Besides the almost hard to believe story, the New Orleans Saints won their first road playoff game in franchise history against the Philadelphia Eagles. Two other issues became apparent Saturday night. The first regards Sean Payton’s decision to cut kicker Garrett Hartley a few weeks back, while the second concerns the acquisition of a free agent cornerback.
The decision to cut Hartley, who sent New Orleans to their first Super Bowl in 2009, must have been a hard one to make for Payton. A difficult decision to make, but it was one that needed to be made. Hartley had been struggling with consistency all season and it was just time for him to go. Some agreed, some questioned it, but looking back now it appears that decision has paid off.
Veteran kicker Shayne Graham was brought in to replace Hartley and he proved to be clutch for the Saints in their wild card victory over the Eagles. Graham went 4-for-4 kicking an accounted for almost half of the Saints’ 26 points. His final kick of the night was a 32-yard field goal as the time expired to keep New Orleans alive for another week in the postseason. Had he missed it or any of his other attempts, certainly some would be questioning the decision to dump Hartley once again.
That was not the case, however, and we can agree that going with the veteran Graham was a wise move.
We also got to see just how valuable cornerback Keenan Lewis is to the Saints’ secondary and defense in general. After delivering a big hit to an Eagles receiver in the third quarter, Lewis had to leave the game with what we later found out was a head injury, most likely a concussion. Lewis was seen later on the sidelines obviously upset, probably because he was not allowed to get back into the game.
After Lewis was taken out, Philadelphia’s Nick Foles made a big pass play down field to DeSean Jackson and scored a few plays after that. The Eagles decided to pick on Lewis’ replacement, Rod Sweeting, and it was beginning to pay off. It is unknown at this time if Lewis will be cleared to play next weekend, as he will have to go through the NFL‘s protocol for concussions.
So, a bit of good news in that New Orleans won a playoff game on the road with the help of a veteran replacement kicker, but also a bit of bad news regarding Lewis and his concussion. That’s football, folks.