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Saints vs. Falcons 2013 Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

When you only give up 17 points to an extremely potent offense, including a game winning goal line stop at the end of the game to seal the victory, it's safe to say this was an overwhelming success. Rob Ryan's first game was a huge hit. The defense gave up some plays, sure, but the overall result was more than we could have asked for. They deserve all the credit for this win, and if the Saints can have the defense carry them to victories at times this season it will make for a really special season.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Cameron Jordan: C+ (2.33) Despite a great preseason of constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he didn't get much pressure on Matt Ryan for the majority of this game. He did a good job in run support, though, and finished with 3 tackles. A quiet day.

Akiem Hicks: B (3.00) Hicks finished with 3 tackles and a BIG TIME sack on Ryan, where he embarrassed his blocker and threw Ryan to the ground merely by grabbing his jersey. Hicks was disruptive and proved he can be a physical player and capable starter. He has the ability to be a complete player with his size, quickness and ability to be effective in any situation. He did hurt his grade by giving Steven Jackson the initial lane that sprung his 50 yard scamper, though.

Brodrick Bunkley: B- (2.67) I feel weird grading him because he played so little, but man, he really did a fantastic job of controlling the line of scrimmage and interior before leaving the game at the end of the first quarter with an injury. Too bad because he seemed to be comfortable in the middle.

Tom Johnson: B- (2.67) In spot duty he had a big time pressure and hit on Matt Ryan that got the Saints off the field, and he also had a tackle. If Walker's injury is serious, the Saints will be glad they held onto this reliable veteran for the 53 man roster.

Tyrunn Walker: B- (2.67) In limited play time he teamed up with Junior Galette to rock Matt Ryan for a sack. That was the only play he was really involved in but he handled blocks well on other plays. On that sack his leg got rolled up and he was carted off with an apparent knee injury. I hope he's ok, it would be horrible to lose him for the season after he had showed such potential the last two preseasons. If he's done, Glenn Foster will be needed ASAP.

John Jenkins: B+ (3.33) He came in for Bunkley and played like a veteran nose tackle all day long. If Bunkley misses extended time, I feel good based on this performance that Jenkins is a starter quality nose in the NFL starting now. He controlled the line of scrimmage masterfully, handled double teams no problem, and moved well laterally with the pocket. He had two tackles. He was a big part of why the Saints shut down the run.

Junior Galette: B (3.00) Galette was rushing off the edge the majority of the game and while he only had the one sack he provided constant pressure on Ryan. He saw more time on the field doing what he does best in this scheme and I think this scheme is already proving to be good for him. I can't wait to see how many sacks he ends up with this season, but expect double digits.

Parys Haralson: B+ (3.33) Terrific performance from the newcomer considering how little time he's spent with the team. He did what he does best, playing the run, and also added a sack of his own to the mix. He finished with 4 tackles and showed the Saints he was absolutely worth the 7th round pick. If he can stay healthy that trade will be a steal.

David Hawthorne: B (3.00) Played the run extremely well and took advantage of the front 3's superior play to finish off a few plays. He did well in coverage, too, and he was responsible for hitting Steven Jackson for a loss.

Curtis Lofton: B (3.00) The Saints' leader was active and physical, per usual. He was very good against the run and didn't seem to get victimized much in the passing game despite that usually being his weakness. He finished with 5 tackles.

Ramon Humber: C+ (2.33) He didn't play much but was in the game on the goal line defense for the final drive. He was covering Jackson on the dropped touchdown pass that would've possibly given Atlanta a one point lead, but his coverage was good and disruptive enough to cause an incompletion. Pretty fortunate, though.

Keenan Lewis: C+ (2.33) He left the game with an apparent leg injury, only to return in the second half. He was beaten a few times but never had a massive mistake. He tackled well when he was beat and limited the damage. He poked a ball free from Harry Douglas, too, but that happened towards the end of a play and went out of bounds harmlessly. He finished with 2 tackles. A quiet day, neither good or awful, but kudos to him for coming back compromised. He was able to take advantage of Roddy White not being 100%.

Jabari Greer: C (2.00) A mixed bag for Greer. He got beat once pretty significantly by Julio Jones but tackles well. He did a decent job coming up to tackle backs on screen plays underneath, save one miss. He was flagged on special teams for an illegal block. He finished with 3 tackles, and was decent in coverage.

Corey White: B- (2.67) He had two very nice open field tackles and I thought he covered very well overall. He did get beat on the touchdown pass to Jones, but otherwise came in and gave the Saints solid depth.

Patrick Robinson: C+ (2.33) His coverage was fine though he was beat once by Harry Douglas covering the slot. He had two tackles, and left the game with an injury to what looked like his ankle.

Roman Harper: A- (3.67) He came up with the two turnovers the Saints created, with a fumble recovery that led to a really impressive 19 yard return, and the game winning interception to seal the deal. Those two plays alone earn him a good grade, especially the game winner. Outside of those two players he didn't provide much, though. His coverage was ok, but he did take a bad angle on the long Jackson run.

Malcolm Jenkins: B (3.00) His goal line play continues to be where he excels. He was involved in three stops short of the end zone in that type of defense, and it reminded me of the Bucs game last year where he came up with tough spots. When he's playing further back things go less well. I'm starting to think the main reason he and Harper don't play well together is because they are so similar in their skillset. They don't really compliment each other. He led the team with 6 tackles and did pretty well, but took an atrocious angle on the long pass play to Hugh Douglas and as the last time of defense he can't do that, it was costly. He also caused an important turnover with his strip of Julio Jones.

Kenny Vaccaro: B (3.00) He was often left the responsibility of handling Tony Gonzalez and overall he did pretty well. He was beaten at times, of course, but he was physical. He had a personal foul on Matt Ryan, that was a very stupid penalty, but it oddly was a big play in the game in my opinion. First off, lucky for Vaccaro, it came at the end of a first down run and because it was inside the 20 it was only a half a distance penalty. Secondly, while it was a stupid penalty, I think it sent a message to the Falcons. Ryan was banged up on the play and it communicated the Saints are not going to be walked all over this season, they are going to play mean and hit with reckless abandon. I do think it affected Ryan's performance a bit. And of course, Vaccaro came up with the huge play to knock the final pass loose so Harper could intercept it.

Rafael Bush: C+ (2.33) Played some at safety and was fine in coverage. Nothing special. He had two tackles and was involved on a tackle on White short of the end zone late.

Garrett Hartley: A (4.00) He was perfect on three field goals and two extra points, and the Saints needed every single point. His 48 yarder in particular to cut Atlanta's lead to 10-3 was big. Without that make momentum would've shifted heavily to the Falcons.

Thomas Morstead: A (4.00) He had a net of 42.3 on three punts, which is solid (gross 49.3) with a 61 yard boomer at one point. Two of those punts ended up inside the 20. On kickoffs he destroyed each one for a touchback, six in total. Very solid day.

Will Herring: B+ (3.33) He had a beautiful open field tackle and he also downed one of Morstead's punts inside the 10. To boot, he played some defense and broke up a third down pass to Gonzalez. Good contribution from Herring on the day overall. The only negative is he was called for holding on a return.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Roman Harper

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley