New Orleans Saints' Marcus Murphy (23) leaps over Carolina Panthers' Michael Griffin (22) in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
METAIRIE, La. (AP) The Saints were kicking themselves on Friday, a day after several special teams mistakes, including a blocked field goal, proved costly in New Orleans' second loss in a five-day span.
''We're just killing ourselves on special teams,'' said veteran punter and field goal holder Thomas Morstead, who has been a special teams mainstay since New Orleans' 2009 Super Bowl season. ''And look, that's on me. I've been here. I'm a leader. And we've got to get everyone making plays that are expected to be made.''
The Saints have had kicks blocked in each of their last two losses, which have dropped them to 4-6 – perilously close to sliding out of playoff contention. Each block resulted in points for their opponents.
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Last Sunday, Denver returned a blocked point-after kick for a defensive 2-point conversion to cap the scoring in a 25-23 victory. On Thursday night, a blocked field goal at the end of the second quarter was returned into Saints territory – it would have been a touchdown if not for a penalty during the return for a block in the back behind the play – setting up Cam Newton's scoring pass to Ted Ginn Jr. The mistake proved pivotal in a 23-20 loss.
It was also the third time this season a blocked Saints kick had directly or indirectly resulted in opponent points in a loss by three points or less. The first, returned for a touchdown by the New York Giants in Week 2, came in a 16-13 loss.
''When you've had as many tips, blocks, as we have, the focus is trajectory. It's not a secret. It's something I've got to work on,'' said rookie kicker Wil Lutz, who also has had two made field goals tipped. ''I'm confident in my ability. Obviously consistency is an issue that I need to fix.
''I'm sure there are a lot of doubts in a lot of people's minds about my job security,'' Lutz added. ''We'll see what happens and I'll wake up tomorrow and keep working.''
Saints coach Sean Payton didn't sound ready to make a change at kicker yet.
''The kick is a little lower than you'd like,'' Payton began, but quickly added, ''Clearly, we have the right kicker. I don't see it being as low on film today. It still needs to get up a little quicker, but that unit has got to do all their things right.''
Payton also declined to discuss the extent to which he holds special teams coordinator Greg McMahon accountable for the errors, saying only that responsibility for recent errors ''starts with the head coach.''
The Saints were also plagued by mistakes on punt a kick returns which hurt field position. There were penalties on punt returns. Marcus Murphy inexplicably tried to field a kickoff as he was stepping out of bounds at the 2-yard line, costing the Saints 38 yards because they would have started that series on the 40-yard line had the ball gone out of bounds untouched.
''We don't need to score a touchdown on every kickoff return. We need to field the ball and execute the play,'' Morstead said. ''We don't need to get a 50-yard punt return. We need to catch the ball. We don't need to net 60 yards on every punt. I need to put the ball in a corner and let guys do their job. We're not going to be perfect on every field goal. We need to make a 30-yard kick, 40-yard kick.
''Everybody's got to look at themselves and be honest with themselves: Are they helping us win?'' Morstead continued. ''And look, it's doom and gloom today, and it should be a little bit because we blew it.''
Notes: Payton declined to say whether Mark Ingram was diagnosed with a concussion after he appeared to briefly lose consciousness while taking a hit to the back of the head as he went down at the end of his final run Thursday night. Ingram was taken off the field to be evaluated and did not return. ''I don't want to comment on it. But I think he's going to be OK. He's going to be fine.'' … CB Delvin Breaux, who returned on Nov. 6 from a fractured fibula, said he was inactive Thursday night because the team did not want to over work him early on in his recovery by having him play three games in 12 days, but that he expected to play in New Orleans' next game Nov. 27.
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