Week 9 of the NFL season has concluded, and for the New Orleans Saints, it ended with a 24-17 win against the Chicago Bears. The Saints were very inconsistent offensively, and their special teams unit certainly had a hand in 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 9 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 - 1/2 on field goals, 3/3 on PATs
We continue with the inconsistencies of Blake Grupe this week, with three straight weeks now of missed field goals. Fortunately, he started off strong, with a successful 55-yard field goal early in the second half. That kick had plenty of distance as well, and while it was not right down the middle, it was not close to hitting the upright either. There was a good snap and hold on this kick as well which is positive to see, as there have been a couple of miscues earlier in the season.
The second field goal of the day for Grupe was not as successful, as he missed from 47 yards. He bounced this kickoff the left upright, despite it having plenty of distance and a good initial trajectory. The kick bent hard to the left about halfway through its flight, which is extremely concerning considering this is an indoor stadium. Having that type of bend in a kick without wind acting on it shows there was some sort of issue in the mechanism behind it, whether that be where the ball met his foot or how his leg followed through. (see below)
Overall, a very 50/50 game for Grupe, both in a literal and figurative sense. On one hand, he hit his longest field goal of the season, on the other hand, he missed a crucial one that could have had much more impact on the game. We will see if he can get a little more consistent in the upcoming weeks.
Lou Hedley - 4 punts for 164 yards
Compared to previous weeks, this was one of the better performances from Lou Hedley. He did a good job with the field position he was given, with 3 of the 4 punts he had being downed inside the opposing 20-yard line. His first punt started at the NO 44, and he sent it down to the CHI 14 where it was fair caught. This punt was not anything exceptional, but it was also not bad given the end position and the fact that there was no ability to return it. His second punt was slightly better, as he would punt 48 yards, from the NO 29 to the CHI 23, where the punt would also be fair caught as it was practically unreturnable. Hedley was also under pretty severe pressure here and had to get the punt off quickly, so it was even more impressive in that sense. (see below)
The third punt of the day for Hedley was a shorter one, but it was also a good punt in terms of where it landed. This one traveled 30 yards from the CHI 39 to the CHI 9, and was fair caught there which started Chicago off with a pretty horrible field position. While this could have been slightly closer to the endzone, at the end of the day, within the 10-yard line and not a touchback is the ultimate goal, so this was impressive regardless.
The final punt of the day for Lou was *Chef’s Kiss*. While the punt was likely going to be a touchback, Isaac Yiadom made an exceptional play on the end of it to dive and swat it out of bounds at the CHI 1-yard line. He punted it from the CHI 45 down to the CHI 1, and Yiadom did the rest.
Overall, a quality performance for Hedley which was consistent and pretty high-quality. We will see if he can start to get some more power out of his leg on bigger punts in the upcoming weeks, as that will be a huge key to his success.