Below are the grades for the Saints' Defense and Special Teams @ the Rams.
Saints vs Rams boxscore
Saints vs Rams coverage
Will Smith: B- (2.78) Smith registered yet another sack which also forced the ball loose, but unfortunately the Saints weren't able to recover. The Rams ended up scoring on the next play on a long pass to Avery. He's been getting better and better this season rushing the passer. Against the run he was mediocre. He finished with just 2 tackles.
Charles Grant: B+ (2.41) Grant was terrific against the run for the second straight week. He finished with 5 tackles and was present on many of the stops the defense made against the run in the second half. 2 of his tackles were plays where he beat his blocker and was able to meet Steven Jackson in the backfield for a loss. His play was aggressive and his tackles were hard to break. He even had a couple of decent pass rushes, and I felt he deserved a half sack on the sack given to Ayodele.
Bobby McCray: B- (1.96) McCray showed some nice ability against the run for once, and this time he got more pressure on the quarterback. Just one tackle for McCray in the game, but I at least saw him involved, active, and always in pursuit. A promising performance given how invisible he's been.
Anthony Hargrove: C (2.42) Hargrove did finish with 4 tackles, and his pressure on Marc Bulger was good, but he's still a little light to play the run effectively. He was pushed out of the way often and mauled on several of Jackson's big runs.
Remi Ayodele: C (2.09) Ayodele got a coverage sack, and just 1 tackle. He was surprisingly pretty good rushing the passer and he pancaked Bulger on another play just as Bulger released his pass. Otherwise, he was eaten alive on running plays and did a poor job of playing at the point of attack. Sedrick Ellis needs to get back in the lineup healthy because the last three weeks watching the Saints attempt to stop the run have been painful.
Scott Fujita: C- (2.53) Fujita was feeling things out early and he seemed rusty in his first game back from a calf injury. He was juked a couple of times by Jackson and allowed him to run through weak arm tackles at other times. As the game wore on, though, he seemed to get better and better as he adjusted back to the game speed. He was in the right place for most of the game and played well in coverage. He finished with 4 tackles, and I hope he'll play more like he did in the second half for all of next week.
Scott Shanle: B (2.81) Nice to see Shanle bounce back and play a pretty solid game. Like Fujita, he was pushed around a little early and seemed to be too tentative in his reads. He did make a couple of terrific open field tackles on a very hard to bring down Steven Jackson, though, and those plays could have been massive gainers if Shanle doesn't come up with the tackle. His tackling technique is very sound, and it's nice to have a linebacker you can trust. True to form he also did a good job in coverage. He finished with 6 tackles including one for a loss.
Jonathan Vilma: B- (2.93) Mixed bag for Vilma. He did have 8 tackles and seemed to get better as the game wore on, but he also had a number of opportunities to make plays where Jackson made him look like a backup. Vilma did a good job on a blitz of hitting Bulger, and almost got a sack at one point but Bulger released the pass as he was going down. Vilma also missed a couple of assignments in the passing game, allowing Daniel Fells to make plays.
Marvin Mitchell: B- (2.45) Mitchell had 2 tackles, including one which was a vicious hit. Overall he didn't make mistakes and looked good against the run and pass in limited duty.
Tracy Porter: C (3.11) Before Porter left the game with an injury, he was having a forgettable game. Assigned for a large part of the game to cover rookie Brandon Gibson, who had no catches on the season going into this game, he was beat all too often. On the play he was injured, he was not only beat but completely blew the tackle. Porter finished with 2 tackles. The news that his injury is only a strain is huge, though. The Saints need him desperately, and the fact the he should be back in time for the stretch run and the playoffs is crucial.
Randall Gay: D- (2.67) Gay was beat on two touchdown passes to Donnie Avery and the Rams in general picked on him all day. He looked slow and despite good coverage on the second touchdown he showed terrible ball skills. Gay did finish with 4 tackles on the day. Gay in my estimation is best used in the slot as a physical corner. I know the Saints were short handed, but matching him up against a burner like Donnie Avery was a terrible matchup. I heard whispers of Jason David comparisons (ahem, Saintsational) and that is going a little too far. Just because he can't run with Donnie Avery it doesn't mean he has no clue out there. Gay will be fine, just a rough day for him lined up against a receiver that is as fast as just about anyone. Next week against Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton I think Gay will look better.
