The defense had one of their signature games of 2012, riddled with inconsistency. If you take away Dez Bryant and two late fourth quarter drives to make the game interesting, the defense was fantastic throughout. Unfortunately you can't take those things away, and the defense has what would be considered a "bad" game because of it. It's too bad, because this defense is close if they can just clean a few things up. Make the jump for the grades.
Will Smith: C- (2.44) My stat sheet shows zero tackles, but I clearly saw him blow up DeMarco Murray in the backfield on one play so I'm not sure what's up with that. He didn't get great pressure but did knock down Romo once. He also contained extremely poorly on one play given Murray a huge cutback lane to allow a play going nowhere to gain first down yardage.
Cameron Jordan: C (2.65) He was neutralized far too often at the line of scrimmage like Smith. Finished with 2 tackles, including one for a loss. Did a decent job against the run, and tipped a pass.
Junior Galette: B- (2.45) Provided good pressure and Spagnuolo did a good job of moving him around, bringing him blitzing up the middle at times. He got to Romo once notching a sack. He did have a shot at a fumble recovery on special teams, being the first man to the loose ball, but did a poor job falling on it for the recovery, allowing theCowboys to re-gain possession.
Martez Wilson: C- (2.25) I've noticed the Saints like dropping him in coverage, particularly on big athletic tight ends. It's not a bad idea because Wilson is tall, rangy and athletic... a good hybrid player to contest with these tight ends like Graham or Gronkowski. Unfortunately that didn't work so well as Jason Witten beat him on a route. He had 1 tackle.
Brodrick Bunkley: B- (2.36) Solid job controlling the line of scrimmage in running situations, but he didn't play much as the Cowboys had mostly 3 receiver sets putting the Saints in nickel. Murray had just 40 yards on 11 carries, so his interior push was effective.
Sedrick Ellis: C+ (2.16) He didn't have any tackles, but I did notice he was active and put decent pressure on Romo. Romo's escapability made it tough to get a sack but I have noticed Ellis playing with better effort lately. Played the run ok too.
Tom Johnson: B+ (2.36) Had an active game, with 2 tackles and a big time sack. He's a keeper for next year as a rotational guy in my opinion.
Akiem Hicks: C (2.36) He seemed to leave the game with an injury but was able to return. He got nice interior push, but no tackles in limited action.
Jonathan Vilma: C+ (2.13) He had 1 tackle and no major mistakes in limited playing time. Seemed to usually be in the right place and did ok in coverage.
Curtis Lofton: A- (2.84) He wasn't great in coverage but good against the run and physical tackling as always. He had 5 tackles and the defensive play of the game with a strip and recovery of Murray inside the Cowboys' 5 to give the Saints' offense a gimme touchdown.
David Hawthorne: B (2.33) He had 3 tackles and did a good job running sideline to sideline against the run, tackling well. He even had to cover a couple times and looked good doing that. He's finally healthy and playing well.
Jonathan Casillas: B- (2.22) Was decent in coverage and tackled well. He finished with 3 tackles but dropped an interception on a tipped ball.
Jabari Greer: B (2.50) Left the game with a concussion when he had only one tackle. Before leaving he did an impeccable job on Miles Austin and his absence on those final two drives of the game was painfully obvious.
Patrick Robinson: D (1.98) Single handedly kept the Cowboys in the game as he was just plain beaten like a drum by Dez Bryant. He did lead the team in tackles with 8, mostly because Tony Romo kept going after him. He gave up two big touchdown receptions and just didn't play well. He did contest some passes to Bryant and force a couple incompletions, though, so he doesn't deserve an F.
Elbert Mack: C- (2.80) Did an ok job in the slot but was beat late, and the biggest mistake of the game for him was a little underneath pass to Murray around the line of scrimmage where he had a clear shot at an open field tackle that he missed badly. The play resulted in a nice gain and should have gone nowhere.
Johnny Patrick: C (1.83) He was beaten very badly on a 4th and 10 pass to Miles Austin to tie the game with 15 seconds left. That was horrible coverage. But, I also can't ignore that he had been largely very good in coverage on Austin down the sideline prior to that, involved in breaking up two passes. He finished with 3 tackles and was very up and down.
Roman Harper: C+ (2.44) Did a pretty good job of covering Witten when he was on him. He had just 2 tackles and a quiet game overall with no major mistakes.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C- (2.42) Missed an open field tackle on Dez Bryant as the last line of defense which resulted in a big play touchdown. He went too high attempting to make that tackle and looked stupid because of it. I still like IAQ, but this was a step back in his development. He had 5 tackles but was slow getting to the ball. Romo gave him a lot of trouble. He was an aggressive tackler at times, so I'll give him that.
Rafael Bush: C (2.87) Came in for spot duty in coverage and offered very little, beaten once late. He had one tackle.
Garrett Hartley: C (2.93) He badly shanked a 36 yarder which is inexcusable. He then barely squeaked in a 37 yarder, before hitting the game winner in overtime from 20 yards right down the middle. After this game he's not exactly putting much confidence in his kicks, but he deserves credit for winning the game.
Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.11) He wasn't helped out by his coverage, who could have pinned a punt that went for a touchback inside the five. He boomed his kickoffs well and even hit one sky high and short to draw a fumble. He rocketed 5 punts for an average of 52.6, include a 63 yarder. His net was still above 40 despite the touchback and one big return.
Travaris Cadet: C+ (2.12) Had a big time tackle as a gunner to save a huge play, but had a poor 18 yard return. I don't like him returning kicks instead of Sproles, I don't think he's nearly as good.
Courtney Roby: C+ (2.73) Had a fantastic athletic play to put a punted ball back into the field of play inside the five, but unfortunately he stepped on the line which made it a touchback. Talk about a game of inches. He was usually the first man down in coverage, but never made the play.
Will Herring: B (2.07) Had an important tackle in the open field to save what could have been a big return.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Curtis Lofton
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead