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New Orleans Saints special teams showed its strengths against Seattle, will be factor against Dallas

'They definitely won their phase of the game, and we needed them'

Can't-Miss Play: Saints' rookie weaves through Seahawks for speedy punt-return TD

There's no time for framing and extended celebration, because Sunday night against Dallas in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will present a new challenge and opportunity.

But the special teams units of the New Orleans Saints (2-1) are coming off one of their most thorough performances in years, one that will be difficult to recreate in some respects, but will be fun to try.

In the Saints' 33-27 victory over Seattle, rookie returner Deonte Harris opened the scoring with a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Punter Thomas Morstead earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his field-position changing performance – six punts for a 52-yard net average, with four punts downed inside the 20-yard line and two of them, traveling 64 and 53 yards, downed inside the 5.

And the cover teams were likewise outstanding: The Seahawks returned three punts for 12 yards, returned two kickoffs for a 23.5-yard average, safety J.T. Gray had a couple of tackles and cornerback Justin Hardee made sure one of those punts was downed inside the 5 by fielding it at the 4.

Perhaps, the Saints needed every unit to show up more so in the absence of quarterback Drew Brees, who missed the first of several games as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. Special teams showed up and dominated its phase.

"Our special teams was great last week," left tackle Terron Armstead said. "They definitely won their phase of the game, and we needed them. They've been big for us multiple seasons.

"We've done a great job with special teams around here, especially with T-Mo (Morstead). He's one of the best, ever. So we're going to need that same kind of performance from them Sunday night."

The only guarantee is that conditions will be better.

In Seattle at CenturyLink Field, there was a steady drizzle and shifting winds. That possibly heightened the level of alert and made it even more impressive.

"I would say kind of a synergy of factors that made it awesome," Morstead said. "Coach (Sean Payton) said all week it was going to be a field position game, which is kind of a way of saying, 'Hey, we need you to punt well, and we need the punt team to cover well.' So there's that.

"It wasn't ideal conditions, so that was kind of a fun challenge with it being wet and a little inconsistent breeze. And then, just like, the whole team coming together, a lot of adversity. I think everybody played a part in the win.

"You can't point to one group and say, 'That's what won it.' It was kind of everybody banded together and picked up the slack, and it was awesome."

Morstead had one of the best games of his 11-year career to earn his third Player of the Week honor (the first two occurred in 2009).

"I've prided myself on being a great directional punter my whole career," he said. "Anybody that says they can control the bounce of the ball, I'd have a hard time believing. You've got have a little bit of fortune with that sometimes when it doesn't go out of bounds."

The special teams also benefited from some good fortune, and stout defense, when it did error.

The minor error was a missed point-after attempt by kicker Wil Lutz, a bust that rarely has happened for Lutz during his NFL career. The major slip was a muffed punt by Harris in the third quarter that Seattle recovered. On that one, New Orleans' defense stood and bailed him out, forcing the Seahawks to turn the ball over on downs at the Saints' 13-yard line by posting a fourth-down stop – one of three fourth-down stops by the Saints.

And New Orleans had its stellar special teams game without much of a contribution from one of its mainstays. With Brees' injury, Taysom Hill largely was removed from special teams duties, and mainly was the backup quarterback behind Teddy Bridgewater.

"It was a little bit of a boring game for me last week. Which I'm OK with," Hill said, smiling.

But, while noting it was a thorough team performance – the Saints also scored a defensive touchdown, and the offense was turnover-free and had touchdown drives of 75 and 58 yards – Hill said special teams was a huge presence.

"I think you can look back to last year, there were a few games last year that I felt special teams-wise, that we were a big contributing factor to momentum shifts and helping us win football games," he said. "But last week was as good of a special teams game that I feel like we've had."

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