It really is unfair that the defense could play like that all game and get victimized with 5 seconds left because the offense couldn't get a first down to kill the game. The defense ends up being the goat after playing their hearts out and coming up with numerous big plays down the stretch. Such is life, though, so here are the grades:
Cameron Jordan B for the game (3.06 for the season): The Saints really mixed their rushes at times sending tons of players and at times rushing just three. Jordan was blocked well at times and at others he did a good job getting initial pressure. He finished with 3 tackles and a coverage sack. He left the game with an ankle issue but did return.
Akiem Hicks: A (2.50) What a monster performance from Hicks who was a menace around the line of scrimmage all day. The Patriots simply couldn't block him when he was in pursuit of the ball carrier. He showed exceptional lateral speed for a guy his size. He was all over the field, finishing with a whooping 7 tackles. He got some push rushing, too, but this was a masterful run defense performance.
John Jenkins: C (2.83) Limited snaps, surprisingly, because the Saints were in nickel so much. When he was in he didn't do much.
Glenn Foster: C+ (2.33) He didn't get great pressure in this one. What happened to the guy we saw sacking everyone in the preseason? He did play the run well, though, and had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He seemed to get injured on the Lewis interception. Not sure if it was serious or not, but he had been nursing issues coming into this one.
Tom Johnson: B (2.47) As a situational player he got a sack thanks to a nice move. That's about as much as you can ask for. Johnson can't stay healthy, but he's a good reserve when he can play.
Keyunta Dawson: C (2.00) He played a good bit late and helped on a couple gang tackles, but just didn't get enough pressure. Seemed decent on special teams.
Junior Galette: B- (2.95) He was blatantly held all game long to no avail. I'm not sure what this guy has to do to get a flag thrown. It's pretty discouraging when you watch him continuously beat a tackle and get wrapped up. He did play the run very well and had 2 tackles, including one for a loss.
Ramon Humber: B (2.42) He was sent blitzing in four man fronts a lot as an edge guy, which I found surprising. He had pretty good results and he was decent in coverage, too. He had 4 tackles and a half sack. I hope to see him play more, he's nice to have in the lineup.
Curtis Lofton: A- (3.17) Lofton is the most impossible guy to grade ever. He'll miss a high number of tackles, he'll get beat in coverage, but then he'll just make so many tackles and find the ball around the line of scrimmage it's really impressive. Half the time I'm not sure whether to give the guy an A or a D. The bottom line is he led the team with 12 tackles, was all over the place and had a sack. He did a fantastic job on a 3rd and short of blitzing from out wide, ducking under the run block and making a beautiful tackle short of the first down to force a punt. Many of his plays were made around the line of scrimmage. The Saints are lucky to have him.
Will Herring: B (2.75) His lone tackle was a very head's up goal line stand up of Aaron Dobson where he was uncovered at first and caught the ball at the line of scrimmage only to see Herring come up to make the play short of the end zone. He was good in coverage and showed some things on special teams. He's been a great reserve this year.
David Hawthorne: B (2.94) He was very good against the run and it's clear he's healthy this year. He just runs so much better than he did last year when he just always looked hobbled. It's made a big difference. He had 7 tackles, including one for a big loss. He was so-so in coverage but for a linebacker he does ok in that department.
Parys Haralson: B (2.61) He comes in mostly as a run stuffer and does exactly what the team asks of him. He had 2 tackles and continues to shed blocks very well. I wish he played more, I'm impressed every time he's in.
Keenan Lewis: C+ (2.83) He had 7 tackles, two breakups and an interception that should have sealed the game. He gave receivers too much cushion, though, and he was flagged twice for killer penalties. I will say I was impressed by how he came up and played the run. He was physical and tackled well at times, not so well at others. This was one of his worst games of the season minus the pick, though.
Jabari Greer: D+ (2.28) He had 4 tackles and the most memorable play for him, by far, will be the touchdown pass where he was beat for the game winning touchdown. He had decent coverage on the play, just couldn't break up the pass. He seemed to have trouble with Aaron Dobson, and some others.
Chris Carr: C- (2.17) He had two tackles but seemed to always be running after the play and not looking too impressive in coverage. Continues to have special teams value.
Corey White: B- (2.61) He looked good in coverage before going out with an injury. Drew an offensive pass interference call. He had one tackle. He's looked much better than last year.
Malcolm Jenkins: A- (2.94) Like Roman Harper, he just looks so much better when he's playing around the line of scrimmage. He was in the nickel for the majority of this one and he just seems so much more dangerous from that position. I'm glad Rob Ryan has been able to reinvent this player by putting him in a position to succeed based on his skills. He's been a huge threat blitzing the last couple games. He had 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and numerous remember-me hits. He had a number of plays around and behind the line of scrimmage, and was flagged for a personal foul where I'm not sure he can do anything different.
Rafael Bush: B+ (2.50) Man was he physical! He knocked Danny Amendola out of the game, and out cold, with an absolute crushing blow. Anytime players got to the second level he made them pay for it. He was second on the team with 11 tackles and fulfilled the role of back end enforcer perfectly. He was decent in coverage.
Kenny Vaccaro: C- (2.50) He had 6 tackles but was always slow to the play. He made a couple huge mistakes on the back end in coverage and was very fortunate Brady missed his target. He did have a huge hit on Julian Edelman at the 1 to jar the ball loose near the end of the game which was a good play. He did play the run well and made a nice play in the backfield, but his coverage was poor.
Garrett Hartley: A- (3.33) He did what he was supposed to do, made two field goals under 40 yards. Normally I give him a B+ for that, but the 39 yarder was with wind, was not a gimme, and he nailed it. At the time that was a clutch make because it forced the Patriots to score a touchdown to win.
Thomas Morstead: A- (3.72) He was 4 for 5 on touchbacks with the kickoffs and the other ended inside the 20. On punts he averaged 44.7 gross on 6 punts and 43.2 net with two inside the 20. Rock solid. He's the most consistent player on the roster and deserves another Pro Bowl trip.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: B+ (2.83) He had two special teams tackles, including a nice open field one that saved a play from breaking big. He's showing why the Saints held onto him despite the injury in preseason, and why they let go of Courtney Roby. He continues to be an excellent gunner.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Akiem Hicks
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead