As much as the offense rebounding from a slump to light up the vaunted Panthers' defense stole the story, the Saints' defense was again dominant. They didn't shut down the run, but they slowed DeAngelo Williams enough to force passing, then they covered well and harassed Cam Newton all night long. The Galette/Jordan pass rushing tandem is quickly becoming one of the most fearsome in the NFL. Holding the Panthers to two field goals early was huge, and the Panthers finished with just 13 points. Below are the grades:
Cameron Jordan: A for the game (3.10 for the season) If Galette stole the show, he wasn't far behind. He had 3 tackles and 2 sacks. Another monster game from Jordan who is unquestionably deserving of a trip to the Pro Bowl. Few defensive ends in the entire league are more complete players.
Akiem Hicks: C+ (2.85) He was in on a couple hits on Newton but not rewarded statistically with a sack. Jordan and Galette just beat him to the passer on a couple occasions. He played ok but wasn't as dominant against the run as he's been in weeks past. He had 2 tackles.
Brodrick Bunkley: C- (2.54) He didn't have much of an impact when he was in. He got injured and tried to return later but he was beat up a bit against the run.
John Jenkins: B+ (2.72) He saw more snaps with Bunkley out and played well. He had 4 tackles and was as good against the run as he was collapsing the pocket. He was very close to a sack on Newton, too, and played a complete game.
Tom Johnson: C (2.30) He had 1 tackle. Not much to report.
Tyrunn Walker: C- (2.67) He also had 1 tackle and I saw him come out late when he was playing garbage time for a breather. Either his conditioning is off from lack of playing time or his knee is still bothering him. Either way he's not playing with the same first step since his return.
Junior Galette: A+ (2.87) He had 6 tackles, 3 sacks and was in Cam's face all day long. Bonus points for the superman mock and stomp sack celebration too. The best game of his career in my opinion. Utterly dominant.
Curtis Lofton: B (2.92) He led the team with 10 tackles and did a good job against the run. He was hit and miss in coverage but it wasn't as bad as it can sometimes be.
David Hawthorne: C+ (2.86) He was slow to a couple plays and I was worried he was hurt again, but as the game wore on he started to get into a rhythm. He had 6 tackles and put a nice hit on Mike Tolbert, but he too was up and down in coverage.
Parys Haralson: C (2.56) He had 2 tackles but as a run stopping specialist he didn't really impress in that department too much.
Keenan Lewis: B (2.85) He was in man against Steve Smith for much of the day and did a fantastic job blanketing him. Smith had just 6 catches for 49 yards, and it would have been worse if not for a garbage time touchdown late, which Lewis gave up. That hurts his grade slightly but overall he deserves recognition for a fantastic day in coverage. Most impressive was a screen to Smith where Lewis ran through and abused Brandon LaFell and annihilated Smith behind the line of scrimmage. He had 4 tackles.
Corey White: A- (2.57) It's strange that he was so bad against the Falcons because he was huge in this game. His coverage was arguably better than anything we've seen from Jabari Greer this year. He definitely felt like a quality starting corner in this game. He was physical, always around the ball and excellent in man coverage. He had 3 tackles and a defended pass.
Kenny Vaccaro: B+ (2.72) He was almost exclusively used as a slot cover guy in this game and did a great job. He took turns on Greg Olsen, Steve Smith and Ted Ginn in man coverage and did a solid job against all of them. He was also his usual physical self helping against the run. He had 7 tackles.
Malcolm Jenkins: B+ (2.73) He took a horrible angle on one Cam Newton scamper but otherwise he played well. He had a big hit on a quarterback sweep that dropped Newton for a loss and sent him airborne. Overall he was a very sound tackler and saved a couple first down runs from being massive gains as the last time of defense with his sure tackling. He was also good in coverage and had 9 tackles.
Roman Harper: C+ (2.67) He had a quiet day, no major mistakes and no big plays. He's not as physical in the box this year as he's been in years past but I think the injury is partly to blame for that. His coverage was good and he had 2 tackles.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C (2.67) Played some late, wasn't tested. Quiet day on special teams for him.
Garrett Hartley: B+ (2.87) He was four for four on extra points and his field goal was a glorified extra point from 19 yards out. He made them all, easy day at the office.
Thomas Morstead: C- (3.33) He averaged 44.3 yards per punt, including one that went out of bounds inside the 10. That was solid, but his net was only 32.5 because he outkicked his coverage and allowed the explosive Ted Ginn to have a look at a return. Ginn also took out two kickoffs and had one dangerous return there too. After that first punt Morstead did a good job of neutralizing him, but on the 32 yard punt return Morstead was flagged for a facesmask to get Ginn down. That tackle did save a touchdown, but it made a 32 yard return really a 47 yarder.
Travaris Cadet: C- (2.33) Continues to bring little value in the return game and the lone kick he brought out of the end zone was hit well short of the 20.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Junior Galette
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley