It's kind of sad that the Saints' defense could shut down Frank Gore that well for three and a half quarters and hold an opponent under 400 yards for the first time and still lose... but this is your 2012 Saints. The defense didn't play great, mind you, and that drive in the 3rd quarter that started on the 49ers' five yard line in the 3rd quarter that ended in a 31-21 lead was killer, but they played ok overall. Certainly not their fault the team lost this game. Make the jump for the grades.
Will Smith: B- (2.45) Joe Staley gave him fits in pass rushing situations and largely dominated, but give Smith credit for showing good strength and power at the point of attack. He was incredibly useful against the run and was relentless in pursuit. Finished with 6 tackles. He did bite on a play action keeper that opened a lane for Kaepernick, though.
Cameron Jordan: B+ (2.52) He never ended up with a sack but he was equally good stopping the run and rushing the passer. He applied constant pressure on Colin Kaepernick and made contact with him a couple of times but just couldn't bring him down. He finished with 5 tackles. The 49ers' right tackle Anthony Davis was repeatedly beat by Jordan despite his massive size. I have to hand it to Cam, he's really developing as a pass rusher. He still lacks the explosiveness to ever be elite like a Dwight Freeney or John Abraham, but his technique and pass rush moves are getting better.
Turk McBride: C+ (1.93) He was manhandled a couple of times but he also drew a holding call and tipped a pass that fell incomplete, so it wasn't all bad.
Martez Wilson: C (2.39) Registered no tackles but did generate good pressure when he was in. Unfortunately he blew by Colin Kaepernick and gave the quarterback a lane to extend the play and gain yards with his feet.
Broderick Bunkley: C (2.27) He was at time dominant in the trenches. Through three and a half quarter, anytime the 49ers tried to run in between the tackles they were largely neutralized. Give Bunkley a ton of credit for continuously clogging up the middle. He was ejected late for a really stupid personal foul that could see him suspended. Really stupid move that hurts his grade. He had one tackle.
Sedrick Ellis: B+ (2.06) Too bad we haven't seen this kind of Sed Ellis all season. A complete game from the Saints' tackle. He had 5 tackles and pressured well, finishing with two knockdowns. He moved extremely well laterally and was physical in the trenches. Where has this been all season? He played to the whistle and helped his teammates finish numerous plays.
Akiem Hicks: C (2.40) Showed his usual motor and strength, but seemed to be running after the play every time he was in. He had one tackle.
Tom Johnson: B- (2.23) He had 3 tackles and got decent push up the middle. He's quietly playing some good football the last few weeks.
Jonathan Vilma: C- (2.00) Missed countless tackles. That's been a common theme throughout since his return. Finished with 4 tackles.
Curtis Lofton: B+ (2.79) Led the team with 9 tackles. He finished off a number of those plays around the line of scrimmage that the defensive line set up for him so nicely. He was victimized on a couple pass plays, once badly, but he got back to his tackling machine self.
David Hawthorne: B- (2.06) He's starting to run better and he's physical against the run. He had 6 tackles and one of his better games. The downside is he yet to show anything positive in coverage.
Jonathan Casillas: C (2.13) Had one tackle and did little to nothing the times he was in the game. He did have a nice hit on special teams.
Patrick Robinson: A- (1.94) Lined up mostly against Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, he did a phenomenal job on both. Crabtree had 3 receptions, two actually coming from the other side, and Moss had none. He had 2 tackles, 2 defended passes and a big interception before halftime that should have been a bigger play if it wasn't for Drew Brees' brain cramp. P-Rob, to his credit, was outstanding all day in coverage. The bad news is he's been so bad all year than even with an A- he's still below 2.00.
Jabari Greer: C (2.30) He mostly covered Mario Manningham and got beat on the 49ers' first touchdown drive a couple of times, getting juked out of his pants. He missed some tackles that made for bigger plays, too. He did make one impressive open field tackle to force a third down on a play that could have gone a very long way otherwise. Finished with 5 tackles but was spotty in coverage.
Johnny Patrick: C (1.83) Did a decent job at times in coverage, but his most significant play was a 3rd down where he had a shot at Crabtree short of a 1st but he over pursued and took a bad angle to allow first down yardage.
Malcolm Jenkins: B (2.43) The only real negative I saw was a bad angle on Kaepernick's touchdown run. Otherwise, he was physical and tackled ok. He finished with 7 tackles and a broken up pass in the end zone against Moss where he had good coverage. An offensive pass interference prevented an interception there and it wasn't flagged. He also blocked a field goal and recovered it towards the end of the game.
Roman Harper: B- (2.42) He had 7 tackles including one for a loss. Played often around the line of scrimmage and did an incredibly sound job on Vernon Davis who was held catchless! Unfortunately he did miss so make-able tackles that led to huge gains. Sometimes he just takes huge risks that aren't necessary.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: C+ (2.25) Had 4 tackles including a monster hit on Delanie Walker that seemed to almost knock him out cold. It turned out to be a shoulder injury. No major mistakes playing the deep back end safety, but nothing great either.
Garrett Hartley: B- (2.76) Hard to give him a much better grade when he just made three extra points. He's the kicker on both of my fantasy teams and hasn't really produced the massive point totals I expected/hoped for. He did his job, though, and all three kicks were high and down the middle.
Thomas Morstead: A- (3.33) One of his punts went off the side of his foot short, but he still finished with an average of 50.4 on 5 punts, a great net of 47.8, and 2 punts inside the 20. His kickoffs all went for touchbacks too. He continues to completely neutralize the opposing return game.
Travaris Cadet: B (2.58) Did a pretty good job returning kicks and being aggressive taking them out from 5 yards deep. He averaged 29.6 per return and got most past the 20.
Courtney Roby: B- (3.04) Was the first man down on almost every kick and caused some havoc, though he seemed to take bad angles on a couple. He deserves a little credit for distracting Ted Ginn into that fumble.
Rafael Bush: A (2.95) Came up with a huge fumble recovery that would ultimately give the Saints a 14-7 lead. He had nice awareness to fall on the ball and showed terrific hands to hang on to it as he absorbed big contact as he fell on it. He's turned out to be a terrific gunner and a great 1-2 tandem with Roby. These two have allowed Morstead to be more aggressive in his kicking because he doesn't have to fear outkicking his coverage as much. Kudos to both for playing such an integral role in the Saints' special teams cover units being so good.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Patrick Robinson
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Rafael Bush