This defense is bad. There is no way around this fact. One thing I did notice about this game, though, was the extraordinary amount of blitzing Steve Spagunolo dialed up. It worked. Sure the DB’s got beat numerous times when put out on an island in man coverage, but guess what? This defense is going to give up huge chunks of yards either way. So you might as well get pressure, gamble a little bit, and maybe every once in a while you get a lucky holding call or, God forbid, a turnover/sack. The defense did the bare minimum in this one: enough to win the game. No sense is really praising them beyond that. Hopefully they can go into this bye week, get healthy, and maybe get Greer and Hawthorne back feeling better on the other end of it. Make the jump for the grades.
Will Smith: C+ (2.07) Smith has caught a lot of heat from fans through 5 weeks but I think his play overall has been ok. Certainly not good, per se, but he’s held his own. He’s been stout against the run and provides occasional pressure. As most of you are acutely aware, though, too often he is stonewalled at the line of scrimmage on passing situations. He’s just not a high motor guy anymore. Somehow the stat sheet only shows Smith has finishing with 2 tackles and a sack, though he was involved in another coverage sack that he deserved at least half credit for. He wasn’t particularly good against the run but showed good pursuit and play to the whistle. In the end, he just looks too slow to me these days. He was also flagged for a bogus roughing the passer penalty, and he was also held on that same play, so I refuse to dock him for that.
Cameron Jordan: B- (2.34) He got a coverage sack and was active against the run, finishing with 3 tackles. The only real “pressure” he got was when Rivers would roll out to his side but he did a good job of getting his hands up and at least disrupting plays a little bit. Still, I feel like anytime the Saints get “some” pressure from him it’s a bonus because his stock in trade is as a run stopper. He played a healthy amount of DT in pass rushing situations and was neutralized (as did Will Smith).
Junior Galette: B (2.27) He was a liability against the run, but the Chargers are primarily a passing team so the Saints were smart to live with it. He was giving constant disruption to the right side and the right tackle had his hands full trying to block him. Galette was in Rivers’ face numerous times and finished with 2 tackles and a sack. When the pass run ratio is 42 to 18, it’s not the end of the world to give up 6.5 yards a carry. Galette did an excellent job beating his man often in pass rushing situations, which is what he’s on this roster to do.
Martez Wilson: B- (2.60) Hard to grade Tez because like Galette he had a very high motor rushing the passer and was disruptive. Unlike Galette he had two bad penalties, one which gave the Chargers an automatic first down thanks to illegal hands to the face on 2nd and 37. He does boost his grade significantly with a sack/strip/fumble recovery that won the game for the Saints. That was a huge play for this defense to give them confidence finishing off this game. He and Galette need to play more if Spags is going to stick to this 4 man rushing plan because they are by far the best pass rushers on the team.
Sedrick Ellis: C (1.80) He had two tackles, including one for a loss, but once again he was poor against the run and not noteworthy at all getting to the quarterback. He just hasn’t been good enough so far this season.
Brodrick Bunkley: B- (2.00) When he was in, which wasn’t that often because the Chargers were mostly in pass heavy formations, he actually did an effective job moving the pile. He finished with 2 tackles but set up his teammates well to stuff running plays, particularly when Jackie Battle was the ball carrier.
Tom Johnson: C+ (1.92) He had 2 tackles and was active against the run. Nothing special to write home about but he made the most of some reps and got involved.
Akiem Hicks: C (2.34) He played less than he has the last couple of weeks and didn’t really get a chance to impose himself, but he looked a little overmatched when he was in. He would get some penetration but did a poor job of filling in lanes against the run. Had 1 tackle.
Scott Shanle: C+ (2.20) He had 5 tackles but most seem to happen very well beyond the line of scrimmage past the second level. He seemed to be running behind or after the play for much of the night. He did have one nice tackle around the line of scrimmage and he was up and down in coverage.
Curtis Lofton: A- (3.20) Another clinic run by Lofton out there. He ran incredibly well sideline to sideline and seemed to be the only able and willing tackler on the team. I’m starting the think he’s alone by himself out there at times going up against 11. His ability to find the football and make a sound tackle is pretty impressive to watch, the guy is a machine. It’s sad that I feel like his talent is almost being wasted with these clowns around him. He had 10 tackles and a big sack.
Will Herring: D- (1.67) When he was in the game the Chargers were content continually running the ball right down his throat and he had zero answer. The Saints were gashed for massive totals as he would get blown completely out of most plays, unable to absorb contact well. Despite all the action coming his way he registered not one tackle.
