METAIRIE, La. ― It was bad enough that Garrett Hartley pushed a 46-yard field goal wide left after Jonathan Vilma intercepted Brett Favre in the second quarter of the Saints’ 14-9 win over Minnesota on Thursday night.
But to push a 32-yarder wide left that would have given the Saints an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, that would send most coaches into a frenzy.
For Sean Payton, that’s not his style anymore. Two seasons after going through kickers like ice cream flavors at Creole Creamery, Payton is sticking with his third-year place kicker.
“He has been very consistent throughout his career as well as very long,” Payton said Friday during his weekly day-after-game news conference. “That’s the thing. You know you have the right guy because you know you have the right leg talent.
“And you also know you have a guy that’s going to put you in a Super bowl and set a Super Bowl record.”
Hartley missed only two field all of 2009 and, in fact, was 22 of 24 for his career heading into Thursday night’s season opener
He missed two kicks that are normally automatic for him. After the game, he took all the blame. Hours later, Payton said both the snap and hold were good on both misses.
Yet, both Hartley and Payton agreed that the mistakes were correctable. More importantly, Payton shared his continuing confidence in the youngster Friday morning.
“We hurried the kick in both cases and pulled it,” Payton said. “More than anything else, like I told him this morning, this guy has kicked in big spots for us needless to say. It’s something we’ll get back to work on.
“He’ll handle the challenge. It’s just that.”