METAIRIE, La. – When Jed Collins missed a dropped and critical catch in the fourth quarter of the Saints’ 26-20 loss to the New York Jets on Nov. 3, he turned to the one player who may have understood the pain of failing to convert on a critical play.
It was Garrett Hartley, New Orleans’ kicker whose career hasn’t been what would be described as steady.
And it was Hartley who helped Collins move on, telling him that it was only one play.
“After New York, I had a brief talk with him about me personally coming up with a big-time drop and how to bounce back from it,” Collins said. “He was real quick to tell me you’ve got to flush it, you’ve got to believe what type of player you are.”
Sunday, on the biggest play of the year to date, Hartley showed he listened to his own advice. The much-maligned kicker booted the game-winning 31-yard field goal, his third conversion of the day, to push the Saints past San Francisco 23-20.
Less than one week after watching the Saints bring in five kickers for tryouts and then facing very public questions about his job security, Hartley confirmed Coach Sean Payton’s ultimate belief in him.
"I would definitely say it tested me, not physically, but mentally,” Hartley said. “It was a time to show everyone how thick my skin is, and I just went out there.”
On the way to the stadium, Hartley turned to the one player who has helped him previously. The last time Hartley went through a period like this, in 2010, the Saints brought in John Carney and that’s who the maligned kicker called.
While Hartley didn’t say what Carney said, it likely helped soothe him.
The team, however, didn’t need the same thing after watching Hartley practice during the week.
“All week I didn’t see him miss one kick,” defensive end Junior Galette said. “He nailed a 60-yarder, you know, right down the uprights. The kid’s a good kicker. Mentally tough. It’s kind of what he needed at the moment. He had his breakthrough.” And because of it, the Saints are 8-2 and fully in control of their future.
“Like I said during the week, there is a lot of white noise that we don’t pay attention to and just keep focusing,” Payton said. “I love the way he responded.”