NFL Wire News

History repeats itself with blocked punt


The Sports Xchange

METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints’ 31-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night was eerily similar to a victory over their NFC South rivals nearly a decade earlier, thanks to a blocked punt and touchdown that gave them a 14-0 first-quarter lead.

Nine years and 20 days after Steve Gleason’s blocked punt, which resulted in a touchdown against the Falcons in the Saints’ first game back in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, history repeated itself when reserve linebacker Michael Mauti came up the middle — just like Gleason — to block Atlanta’s first punt of the evening.

Mauti, a New Orleans-area native and son of former Saints wide receiver and special teams ace Rich Mauti, picked up the ball and ran four yards for a touchdown that energized the Saints and a giddy home crowd.

“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” said Mauti, who was in the Superdome on the night of Gleason’s legendary play that set the tone in the Saints’ emotional return to the Superdome in 2006. “Steve Gleason was my hero then and he is now. … So to have him here to see this is really amazing.”

Gleason, who’s been battling ALS since 2011, was in the Superdome on Thursday night to receive the George Halas Award, which is presented each year by the Pro Football Writers Association to an NFL player, coach or front-office executive for overcoming adversity to succeed in life.

Confined to a wheelchair, Gleason was on the sideline when the punt was blocked and the touchdown that electrified the sold-out Superdome.

Shortly after the score, Gleason, who can communicate with his eyes and a computer, took to Twitter to say, “Hey, Falcons #NeverPunt – SG.”

–The Saints are lucky to have about 10 days between Thursday night’s win over the Falcons and their next game with the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 25.

The Saints had to play the last 57 minutes of Thursday night’s with their fourth tackle — Tony Hills, who was just signed by the team 10 days ago — after first-round draft pick Andrus Peat suffered a knee injury on the first possession.

Peat was already replacing left tackle Terron Armstead, who missed his second consecutive game with a knee injury. Peat went down in a heap when his left leg was rolled on by a Falcons defender who was trying to make a tackle.

The NFL Network reported Friday that Peat has a sprained MCL and will miss four weeks of action.

While Hills, who played 67 snaps, didn’t do a terrible job since the Saints allowed Drew Brees to be sacked just once, there is good news. Armstead practiced on a limited basis Tuesday and could return for the Colts game.

–The Saints continue to struggle with the kicking game.

After giving Zach Hocker the job following a training camp duel with Dustin Hopkins, the first-year pro has been unreliable — botching a 30-yard field goal that would have beaten the Dallas Cowboys in regulation on Oct. 4 and missing kicks of 48 and 51 yards against the Falcons.

While Hocker did kick a 31-yarder in the second half after badly missing the 51-yard try late in the first half, the Saints might be inclined to bring in some kickers for a tryout before their next game with the Colts.

–The Saints are now 14-5 against the Falcons since Sean Payton and Brees arrived in New Orleans in 2006.

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