Commentary: Hartley running out of excuses

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by Jim Henderson / Eyewitness Sports Director

wwltv.com

Posted on November 22, 2010 at 7:34 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- Of the many positive aspects of yesterday's Saints victory, perhaps the most positive was how the Saints continued to win and win impressively, while so many integral members of the roster continued to rest and heal.

The Seahawks were missing one starter, fullback Michael Robinson, who rested a sore hamstring.

The Saints were missing Bush, Thomas, Sharper, Shockey, Jenkins and Robinson, six players who have started for them this season.

Not only did the Saints not get healthier during the bye week as far as starters returning, they got more depleted when you consider the loss of snapper Jason Kyle.

His loss for the season when he was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury on Saturday, meaning he had to be hastily replaced, clearly rankled Sean Payton from the tenor of his post-game comments yesterday, as well it should. That's not an adjustment you should expect to or seemingly have to make the day before a game.

While the Seahawks place-kicking game functioned perfectly, the Saints again had a "high-schoolish" feel.

The deep snapper for the Seahawks was Clint Gresham, who was a training camp cut by the Saints. The Seahawks' kicker was former Saint Olindo Mare, who spent one woeful season here in 2007. On Sunday, Gresham's snaps were consistently on the money. Mare was 4-4 on his field goal attempts while his strong leg put four of his five kick-offs into the end zone, leading to three touchbacks.

Mare is now 19-22 on the season with his longest successful field goal being 51 yards. Before a miss three games ago, he'd hit on 30 straight attempts. Two of those three misses this year came on chip shots between 20 and 29 yards, however, for the kicker who could well represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl.

Garrett Hartley is not in that Pro Bowl conversation, though he compares to Mare in one respect. He's missed twice from that distance as well – the 29 yarder that would have beaten the Falcons in overtime and a 27 yarder in the fourth quarter that hit the left upright.

He's now working with his second holder and second snapper of the season, both of whom have been in the NFL less than him. That's no excuse, but the situation can't inspire much confidence in a kicker whose own must have been fragile anyway.

And it can't inspire much in his head coach either. After suffering through a botched snap on an extra point and Hartley’s "doink" from 27 yards out, Payton chose to fore-go a 25 yard field goal on the Saints' final possession in favor of throwing a pass into the end zone on 4th and 6 Seahawks’ 8 yard line with a 15-point lead and 29 seconds left in the game – a pass that was intercepted.

Payton said afterward he feared another such error in the kicking game could result in a "quick six" the other way.

So there was no attempt to restore a little bit of confidence in Hartley when another wide left might have totally destroyed whatever remains.

Wide left has been a discordant refrain for the Saints' kicking game this season. When golfer Lee Trevino was once asked why he consistently worked the ball left to right off the tee, he replied, "You can talk to a fade but a hook won't listen."

It hasn't been listening to his young kicker. And by now I'm betting Sean Payton is getting pretty tired of listening to any excuses for failures in the kicking game as well.

 

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