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Special Teams Analysis: Saints vs. Patriots

With special teams being an emphasis for the Saints this year, let’s take a look at how they performed in Week 5.

NFL: OCT 08 Saints at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 5 of the NFL season has concluded, and for the New Orleans Saints, it ended with a 34-0 win against the New England Patriots. The Saints took a commanding lead early in the game and never looked back, and special teams certainly had a part in this. Considering both their kicker and punter are rookies in their NFL debut season, this makes special teams even more intriguing. In this article, we will analyze the week 5 game, taking a look at both Lou Hedley and Blake Grupe and how they did in this performance on punts and field goals respectively. So, without further ado, we go to Blake Grupe.

Blake Grupe - 2/2 on field goals & 4/4 on PATs

3rd quarter - 11:34 - Both field goals in this game by Blake Grupe were pretty exceptional, but the first seemed to have a much more consistent trajectory. His first field goal came after halftime and was lined up from 54 yards out.

The snap and hold were both good on this kick, and it was up to Grupe to clear the uprights and fight the wind which was pretty strong from right to left. Grupe kicked it pretty wide right and then it came back with a curve to end up pretty close to dead center and had probably another 7-8 yards of distance on it as well. A great kick to start off the day, but it would not be his only 50+ yarder of the afternoon.

4th quarter - 5:43 - The second kick of the day for Grupe was a little more chaotic, as it was curving ever closer to the left upright. The snap and hold were good again, which was a positive sign. Grupe got it off with pressure coming off his left side, and the wind now from left to right. It seems he kicked it into the wind as he should have but did so a little too hard as it never really came back towards the center. Regardless, he put the 53-yarder between the uprights and proved he has the leg to make these longer kicks.

Lou Hedley - 7 punts for 293 yards

For Lou Hedley this week, since he had a significant number of punts, we will be breaking it down into the first and second halves and provide a general synopsis of those kicks.

1st Half - The first punt of the day for Lou Hedley was in the first quarter, where he lined up on the NO 43-yard line and booted it 53 yards down to the NE 6-yard line, where it was fair caught. Hedley had little to no pressure off the edges on this one, and as a result, was able to absolutely get a boot on it and pin New England inside their own 10-yard line. An impressive start no doubt.

His second punt of the day was also in the first quarter, and he had a much shorter field to work with starting at the NE 39. He kicked it down to the NE 3-yard line where it bounced up and into the endzone for a touchback. You can see that Isaac Yiadom was trying desperately to get off his block on the right side but just was not able to get to the ball and down it where they wanted. Regardless, this was an impressive punt just with a tough result.

Hedley’s last punt of the half was just wild in every regard, there was very little “by the book” from anyone on this play. He was punting from the NE 41 and kicked it almost straight up as it would only travel 22 yards but took a long while to come back down. This forced returner Jabrill Peppers to muff the punt, and he had to dive and shove the ball out of bounds to avoid it being a turnover. While this was not the greatest punt by Hedley as he could have pushed it back much further, it also was not bad given the result.

2nd Half - Hedley punted four times in the second half, here is a short synopsis of each one:

  • 3rd quarter - 7:52 - Punting from the NO 21, kicks it 44 yards down to the NE 35-yard line for a fair catch. A relatively standard punt for Hedley, not exceptionally far but good airtime to force no return.
  • 3rd quarter - 1:13 - Punting from the NO 47, kicks it 43 yards to the NE 10-yard line, for another fair catch. Overall, an impressive punt, and another which was downed inside the 10 which shows improvement upon previous games.
  • 4th quarter - 8:59 - An absolute beauty of a punt, with some great distance we had not yet seen from Lou. Starting out from the NO 21, he flipped the field with a 55-yard punt to the NE 24, which was also high enough to force another fair catch. This was one of the more impressive punts so far of the first few weeks, aside from his 52-yarder last week which pinned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside their own 15. Regardless, this was the longest of his NFL career so far, and hopefully a sign of improvement.
  • 4th quarter - 2:16 - Lou finished up the day with another 50-yard punt, booting it again from inside Saints’ territory at the NO 29 all the way down to the NE 21. Peppers was able to return it for 6 yards, however, it immediately came back on an illegal block above the waist, sending the Patriots back to their own 12-yard line and essentially sealing the game.

Overall, a much more impressive game for Lou Hedley than his first few, and not a single punt that I could truly consider bad. A good step forward for the rookie who looks to stick around for the foreseeable future if he can continue this type of trajectory.

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