Saints vs. Eagles Wild Card Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It was a strange game for the Saints' defense in that they held the Eagles to 7 points and kept the ship afloat when Drew Brees was off and throwing interceptions in the first half. They did a fantastic job of bottling up LeSean McCoy all while preventing DeSean Jackson from making a big play. Then Keenan Lewis got hurt, and the entire complexion of the game changed. The defense did enough to win, but down the stretch it was the running game and special teams that saved the day. I give you the grades...Wh

Cameron Jordan: B+ for the game (3.33 for the playoffs) He finished the game with 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks. His pressure came and went, though, and because the Saints were consistently dropping so many in coverage it was hard to get much pressure without Nick Foles holding on to the ball too long. His one unassisted sack was a beautiful move where he completely schooled Lane Johnson. I sensed that would be a favorable matchup. Where he earned his stripes, though, was in run defense. He held blocks very well and was instrumental in containing LeSean McCoy by consistently disrupting lanes in the backfield.

Akiem Hicks: B- (2.67) He seemed to get injured, then he came back, then he went out again. I'm not sure what was up with him but it looked like a calf injury. Hopefully he's good to go for Seattle. He finished with 3 tackles and half a sack. He twice tackled McCoy around the line of scrimmage and showed a nice physical presence when he was in there.

Brodrick Bunkley: B (3.00) He had two tackles, one which was a superb stop on 3rd and 1 short of the 1st down. Unfortunately the Eagles would move the chains on the following play, but that was an impressive play in the trenches. The Eagles had a hard time moving him in the middle. As the game progressed I noticed Jenkins playing more and more, and I wasn't sure if that was a sign that Bunkley was hurt? Either way, when he was in he was dominant in the trenches.

Tom Johnson: C (2.00) Quietly provided 1 tackle. Didn't offer much in pass rushing situations.

Glenn Foster: C- (1.67) In limited snaps on passing downs he offered no real solution getting after Foles.

John Jenkins: B+ (3.33) Like Bunkley I thought his run defense was exceptional. Philly's interior line had a really hard time getting push and both Jenkins and Bunkley deserve credit for setting up the linebackers to make plays. He had 4 tackles.

Parys Haralson: C+ (2.33) He played the run well, as always, and had a tackle before he had to leave the game with a torn pectoral muscle. The play he hurt himself was a swing pass to Jason Avant where he did a good job to make sure it went nowhere. A tough blow for the Saints. He's an important veteran presence and the Saints could have used his prowess to stop Marshawn Lynch. His season is done but I hope he'll return and make an impact next season. The trade for him (Saints gave up a 7th rounder) was worth it this year, I thought.

Junior Galette: C- (1.67) His effort was relentless in pursuit of Foles, but when you're only rushing 3 or 4 each time it's hard to get to the quarterback. He had 1 tackle and one offsides penalty and made very little impact on the game.

Curtis Lofton: B (3.00) He had 4 tackles, including one for a loss where he dumped Brent Celek in the backfield for a huge loss making a textbook tackle. This wasn't his usual his tackle volume game but he played well and led the defense to a good performance overall. He seemed to know when to call the right audibles at the line. His coverage was much better than usual, too.

David Hawthorne: C (2.00) He led the team with 6 tackles but it felt like most were well beyond the line of scrimmage and many times he missed a chance to stop a play sooner. Not his best game of the season by any means.

Will Herring: C- (1.67) He had one tackle and his replacement of Haralson was not a good one. Specifically he hesitated between containment and selling out to stop McCoy on an option read play at the goal line. In that situation you have to make Nick Foles beat you with his feet and sell out to McCoy. Unfortunately the result of the play was an easy touchdown. My gut says Haralson would have played that the right way. I'm not saying the result wouldn't have been the same, but at least there you're giving backside pursuit a chance to run down Foles. I'm very interested to see if he plays much on running downs against Seattle, or if the Saints find a way to play Ramon Humber instead with Hawthorne and Lofton. I prefer the latter.

Keenan Lewis: A (4.00) When you consider what happened after his concussion, it's clear he was the key to the scheme working. The Saints were able to focus on McCoy and contain him all game long because they trusted that Lewis would be ok one on one with DeSean Jackson. Lewis completely shut down one of the most explosive playmakers in the game. I know you're probably thinking this is the second time I'm giving him a good grade after he gave me grief on twitter following the bad grade against Carolina, but I try to call them like I see it. If you watched this game and his impact, I don't see how anyone could argue against this grade. The last two games Lewis' play has been exceptional, but especially in this one. He allowed the unit to leave him in single coverage on Jackson and it worked to perfection. When he came out, it all went down in flames. This was one of the most underrated free agent signings of the season in the entire league. He had 5 tackles and a defended pass. The play he concussed himself on was a monster hit.

Corey White: D+ (1.33) Speaking of Lewis leaving, White was holding his own until he was put in coverage on Jackson. He gave up a 40 yard pass that set up a touchdown, and a 40 yard pass interference call that set up the go ahead touchdown late. White almost cost the team the game with his poor coverage deep on Jackson. He had 2 tackles.

Rod Sweeting: D (1.00) He came in for Lewis and was immediately picked on repeatedly by Foles. He had a very hard time staying with Riley Cooper. He had 3 tackles, I'm not exactly in a rush to see him in coverage again. At least not thrust into action with no experience in the playoffs.

Trevin Wade: C (2.00) He had 1 tackle and was up and down in coverage.

Malcolm Jenkins: C+ (2.33) He quietly had 3 tackles and made little impact on the game.

Roman Harper: C- (1.67) He gave up the touchdown pass to Riley Cooper by falling down. Too bad because Foles has too much time and Harper stayed with Cooper up until the ball got there. He had 1 tackle and a really nice breakup on a throw down the seam to Brent Celek. For as much as he played it was really strange to see so little involvement.

Rafael Bush: B (3.00) As the last line of defense I thought he tackled well in the open field. His 3 tackles were downfield but they prevented first down played from being huge plays. He provided good help in coverage.

***

Shayne Graham: A+ (4.33) He was clutch and the decision to bring him in for Garrett Hartley was clearly the right one. What more needs to be said about Graham? He was 4 for 4, making all the kicks you'd expect an NFL kicker to make, but that was welcomed security based on the roller coaster experience of rooting for Hartley. And I don't care how easy a 32 yarder is, with that kind of pressure and so much on the line you still have to go out there and make it.

Thomas Morstead: D- (0.67) Without question his worst game of the season. The cold affected his distance on kickoffs, of course, but he was also unable to really boom the ball on punts. He was very short on two punts and on his 3rd he set up DeSean Jackson for a good return of 29 yards by out kicking his coverage. He averaged just 35 yards per punt and had a woeful net of 25.3. The Saints are going to need a much better performance against Seattle from him.

Kevin Reddick: C+ (2.33) Made an important tackle on a dangerous kick return by Brad Smith.

Ramon Humber: B- (2.67) He also had a special teams tackle laying a nice physical hit on Smith as well.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Keenan Lewis

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Shayne Graham

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