NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Almost one month ago to the day, Saints kicker Wil Lutz was being lifted skyward by his jubilant teammates. His 52-yard field goal as time expired had just beaten the Carolina Panthers.
It was the longest game-winner of the Payton era, appearing to validate his coach's confidence in making him the longest longshot to make the opening day roster.
Last night in Carolina, Lutz choked back tears in the losing locker room after his 38-yard field goal was blocked - his second blocked field goal in consecutive losses to last year's Super Bowl opponents and the fifth time in 10 games he's had a field goal blocked or deflected.
And Sean Payton's unwavering support was wavering as he seemed to put on notice every member of the kicking unit and those who coach them. Bye weeks frequently become bye-bye weeks for embattled coaches and players who don't return after them. The Saints would now be going on a mini-bye following a short week that would provide a longer time for deliberation about the travails of a sub-.500 football team, and if this team would benefit from the addition of others at the expense of the subtraction of those they would replace.
It may not come to that. It may not require surgery to heal the problems while the careers of some good people here would get at least a short-term reprieve.
But I think of a couple of Payton's previous declarations: "We are in a results-oriented business," he has said in other challenging times that have required difficult decisions. And as Thanksgiving looms, I remember another: "We aren't in a family-friendly business."
And I wonder what some members of this team and/or this staff will be thankful for on Thursday: What they still have - or what they once had?