A career long field goal of 58 yards from Will Lutz as time expired was enough to help the New Orleans Saints down the Houston Texans 30-28 at the Superdome on the first Monday Night Football of the season, but that’s only a small part of the story.
A scoreless first quarter was followed by the Saints falling behind 14-3 by halftime as Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and some big throws to the likes of Will fuller gave the Texans some impetus. The Saints started very slowly on offense with just 3 points, an interception, and a missed field goal to their name at the half with some poor RedZone trips.
The second half was a much better showing for the home team scoring on their opening possession with Latavius Murray scoring his first regular season six in black and gold. Although Houston hit straight back the Saints scored touchdowns on their next 2 possessions and got a pick of their own to stop a Texans long shot.
Punts were exchanged back and forth as a calm before a storm of unthinkable circumstances ensued. The Saints got 3 with a 2-and-a-half minute drive for 64 yards to put them 27-21 ahead. Then a gut wrenching 13 second2 play 75 yard strike by Watson to Saints old boy Kenny Stills on a 37 yard reception put the Texans 28-27 up, although Saints fans were jubilant with a missed XP looking the game to go to overtime, a roughing the kicker penalty was called leading to more expletives than a Gordon Ramsey TV show. Fairbairn put the retake through with ease.
When all hope was thought to have been lost a Drew Brees inspired 35 yard, 6 play, 37 second drive was put together. 15 yards to Ginn, spike, 11 yards to CGM, spike, 9 yards to Ginn, Timeout. 2 seconds left, career long ahead of him, having missed from 56 yards at the end of the 1st half up stepped Will Lutz, pressure of 70,000 on his shoulders and he nailed it, oh boy did he nail it. As soon as it left his foot he was celebrating. Job done. Win in the books. 1-0 start to the season. Let’s now delve into some of the individuals who shone and flattered to deceive for the Saints.
Alvin Kamara did, well, Alvin Kamara things. 97 rushing yards with one storming 28 yarder plus multiple bounce off, spins and truck forwards, Kamara eats those yards. The rushes were combined with 72 receiving yards and a big time 41 yard play giving 169 all purpose yards. Although he did fumble a ball this was recovered by the Saints and set up a score. Kamara started off where he finished last season and hopefully will continue to be the guy for the Saints.
New running back Latavius Murray had one or two nice runs including a brutal 30 yard Touchdown after catching a seam. He will improve with time, still finding his feet with a new team and new offense line.
Remember when Michael Thomas hadn’t signed his new contract? No me neither, never in doubt anyway and he continued to show why he is one of the best paid players in the game. Catching 10 passes for 123 yards. When Can’t Guard Mike gets separation from a defender, he keeps that space allowing enough time for a Quarterback like Drew Brees to find him. Physical upper body, speed and intelligence on the side-line are massive pluses for Thomas, he always knows where the line is and gets his feet inbound perfectly more often than not.
Ted Ginn Jr. was clutch when required. Grabbing 101 yards off just the 7 receptions. Not utilized much during the 1st half Ginn caught one huge 41 yarder and caught 2 crucial passes on that last drive of the match. 5 of Ginn’s 7 catches resulted in 1st downs. It appears that adjustments were made by the Texans to get tighter protection on Thomas after the 1st half (although he still made plays) this left Ginn in more space which Brees and the Saints coaching staff picked up and worked to perfection.
The Offensive Line had some question marks about it before the first ball was snapped with a rookie in at center and some injury prone players across the board they did a stellar job leading to just 1 sack. So Texans Defense bad or Saints O-line good? A Quote from NFL research “In tonight’s loss to the Saints, J.J. Watt failed to record at least 1 tackle or 1 QB hit for the first time in 105 career games” this left him off of the defensive stat pack. Who was blocking him most of the night, Ryan Ramczyk. The Saints Right Tackle must be one of the best in the business at this moment in time, you name me many other players who can do that to Watt all night long.
Finally on the offense there’s a certain QB not yet detailed. Drew Brees. Like a fine wine, getting better with age, Brees doesn’t need preseason, doesn’t need the hype, ignores comments about his personal life, depleting strength and “gradual decline”. He shows how it’s done on the field. It wasn’t perfect game but who’s was. 32 of 43 completed, 370 yards, 2 TDs and the one pick overall. The second half was a masterclass. Precise passes, good play calls and scrambling from pressures, you know Brees is on when he calls audibles so willingly and clearly, killing plays at the line when clocking something, that’s my Quarterback! Shout out to Swiss Army Knife Taysom Hill too, love that TD score, great route, great catch.
The defense is a bit of different story. One on side there was great pressure by the D-Line constantly on Watson and the Texans offensive line recording 6 sacks. Anzalone, Jordan, PJ Williams with 1 each and Trey Hendrickson with 2 including a big one in the 4th quarter. Tuttle and Brown chipped in credited with half a sack each. Marcus Williams also picked off Watson in the 3rd quarter when the momentum was shifting and he tried another deep shot, made up for a mistake when Hopkins scored earlier. These are the good points and expected pressure on a weak Texans front 7 but they weren’t made to count, no fumbles and no points gained. And Watson still manged to get passes away under duress, I would like to see players get their hands up and bat some away, Cam Jordan and Demario Davis are normally masters at that.
The secondary and safeties especially were made to pay by the Texans QB and elite receiver Hopkins.
Eli Apple gave up a massive shot down the field to Will Fuller from the Texans own endzone which result in Watson running in a TD on 4th down. It’s plays like these which need to be cleaned up in the week before heading off to LA to face those Rams.
Both PJ Williams and Marcus Williams were subject to these big time plays too especially on 3rd down. With PJ especially giving up that huge time play to Kenny Stills which could have lost the game. The Texans had a streak of 4 completed 3-and-longs from 5. I know it’s week 1 but if we are serious about making a Superbowl run these problems need to be eradicated.
Special teams looked good, penalties aside. We’ve already mentioned Big Nutz Lutz and I liked what Deonte Harris was offering although he showed some naivety when calling fair catches and catching the ball when he should have been left but he will find a way through at least once this season. Thomas Morstead also punted very well especially the ball that pinned the Texans deeeeep in their own territory.
So there we go, 1 game, 1 win and in extraordinary circumstances. The Saints winning a game like that, from behind the 8 ball on more than one occasion will start to help banish the demons of last seasons NFCC game. Time to regroup, work on some things defensively and carry this momentum to the West Coast. Revenge game.
Until next time.