Week 3 of the NFL season has concluded, and for the New Orleans Saints, it ended with an 18-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers. With that close of a game, special teams were extremely critical to their success, especially considering both their kicker and punter are rookies in their NFL debut season. In this article, we will analyze the week 3 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 & 2/2 on PATs
2nd quarter - 0:06 - The first kick of the day for Blake Grupe was relatively uneventful. It was a 25-yarder, which he nailed with no issues whatsoever. This came after the Saints’ offensive drive stalled in the red zone and had to kick it to take a 17-0 lead. The snap was clean, Lou Hedley made the correct adjustment to spin the ball 180 degrees and get the laces out for Grupe on time.
4th quarter - 1:10 - This kick will obviously be the talking point of the week. Not only for the special teams unit but for the whole of the team. Did Grupe do something wrong? Did Zach Wood botch the snap or Lou Hedley mishandle the hold?
Generally speaking, this was about as clean of a process as you will see in an NFL kick that is missed. Zach Wood got the snap off in time, and right on target. Lou Hedley got the ball down on time with the laces facing outwards as you would hope. One thing to note is that the Saints lined up on the left hashes, and Grupe pushed the kick to the right of the posts. The likelihood that Grupe was just trying to push the kick to the right to get it on target and overdid the angle just enough to where it would track further right, is high.
You can also see a slight breeze during the kick via the orange flags on the top of the goalposts, but nothing to the point where it would severely alter the flight of the kick. At the end of the day, it was a rookie missing a 46-yarder to take the lead in the 4th quarter. These things happen, and considering he was 6/6 to that point on field goals and 5/5 on PATs, it should not be concerning as of yet. While it does suck, it is something that can be worked out with coaching.
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 probably the most notable, and not for great reason. Right off the bat, you can tell he was rushing to get this punt off, either because of pressure or because he just wanted to fool the returner. Regardless, he barely kept this punt in the air, as it went only 38 yards and was returned at the 46-yard line of Green Bay to the GB 48. An ugly punt overall, and it seems he has about one of these a game where his process is interrupted, and he decides to speed it up at the cost of distance.
His other punt of the half was better, traveling 49 yards and only being returned for four yards (and the return team got called for holding). This time he looked to be much more set into his process and had little to no issue getting the ball out quickly but effectively.
2nd Half: In the second half, Hedley ended up getting quite the workout. He was tasked with punting five times, and here is how they went:
3rd quarter - 10:26 - 47-yard punt to the GB 10-yard line, it goes out of bounds and is unreturnable.
3rd quarter - 6:25 - 37-yard punt to the GB 5-yard line, downed by J.T. Grey at that spot.
4th quarter - 12:56 - 35-yard punt to the GB 44-yard line, punt goes out of bounds, holding on the return team for an additional 10 yards to the GB 34.
4th quarter - 8:38 - 41-yard punt to the GB 20-yard line, downed again by J.T. Grey at that spot.
4th quarter - 5:31 - 46-yard punt to the GB 30-yard line, caught by Keisean Nixon however was tackled immediately. Another holding on the return team, pushing them back to the GB 20.
A very back-and-forth overall game for Lou Hedley. If you remove his first punt and the third punt in the second half, he had a pretty spectacular day to be completely honest. However, you have to factor those in, so generally speaking, he did a solid enough job but not as great as you would hope. He will need to work with the special teams staff this week on his ability to get the ball into the air for a longer period of time and create some more distance when being pressured.