle) and the second was just a really stupid coaching decision. So I'm not going to fail him given the degree of difficulty. Still, Steve Hauschka came up huge for his side going 3 for 3 including a 49 yarder... so it would have been nice to have a clutch kicker. It's not like either kick didn't have the distance, they were just wide. He made one extra point and man, I have to say it was a complete reversal of the previous week's performance. I would have said he had the job for 2014 locked down after the Eagles game and now he's back down to earth. I still think the Saints bring him back in training camp to compete for a job, but I'd like to see a serious competition there with a young and promising leg.

Thomas Morstead: C- (1.17) The first punt where he mishandles the snap and flubs a 16 yarder was a disaster. The Saints desperately needed to avoid a bad start and Morstead could not have dealt them a worse hand. He rebounded nicely, though. He pinned the Seahawks twice inside the 20 and even kicked a ball off for a touchback against the wind on a kickoff. His average was 38.8 on 4 punts mostly due to the 16 yarder, and his net was 37.5. Definitely not good, but if you take away the first punt his net on the next 3 averaged out to over 44 which is astronomical. A punter can't afford a mistake like the first punt, though, and he had a very forgettable playoff experience overall.

Kyle Knox: B (3.00) He pinned a punt down at the Seattle 6.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Cameron Jordan

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Kyle Knox

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