This week's defensive award goes to the man who led the way in Arizona's Monday night breakdown -- followed closely by a rookie pass-rusher, a veteran Saint, Cincy's dynamic duo, and Green Bay's secondary star.
Dashon Goldson(notes), S, San Francisco 49ers -- Several 49ers defenders had their games of the year against Arizona on Monday night (linebacker Ahmad Brooks(notes) forced two fumbles and had three sacks), but Goldon's performance stood out in the 24-9 win that gave San Francisco the season sweep of the NFC West-leading Cards. Goldson intercepted a Kurt Warner(notes) pass, forced two of Arizona's seven total fumbles (five were lost), and was a major factor in the deep coverage concepts that kept Larry Fitzgerald(notes) under wraps. It was a huge step forward for Goldson and the Niners' defense.
Brian Orakpo(notes), LB/DE, Washington Redskins -- He's still learning to play in space as an NFL linebacker, but when he sets the edge and rushes the passers as he did during his college days at Texas, Orakpo is a real force. The Raiders had no answer for him last Sunday -- Orakpo picked up four sacks and four more quarterback hits against Oakland, putting his season sack total up to 11. Houston's Brian Cushing(notes) has been thought to be the slam-dunk Defensive Rookie of the Year by most, but Orakpo is one guy who could make that vote pretty interesting.
Jonathan Vilma(notes), LB, New Orleans Saints -- Maybe he was inspired by the 30 for 30 documentary on "The U"? Miami alum Vilma basically saved the Saints' perfect season in a 26-23 squeaker over the Atlanta Falcons. He intercepted a Chris Redman(notes) pass with four minutes left in the game as the Falcons were driving to tie or win, and he stopped running back Jason Snelling(notes) for a one-yard gain on a quick fourth-and-2 pass with 1:18 remaining. He basically stopped Atlanta's two potential winning drives by himself. New Orleans' defense has issues defending the run and stopping the pass, but they have a veteran defender in Vilma who is doing everything he can to keep his team on track.
Leon Hall(notes) and Johnathan Joseph(notes), CB, Cincinnati Bengals -- The best cornerback duo in the business. On Sunday, Brett Favre(notes) completed 17 of 30 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Bengals. When Hall was targeted, Favre was four of five for 30 yards and the pick. When Joseph was targeted, Favre completed one pass in four for seven yards. This is the foundation of Cincinnati's renewed defensive power.
Charles Woodson(notes), CB, Green Bay Packers -- The consensus choice for Defensive Player of the Year Not Named Darrelle Revis(notes). On his fave new play -- a back-shoulder fade to speedster Johnny Knox(notes) -- Chicago interception magnet Jay Cutler(notes) beat a double-team for a touchdown against the Pack. Woodson was not involved. When Cutler tried to get a first-quarter pass to Devin Aromashodu(notes), he wasn't so fortunate. Woodson gave Aromashodu outside position, trailed the route while his head was turned to read Cutler, and picked the underthrow. Aromashodu did get Woodson later in the game for a score, but those things will happen. If any young cornerback wants to know how it's done, he should simply put on a Green Bay tape and watch #21 go to work.