Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness Sports
SEATTLE ― Sean Payton stood at the podium Saturday in the bowels of Qwest Field and ticked off many things he and his coaching staff will lament in the coming days about the Saints’ 41-36 loss to Seattle.
Among those things, though, is one of the big things that stood out from the get-go – New Orleans’ kicking game was all but absent against Seattle in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs.
New Orleans averaged 16.3 yards per kickoff return with Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem sharing duties in the absence of Roby, who went on IR with a head injury late in the season.
“We didn’t manage to have any type of return game,” Payton said. “I don’t know if we had a return that got past the 20-yard line.”
Only twice did New Orleans start beyond the 20-yard line after a kickoff where Seattle didn’t have a mistake. The Seahawks knocked the opening kickoff out of bounds giving New Orleans the ball at the 40 and then put the Saints at the 30 after being called offside on a kickoff.
The Saints didn’t have a kickoff return better 39 yards this season.
But punt return wasn’t much better.
Lance Moore averaged just 5.5 yards per return and never had a chance to break one. Reggie Bush wasn’t used as a punt returner in the game.
Meanwhile, while the Saints averaged starting at their own 26-yard line, Seattle’s average start was the Seahawks’ 40. That’s a huge difference in such an important game.
Garrett Hartley was the one bright spot in special teams. He hit three field goals, all from inside 30 yards. He finished the season hitting his final 13 kicks.