Jabari Greer: C- (2.42) He left the game injured but before he did he struggled a bit in coverage and missed a tackle. He was also flagged for a questionable pass interference call that set up a first and goal at the 6 (Saints defense would luckily hold the Bolts to a field goal there).
Patrick Robinson: C (1.60) He finished with 7 tackles and was good against the run/screens at the second level. He had to involve himself because Ryan Mathews was easily getting into the secondary. Luckily P-Rob was pretty physical, though he could’ve tackled better on occasion. In coverage he struggled, mostly due to the heavy blitzing that forced him to play man to man. He was burned badly by Malcolm Floyd on one deep ball but recovered to at least save the touchdown. He did put a huge hit on Ronnie Brown near the sidelines late which was fun to see.
Corey White: D (1.47) The poor kid is just struggling badly right now. He’s not tackling well, not wrapping up, and he is just lost in coverage. One screen in particular he had a very manageable open field tackle on Ryan Mathews at the line of scrimmage but the missed tackle resulted in a 10+ yard gain. He did have 3 tackles and a defended pass but honestly I’d rather just not see him on the field for a few weeks. Quarterbacks are finding him wherever he is and continually embarrassing him. Robert Meachem made him look silly, as did Eddie Royal.
Johnny Patrick: B- (2.67) It’s just a matter of time until Patrick sees time ahead of White, right? Not that he was outstanding in coverage, but once Greer went out he was the primary nickel man and he did ok. He finished with three tackles, none more important than one on Malcolm Floyd where he kept him inbounds somehow to run out more clock. That was a fantastic play by Patrick that probably goes unnoticed by some but can be the difference between winning and losing.
Malcolm Jenkins: D+ (2.00) A truly disappointing performance by the free safety. He bit horribly on play action resulting in an easy bomb to Meachem, he was slow to get to Meachem on another dropped touchdown pass that should have been a gimme… and he clearly had an axe to grind with his former teammate as he continually caused after the play commotion. He was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after a touchdown. He did break up one deep ball late, though, and he also broke up the pass that would end up intercepted by Harper. He was fortunate not to get called for interference on that one, though. He finished with 4 tackles.
Roman Harper: A (2.67) WOW! He looked like a baller out there if just for one game. He had 6 tackles, one of which was blowing up Ryan Mathews in the backfield. He blitzed a couple of times and caused problems doing that, and he was OUTSTANDING in coverage. How many times have you guys heard me say that one? He tore the football away from Antonio Gates in the end zone, forcing a field goal, and held the superstar tight end to just 3 catches for 19 yards! He also drew an offensive pass interference call which was a little weak, I’ll admit, and he had a huge interception that would give the Saints’ offense a chance to put the game away. Oh and he gave the ball to Steve Gleason when he went to the sidelines. That deserves an A right there.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C (2.00) He had 1 tackle and stayed deep most of the game as a safety blanket when he was in. Nothing special.
Garrett Hartley: B+ (2.73) He made four extra points and a 26 yard field goal. Easy degree of difficulty but he did his job.
Thomas Morstead: B+ (2.80) I feel like he’s outkicked his coverage in punting situations more than last year, and then he’ll have a punt or two off the side of his foot that goes out of bounds too early to rectify it. Still, hard to argue with a 51.8 average off 4 punts, with a net of 47.8 (!). Those are massive numbers, two of which ended up inside the 20. On kickoffs he gave a dangerous returner some opportunities by not getting his kicks deep enough in the end zone.
Courtney Roby: B+ (3.33) He was involved some in the offense, mostly as a blocker and he did fine but whiffed on a blitz pickup that resulted in a sack. He did not help the passing game at all. In coverage, he made an absolutely beautiful open field tackle on Eddie Royal that was just sick. His special teams play deserves an A, but his offensive performance hurts his grade a bit. He had 2 tackles. He’s been a monster all year on special teams.
Rafael Bush: B (2.84) Very active in coverage as well, he was the first man down many times. He had 1 tackle.
Ramon Humber: A (4.00) The Saints have him to thank for neutralizing a very explosive and dangerous kickoff returner in Richard Goodman. Humber tackled him 3 times! He was physical and shed blockers to stop a couple returns from being real problems. Welcome back from suspension!
My Defensive Player of the Game: Roman Harper
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Ramon Humber