Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson mostly embarrassed the Saints defensive backfield and there's really no other way to put it. Those two have done that to numerous opponents this year and I don't know how much shame you can put on this because Megatron is clearly almost impossible to stop.
Still, the defense was shredded and they did not perform well. They could have tackled better, the pressure (blitz or no blitz) was non-existent and the coverage wasn't good either. The saving grace was a couple of timely third down stops and a couple of crucial turnovers thanks to Mr. Jabari Greer.
This was the kind of game were a couple of defensive plays were going to make the difference. Still, with the crowd noise and the advantage of playing at home, I expected a better performance from the Saints defense. They'll face a completely different opponent next week that, if nothing else, is at least a little less explosive. I hope they show up and turn in a much better showing than what we saw in this game.
Below are the grades with reset GPA's to reflect the playoff performance as separate from the regular season.
Lions vs Saints coverage
Lions vs Saints boxscoreWill Smith: C+ (2.33) He was probably the best pass rusher on the evening for the Saints, and that's really not saying much. He was credited with one QB knock down, but he also hurried Matt Stafford on a couple of other occasions. He lone tackle was a nice goal line stop of Stafford on a sneak short of the end zone where he anticipated the snap count beautifully.
Cameron Jordan: C- (1.67) His lone tackle came on a Kevin Smith run and he helped in run support. He did a good job of keeping containment, too, on two end arounds run his way. His pass rushing was non existent. He really struggles to get to the quarterback at all on passing plays.
Junior Galette: C (2.00) He had no tackles but 2 qb knock downs. Stafford's release was quick all game long, but he just didn't beat his man or generate enough pressure.
Jeff Charleston: D (1.00) He was just a body out there. Despite a good amount of playing time and snaps he recorded no stat whatsoever. I appreciate the rotation the Saints have going but they've got to find a guy than can contribute more than this. His presence on passing plays was ghostly.
Aubrayo Franklin: B- (2.67) Hard game to grade because he wasn't in a ton and the Lions hardly ran at all. His lone tackle was stopping Kevin Smith for a 1 yard run and the Lions ran for 32 yards on 10 carries, so the Saints' run defense did their job. He did allow one big hole to open up but for the most part he did fine around the line of scrimmage.
Sedrick Ellis: D+ (1.33) He had just one tackle and was a complete non factor. Most disappointing was how useless he was in pass rushing situations. Couldn't he at least get a little push up the middle to collapse the pocket? What a disappointing showing by a player that up until this year seemed to be improving.
Shaun Rogers: C+ (2.33) Of the defensive tackles he got the most push rushing the passer by far. His lone QB knockdown was on a bull rush of center Dominic Raiola where he shoved him to the ground after the snap and he got in Stafford's face immediately to force an incompletion. I noticed the Lions respected him, too, because he faced numerous interior double teams on passing downs.
Scott Shanle: C+ (2.33) He had one tackle and he broke up a pass intended for Brandon Pettigrew. He did fine in coverage but he was way too quiet for the game. He drew the assignment of covering backs and tight ends for the most part, and those guys honestly didn't do a whole lot in this game. He didn't make any impact against the run but on a day where everyone else's coverage seemed to be atrocious, he at least held his own.
Jonathan Vilma: C+ (2.33) He had 5 tackles and he tackled surely but they all came well beyond the line of scrimmage. I realize that's a part of playing pass defense all game but he made no plays around the line of scrimmage. Still, his coverage was decent, he tackled pretty well, and he did a good job of stopping decent gains from turning into huge gains.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C- (1.67) He played less than usual because his run stuffing style wasn't necessary. You will definitely see him a lot more next week against the 49ers where his abilities will be sorely needed in an attempt to slow down Frank Gore. Still, he had no impact on this game and the times he was in he was a liability.
Martez Wilson: D (1.00) Despite being used often as a blitzer he was completely neutralized. It was almost like every time he was on the field the Lions knew he was in there to blitz and they stonewalled him. He had no statistics and didn't help the defense at all. Way too quiet of a night for the rookie.
Jabari Greer: A- (3.67) Clearly the Saints' defensive player of the game without question. He was beat like everyone else out there but at least he competed hard every time. He led the team with 7 tackles (tied with Porter) and he was physical at times. Other times he had would be tackles broken easily. He came up with 3 huge plays though. The first was arguably the biggest on third down with the Saints down 7-0. Calvin Johnson gets his hands on the ball and he strips it incomplete and Megatron is going to the ground. That forces a punt and gets the Saints out of a very scary early hole. Later in the second half he would actually catch a football, two in fact, for the 2 interceptions in the game. Those were huge plays and they came at precious times to seal the deal. Funny, he only had one pick over the 16 game regular season, but he comes up with 2 at a crucial time. He covered Johnson a little but he mostly covered Titus Young and Nate Burleson. Young in particular gave him some trouble as he was left out on an island against him. Still, you can't deny Greer was out there playing his heart out and making plays.
Patrick Robinson: C (2.00) He was playing ok for the most part until he got badly toasted on Calvin Johnson's second touchdown. He registered one tackle and one defended pass. He was also flagged for defensive holding once. On his defended pass near the goal line he had a decent shot at an interception with better awareness. Like most of the Saints DB's he was running after plays most of the day.
Tracy Porter: D- (0.67) Atrocious day for Porter. He was tied for the team lead in tackles with 7 but he was burned all day long and got so many tackles as a result of balls continually coming the way of his open receiver. Fortunately for him on one play where he was badly beaten by a good 5 yards the ball was overthrown. On that play he pumped his fist and did the incomplete wave and I shook my head in disgust as clearly his fortunes deserved much worse. The ball kept coming his way and he was slow in pursuit and poor in keeping close to his man. Consider the plays he made tackles on: 22 yard gain, 21 yard gain, 22 yard gain, 8 yard gain, 1 yard gain, 17 yard gain, 20 yard gain. Horrible. I didn't fail him because he at least made a nice open field tackle on a 3rd down to force a punt.
Malcolm Jenkins: D- (0.67) His play over the top was mostly laughable. Despite constantly helping double team Calvin Johnson he was helpless to stopping the 12 catch 211 yard 2 touchdown performance. He finished with 5 tackles but just did not play well locating the football or reading the play. It's obviously hard to deal with a receiver that runs, catches and has the length of a guy like Johnson but Jenkins was turned around half the time. He also allowed Johnson to get behind him in double coverage a couple of times. Johnson was his lone assignment and on that he failed miserably. Unfortunately Jenkins didn't have the luxury of being able to focus on much else. Could playing Johnson straight up possibly have gone much worse?
Roman Harper: C+ (2.33) He had 6 tackles, including one for a loss on a running play, and a defended pass. Per usual he was very solid against the run and exploitable in coverage. I think he's gotten better this year overall in coverage but Pettigrew was still able to victimize him, including a 3rd down play that moved the sticks. On a day where the defensive backfield was getting shredded, he was at least out there trying to fly and hit someone.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C- (1.67) His occasional presence defensively wasn't any help at all. He had 2 tackles.
John Kasay: B+ (3.33) This has been the grade I've been giving him when he does his job but makes kicks any NFL kicker could handle with his eyes closed. So I'm sticking to it. He made all 6 extra points and a 24 yard field goal.
Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.33) He never punted but 5 of his 7 kickoffs went for touchbacks and neither returned kick hurt the Saints.
Jonathon Amaya: A- (3.67) He got a special team tackle and, most importantly, he recovered the onsides kick attempt to seal the Lions' fate. Nice contribution and he showed good hands there at a very important time. I've seen Courtney Roby drop that one before.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Jabari Greer
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Jonathon Amaya