Week 6 of the NFL season has concluded, and for the New Orleans Saints, it ended with a 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans. The Saints struggled mightily to score throughout this game, and special teams was certainly a part of that. 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 6 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 - 2/4 on field goals & 1/1 on PATs
1st quarter - 6:44 - The first field goal of the day for Blake Grupe somewhat set the tone for the day, not only for him but for the team. In the previous week, he made two 50+ yard field goals, however, he missed his first attempt this week. He lined up from 52 yards out for his first attempt and pushed it just to the right of the upright, which also gave Houston good field position. The snap and hold were both good on this kick, it was just an accuracy miss, as the distance was plenty good. Not a great start, and it did get worse later on.
2nd quarter - 0:18 - The second attempt of the day for Grupe was more standard procedure. He lined up for a 48-yarder, and the whole procedure was clean, resulting in a made field goal right before halftime right down the middle.
3rd quarter - 2:17 - The third attempt for Grupe was similar to the prior, as it was a similar distance set at 45 yards. There was a lot less movement on this kick than the previous two, as it had a pretty straight trajectory while the previous two had a ton of bend. He would make this field goal with plenty of distance and nowhere near the uprights which was positive. Watching this live, I had believed he may have worked the bend out of his kicks seeing this one....boy was I wrong.
4th quarter - 11:10 - Finally, the play we’re all here for. What should have been a chip-shot by all measures, turned into a travesty. A 29-yard field goal try, with no wind, lined up pretty much between the hashes, and Grupe pushes it wide. Not a few inches wide either, a good 2-3 feet wide of the left upright. Zach Wood had a clean snap, Lou Hedley had a clean hold with the laces outwards, and Grupe missed it. It seems he was trying pretty adamantly to push the ball to the left, as you can see his kicking leg swing through the ball from the right side of it, but obviously, he overdid it. Obviously this won’t be the be-all-end-all of his career, but it certainly does not help his long term roster chances if it continues to be an issue.
Overall, after a successful week against the New England Patriots with two 50+ yard field goals made on two attempts, Grupe struggled mightily this week and really did not help the Saints’ chances at all of winning this game. Missing a 50+ yarder is excusable occasionally, but a field goal inside 30 yards being missed is pretty horrible.
Lou Hedley - 3 punts for 126 yards
2nd quarter - 9:13 - One of the things I had mentioned in last week’s special teams analysis was that I believed Lou Hedley may have turned a corner and was beginning to really punt the ball with some force and distance. This game proved me wrong. Hedley started off the day with a punt from the NO 23, and it only went 43 yards before going out of bounds at the HOU 35. When punting from your own side of the field, the optimal outcome is the punt lands at least somewhere near the opposing 25, or at worst 30-35 if you’re deep in your own territory. Hedley punted from outside his own red zone and did not pick up enough yards to really pin Houston whatsoever.
3rd quarter - 11:32 - The second attempt for Lou was pretty much identical in all aspects. He punted from the NO 30 this time, and it went 41 yards to the HOU 29 where the returner Robert Woods was tackled for no gain. An even shorter punt this time, where Hedley really struggled to gain any distance despite the solid air time to prevent a return.
3rd quarter - 9:17 - To credit Hedley on this last attempt, the field position was less than optimal, with the punt beginning at the NO 7. However, he only punted this one for 43 yards, where it was fair caught at midfield. Overall he was not pressured to an extent that should have affected his punt distance, and the snap was clean. It seems he is aiming to fix his air time which is costing him distance overall.