Malcolm Jenkins: C+ (2.92) He was ok, not great. He finished with 2 tackles and put nice pressure on a couple of blitzes. He did have one devastating hit on Bulger that the Rams' quarterback barely got up from. He also had a big "defended pass" late in the game, where he ran with Avery before getting hit in the back with the ball. One thing I was impressed by was a running play where it was Jackson, a blocker and Jenkins, and Jenkins did a good job of sticking his head in there and trying to take out Jackson's legs. He slowed Jackson down enough to make it an easy tackle for his teammates. Malcolm is pretty physical for a corner.
Roman Harper: B+ (3.26) Another solid game from Harper. He's becoming a pretty steady performer for the Saints, and brace yourselves because he actually looked good against the pass. He was around the box a good amount, especially in the second half, and finished with 8 tackles. He did a good job, mostly, of limiting Jackson's effectiveness at the second level. He had a key pass breakup late in the third quarter on a 3rd down in the red zone forcing a Rams' field goal, and he was involved on the hail mary attempt breakup.
DeMario Pressley: B (2.84) He was pretty good against the run. Sure he was pushed around at times and somewhat responsible for the yardage Jackson amassed, but he looked aggressive and I liked his hustle. Given the fact that Pressley is essentially a red shirt rookie that's only in his second game as a pro, he's performed admirably. He had 5 tackles including 2 for losses.
Pierson Prioleau: C+ (2.67) Prioleau gave up a couple of passes but also laid some nice hits. He finished with 3 tackles and helped the Saints out when they were so thin on the final drive in dime coverage.
Usama Young: B+ (3.33) At times Young looked like a harder hitting, faster version of Darren Sharper. He had a terrific break on the ball on his interception, and he also defended another pass showing nice anticipation. He finished with 4 tackles and had some nice hits. His grade could be better, but he took a couple of bad angles on Jackson at the second level and did a bad job of wrapping up at other times which allowed the Rams to gain more yardage.
Leigh Torrence: C (2.00) Torrence did finish with 4 tackles, and showed pretty good coverage specifically on a deep ball late in the game, but in general he played too far off his man allowing easy throws underneath. He was beat at least twice on slants. He was responsible for Gibson once Porter left with an injury and he did very little to slow him down.
John Carney B- (2.67) No field goal attempts and Carney finished 4 for 4 on extra points. I'm sure some of you are thinking: well, he did everything we asked him to do, why doesn't he get an A or an A-? Well, first off, the best I'd give him for that minimal of a contribution is MAYBE a B+, but couple that with the fact that the Saints were forced to punt once and go for it another time on 4th down because Carney's leg strength was unreliable and there you have it. As much as I like Carney and trust his accuracy, it's a bummer that we don't have an option we currently trust with the game on the line and the ball at our opponent's 35 yard line.
Thomas Morstead D+ (2.89) Morstead didn't have any touchbacks on kickoffs, but his depth was ok. His punting performance was actually pretty dismal. He averaged just 37.3 yards on 3 punts, and netted just 20.6 per punt if you count 2 touchbacks and a 10 yard punt return. On his last punt he blasted it out of the end zone, but it sounded like there was a coaching mix up and he was just following instructions.
Courtney Roby A (2.88) Roby took one to the house to open the second half and break a 14-14 tie. His speed hitting the hole on that return was impressive and no Ram ever had a chance at him. I'm happy to see Roby solidify his standing as the team's returner. I also liked that on a deep kickoff later in the game, he didn't let the big play go to his head and he downed it for a touchback. He also came close to making a nice play as a gunner on a punt that bounced inside the 5, but punt returner blew him up before he had a chance to down the ball prior to it going in the end zone. Glad he didn't get hurt on that play, it was a vicious hit and we need him.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: B (2.83) Dunbar threw an awesome block on Roby's return, and he was credited with a tackle as a gunner. I could have SWORN I remember him making two tackles, though. None the less, he was involved downfield and had a good day on special teams, so I thought I'd give him his props.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Roman Harper
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Courtney Roby