For the second straight week, the New Orleans Saints‘ attempt to leap into the NFC Playoff Picture were foiled by a blocked kick.
Days after a blocked point after try caused controversy in a heartbreaking loss, Saints kicker Wil Lutz had a field goal blocked and returned, which set up a Panthers touchdown strike before halftime. The 10-point swing proved the difference in a 23-20 loss that pushed the Saints’ playoff hopes to the brink.
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The special teams issues and early turnovers from Drew Brees put New Orleans in a big hole early.
Sean Payton has seen enough with the blocked kicks and turnovers.
“We put ourselves in a hole, clearly in the first half with how we played,” Payton said, via the team’s official website. “The turnovers, the sequence, the blocked field goal, that’s a 10-point swing. Two weeks in a row now we are struggling just to kick a PAT or a field goal, it’s disappointing.”
Payton also pointed out a blocked kick in Week 2 against the New York Giants that cost the Saints in a 16-13 loss.
“Fundamentally we have to be able to kick an extra point,” he added. “If we come up short we have to be able to kick a field goal that’s a makeable one. We have just struggled in that area. It cost us in New York, it cost us last week in Denver and it cost us again tonight. We have to be smart enough in the game early, to understand the turnovers aren’t good, and punting is not a bad thing. When you are playing a good defense like this you put yourself on a short field and it’s going to result in points. We already know that we are playing with a close margin of error or else you win 50 of these you lose 50. So I think that we have to be a lot smarter and certainly as head coach I have to do a better job of that point of emphasis.”
In an odd twist, the Saints’ defense has played its best the past three weeks — coinciding with the return of rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins — while the offense has struggled to be consistent and is turning the ball over at an alarming rate.
“It’s two weeks in a row now that we’ve had [those early turnovers] and two weeks in a row that we’ve had a blocked kick that’s resulted in pretty catastrophic results,” Drew Brees said. “I think that we’re doing a lot of good things, but unfortunately there are a couple of critical things that need to be fixed in order for us to win and be successful.
The 30-year-old center and the team agreed to a three-year extension worth more than $21 million, a source informed of the deal told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Thursday. Unger is now signed through the 2019 campaign, when his current quarterback, Drew Brees, will be the ripe age of 40.
Unger was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round in 2009, and had two Pro Bowl appearances in his first six seasons in Seattle. He had a strong debut with the Saints, as he was named the team’s offensive MVP last year.
The play went under review when it looked like Parks could have stepped out of bounds on the return.
The NFL’s senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino gave a detailed description of why the play was ruled called on the field.
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That’s great stuff from Blandino.
The move by Broncos’ Jared Crick to push down long snapper Justin Drescher without grabbing and causing a penalty flew under the radar. Keeping the snapper down allowed Simmons to clear without contacting Drescher, which would have drawn another flag. It’s interesting that it’s not an illegal play. Kudos to the Broncos and their staff for coaching that technique.
With Parks wearing white shoes it was nearly impossible to tell if his foot hit out of bounds. The rookie, however, wasn’t worried.
“So, I’m in bounds,” he said, via The Times-Picayune. “I wasn’t tripping at all. I was looking like I took ballet in fifth grade. Y’all can’t tell me I’m out.”