If you had told me before the game that Matt Hasselbeck would beat the Saints deep repeatedly, I would have been surprised. After more thought, I would have guessed that Usama struggled helping over the top given that the third string free safety was forced into action with both Malcolm Jenkins and Darren Sharper out. Turns out that didn't happen at all, and it was Jabari getting toasted repeatedly. That's not something I've grown accustomed to since watching him. On special teams, our place kicking unit is as much of a sh@#show as ever, pardon my language. Honestly, right now, our kicking game is not fit for high school quality. It's embarrassing to see us struggling so much in that department. No doubt, the sudden departure of Jason Kyle to injury had a significant effect. Those two things aside, the Saints once again played at a very high level. Give special teams a ton of credit for limiting Leon Washington, arguably the best return man in the game after Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester. Below are the grades.
Seahawks vs Saints coverage
Seahawks vs Saints boxscore
Will Smith: C+ (2.30) Smith showed his typical hustle and toughness in this game. He held his ground well on running plays. He finished with 2 tackles and a defended pass. His pass rushing once again left a lot to be desired. Give Smith a lot of credit for his durability, as he's clearly battling a hernia issue. I don't care what's being said in the media by Payton, it's clear Smith is far from 100%. He went down at one point with what was likely a tweak of his existing injury, but sure enough he was back in the game on the same drive. Give Smith credit for disrupting a flea flicker by reading play action and staying on Matt Hasselbeck, which forced Seattle to forego the pitch back.
Alex Brown: B (2.24) I thought, for the second straight game, that Brown played well. I think he's starting to find his place in this defensive scheme as the season wears on. Once again his play against the run was most impressive. His pass rush was decent on a few plays, but overall he struggled to provide consistent pressure because of his lack of explosiveness and quickness off the snap. Still, he finished with an impressive 4 tackles, including one for a loss. The guy is a solid run stopper, and while he may not be the most dominating defender physically going up against the massive offensive tackles in today's NFL, he's a lot headier than Charles Grant (or Bobby McCray for that matter) in carrying out his assignment.
Anthony Hargrove: B (2.27) He finished with 3 tackles, including one that dropped Justin Forsett for a big loss. Hargrove was surprisingly good against the run, which I'm not used to, and he was helpful in pursuit for his teammates. You gotta love Hargrove, a big body that's always flying around the ball.
Jimmy Wilkerson: D+ (2.05) Wilkerson got a number of snaps and he did a decent job holding his ground on running plays. Despite this, he had no tackles and no plays around the ball whatsoever. The guy has just had a forgettable season. Sadly, he's been a body more than anything else this season.
Jeff Charleston: C+ (2.39) To me he was the most physical of the defensive ends despite only playing much in the second half. While he only had 1 tackle he was relentless and aggressive. Overall, the play of the defensive ends have been one of the few major disappointments this season.
Junior Galette: C- (1.67) I was shocked to see him on the second defensive play of the game. Not only was he subbed in early, but he blitzed from an outside linebacker position. Despite a number of one on one opportunities, a decent number of snaps and the fact that he's under the radar, he was never able to get the upper hand. For a guy that's supposed to be a superior pass rusher, he was no help in this game. Credit Hasselbeck for having a much quicker release than I remembered him having. He finished with 1 tackle.
Sedrick Ellis: C (2.67) It was a really quiet day for Ellis. I noticed him as out on the injury report, so my guess is he was slowed down at some point after getting hurt. He finished with 1 tackle and was a complete non factor in the game. The Seahawks were keying on him which opened up a lot of plays for the linebackers.
Remi Ayodele: B+ (2.77) It's no coincidence that Ayodele is the highest rated defensive lineman on the team. He's been, by far, the most consistent player on the line week in week out. He finished with 4 tackles and once again dominated the line of scrimmage. Marshawn Lynch wasn't getting many lanes mostly because Ayodele was demolishing any blocking that came his way. I guess when he doesn't face a top player like Pouncey, he handles himself really well. When he wasn't making plays, he was pushing back the point of attack and setting his teammates up.
Jonathan Vilma: C+ (2.90) He had 4 tackles and a QB hit on a blitz. His play recognition was good but his tackling was suspect at times. His best play was a goal line stuffing tackle that saw him absorb a block and Marshawn Lynch all in one sequence, pushing both players backwards. Based on that play alone I think it's safe to say the guy spends some serious time in the weight room. His coverage skills were surprisingly suspect at times, and his speed to the football overall wasn't as good as I've seen this year.
Scott Shanle: A (2.92) Wow. I guess that hamstring is starting to feel better, because clearly it's not bothering his movement. Shanle looked as fast as I've ever seen him out there. The Seahawks repeatedly went after him with short outs and routes underneath, and he made tackle after tackle. Shanle was a one man wrecking crew at times for the defense. His strip and recovery of Lynch was a pure thing of beauty, and he ripped the ball out of the runner's hands and showed Sharper-like quick hands in coming up with the football. Shanle was physical and textbook in his play all game long. We always knew he was reliable, but if he starts becoming a playmaker too, then all of a sudden he's a star quality linebacker. I couldn't believe how dominant he was out there. A truly memorable performance. He finished with 12 tackles and led the team, as he was all over the field all game long.
Danny Clark: B (2.92) Once again, he was very solid against the run. By now we all know what to expect from this guy, and it's awesome to see him continually deliver it so consistently. He finished with 4 tackles. I couldn't feel better about the way our linebacking core is playing right now. They may not be the Dome Patrol, but they're playing some extremely solid football.
Jabari Greer: D (2.75) What was wrong with him? This was one of the strangest performances I've seen from a usually very reliable defender. He gave up 110 yards on two passes alone in the 1st quarter, getting beat on bombs to both Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu. On the first, he was badly beat on a double move that faked him out of his pants. He at least showed good speed to track down Williams and save the touchdown, because the Seahawks would have to later settle for 3. On the play to Obomanu, the coverage was perfect but he lost the ball in the lights and had horrendous awareness as Obomanu jumped up for an easy catch completely uncontested. For Greer to look that clueless on a play was pretty surprising. For a second there I thought Jason David stole his uniform and came out for a nightmare curtain call. After that, obviously terrified to get beat deep again, he allowed passes underneath and in front of him to get completed at will all game long. He was no match whatsoever for Mike Williams' size, and was only saved by an injury that forced Williams to leave the game. It was by far his worst game since he joined the Saints. He had 8 tackles, but make no mistake, that was a function of the amount of times Hasselbeck went after him. It was reminiscent of the Fred Thomas/Fred Weary/Toi Cook/Jason David/(insert other God awful Saints' corner in team history referred to at the time as "toast") days. Seriously, it was that bad. The good news is Greer is a real corner unlike those other clowns (though Freddy T had his moments), and he'll bounce back.
Tracy Porter: C+ (2.61) Like Greer, he let a tremendous amount of quick plays happen in front of him. Definitely not his best performance, but he was at least solid in his tackling and more physical. Obomanu gave him trouble, and he was beaten once down the sideline by Williams as well, but he seemed to at least be in the game. He finished with 6 tackles and almost came up with a tremendous interception that was only ruled incomplete after a challenge. That was a great effort and Porter almost came up with a beautiful turnover.
Leigh Torrence: B- (2.78) He had 3 tackles and quietly did a solid job in coverage in the slot.
Roman Harper: B+ (3.30) Once again, Harper was good around the of scrimmage sniffing out the run and sticking his neck in there around the action. He finished with 6 tackles. His best play was a strip recovery of Lynch which was phenomenal. I can't believe both he and Shanle pulled that off in the same game. Harper was beaten a couple of times on pass plays, but overall his play was very solid.
Usama Young: A- (2.95) Everytime this guy gets a chance to play at free safety, it seems like he does well. I have a feeling this will be Sharper's last season in New Orleans, and if it is, Young should get serious consideration at starting free safety because he's looked better back there than Malcolm Jenkins. Move Jenkins back to corner and give Young the job full time. Young came up from the safety spot and laid devastating hits a couple of times. He also had two fantastic pass break ups, one of which was in the end zone and saved the Saints from a touchdown. He reads the play extremely well and he did a good job not letting anything get behind him.
Garrett Hartley: F (2.09) Congrats Garrett, you get my first F in my grading history as a blogger. I'm not going to even waste my time typing, I'm done with him. He sucks right now. He can't even kick off without shanking one.
Thomas Morstead: B (3.27) It's hard to give him a grade as he almost didn't see the field at all. He got decent height but average depth on his lone punt, a 40 yarder that was fair caught at the 18 by Leon Washington. The fact that he prevented a returner that dangerous from getting a crack at a return is worth a decent grade, though, I guess.
Courtney Roby: B- (2.87) He also barely saw the field because Olindo Mare was blasting every kickoff out of the end zone. I guess I'll use Roby's space to talk about Mare for a second. That guy really gets under my skin. He comes to New Orleans, sending a reliable and well liked John Carney out of town, for a draft pick no less, only to come in and fail on extra points, laying the proverbial egg at every turn. You think Garrett Hartley is bad right now? The way Mare kicked when he was with the Saints made Hartley's current form look like hall of fame material. Seriously, Hartley might as well be Jan Stenerud. When Mare kicked for the Saints, I wasn't sure if the kick would go sideways. So then he goes to Seattle, one of the absolute worst stadiums in the entire league to kick in, and he puts up pro bowl numbers, no big deal. What a jerk. Not only that, but he has the audacity to come back into the Superdome, homesite for his worst efforts, and executes a perfect game. Every kick down the middle, every kickoff 9 yards deep, a picture perfect onsides kick - what is this guy kidding? It was sickening. Just typing about it now makes me want to vomit. Honestly, the only thing missing was for Mare to rip our hearts, guts and larynx out by beating the Saints as time expired with a 78 yard field goal obliterating Tom Dempsey's record. Or even better, and 63 and a half yard field goal that the NFL accepts as longer than Dempsey's for the record. I hate you Olindo Mare, you are the worst. There, now I feel better. Roby actually had a decent 25 return on his only attempt and showed good restraint staying away from returning deep kicks that would have started the offense well inside the 20.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Scott Shanle
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Instead of giving this to one player, I'm going to give a big shout out to the coverage units. I would have given it to Chase Daniel had he crossed the goal line for a 2 point conversion, but since he didn't, I'm giving it to the coverage units for limiting Leon Washington to one fair catch and 3 returns for a 24.7 yard average. Big kick returns are a way to let an inferior team stay in the game with you, and the Saints didn't allow that despite how good Washington is. Solid job.