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Special Teams Analysis: Saints vs. Buccaneers

With special teams being an emphasis for the Saints this year, let’s take a look at how they performed in Week 4.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4 of the NFL season has concluded, and for the New Orleans Saints, it ended with a 26-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the Saints only scoring field goals, obviously, special teams were extremely critical to their offense. 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 4 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 - 3/3 on field goals

1st quarter - 9:20 - The first field goal of the day for Blake Grupe was a pretty decent length one at 37 yards. It was not necessarily perfect technically, as the ball was heading towards the right post at the beginning of its trajectory. This was because the hold from Lou Hedley was slightly delayed to spin the ball and get the laces outwards, which caused Grupe to kick it slightly later than anticipated, giving it a weird trajectory.

Regardless, everything came together as it should have and Grupe made his first attempt of the day.

3rd quarter - 0:49 - The second FG of the day for Blake Grupe was a little bit closer, coming in at 32 yards. The procedure on this field goal was much cleaner than the last and resulted in a kick with a much straighter angle. The snap from Zach Wood was clean, the hold from Lou Hedley was both quick and where it needed to be, and Grupe nailed it pretty close to right down the middle. Everything you hope to see from the kicking unit on this attempt.

4th quarter - 8:29 - The final field goal of the day for Blake was longer than the previous two, as he lined up to kick one from 44 yards. This was another great kick and set up for the special teams unit. Good snap and hold, and Grupe proved he could hit from 40+ again with this one going right down the middle with plenty of power. It capped off a great game for the rookie, who scored the only points for New Orleans on the day.

Lou Hedley - 4 punts for 162 yards

1st quarter - 4:30 - The first punt of the day for Lou Hedley was, let’s say, not great. It was his only punt of the day that did not get downed inside the opposing 20-yard line, however, which was good news overall. Technically speaking, there was little to nothing wrong with this punt either. The snap was clean, there was pretty much no bobble from Hedley, and he got it off with plenty of time to spare with no pressure. It seems like he was trying to get more foot under the ball to create more airtime, except that somewhat backfired as he took a ton of distance off the kick in doing so. It ended up only traveling 36 yards to the TB 47-yard line, and then was brought back to the TB 37 due to a holding penalty.

2nd quarter - 14:17 - The second punt for Hedley was the same in terms of distance, as it went 36 yards as well, but it was also a different scenario. Hedley got this ball down to the TB 13-yard line and was punting to avoid a touchback seemingly, which made sense. This time he was under pretty significant pressure, and the snap was slightly low, so the procedure was not phenomenal. Regardless, Hedley forced a fair catch inside the 20, so we will take the positives from this as it was a good punt overall.

2nd quarter - 2:17 - This punt was probably the most impressive from Lou Hedley that we have seen so far through four weeks. He really got his leg into it and drove it 52 yards down to the TB 8-yard line before it was returned to the TB 15. Interestingly, the staff actually tried something different here with how to format Hedley’s punt. They had him roll out right slightly and get a slight running start before punting, which likely played a large part in this punt going so far. It also “ate up” the returner, who was sent backpedaling and even slipped before returning it. This may be a technique to punt used more often from now on by the Saints, as it clearly benefitted Lou.

3rd quarter - 11:30 - Finally, we have the last punt of the day. This one was similar to the second punt, in that it traveled sub-40 yards (38 to be exact), but it also landed inside the opposing 15-yard line (at the 12 in this case). The punt was also fair caught so there was no return. Regardless of the snap being relatively high on this play, Hedley was able to reign it in and get the ball downfield to where it needed to be. Overall, a pretty solid day aside from his first punt, which obviously will need to be worked out with time.

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