The Saints season could not have started off as intense as it could be. They finally got the monkey off their back with a 30-28 win over the Texans on a game winning 58-yard field goal by Wil Lutz. The team had lost their last five season openers and this victory could not have been more satisfying. However, there were a lot of ups and downs throughout the game. Here is a breakdown of several key moments that determined the outcome:
On the Texans’ first drive, Deshaun Watson connected with DeAndre Hopkins for 11 yards on a second and long. Coach Sean Payton threw the challenge flag and it should that Hopkins was not able to make the catch. The result put the Texans in a third and long situation which ended up with Cam Jordan and getting a sack. Houston was forced to punt thereafter instead of looking to extend the drive. Great awareness by the coaches in the box to get the play challenged and shift momentum early on.
Redzone Mistake Part I
After forcing another Texans punt, the Saints had a short field and were driving down the field. Unfortunately, it came to an end inside the 5 yard line as Drew Brees was intercepted by Whitney Mercilus. He was looking for Latavius Murray and the pass was undercut. The Saints had called nine pass plays to three run plays before that and had options in that situation. Either Brees should have thrown the ball away instead of forcing it or a run play should have been called. Regardless, it shifted momentum towards Houston and they were able to score a touchdown which leads into the next key moment.
Redzone Mistake Part II
The Texans were able to drive down field with a big play from Will Fuller to get inside Saints territory. They faced a 4th and 1 right outside the redzone and converted that into a touchdown run by Watson. The biggest impact was the depth of pursuit by the Saints defense. Marcus Davenport was the first part as he went too far inside on a read option play that allowed Watson to get outside. On the second level, Marcus Williams tried to get angle in pursuit but ran into Vonn Bell in the process. In the same motion, he failed to brake down to stop Watson and whiffed, resulting in the score.
Mental Errors & Bad Play Calls
The Saints kicked a field goal to make it 7-3. The Texans were driving and the Saints stopped them on a 3rd down to force a field goal. However, PJ Williams was called for defensive holding and extended the drive. Facing another big 3rd down, the defense made another stop but Jordan was called for offsides and gave them another shot. Dennis Allen called for a zone defense but there was no defender within ten yards which allowed Duke Johnson to get a first down. The Texans would eventually score and take a 14-3 lead.
Refs At It Again
Let me know if you’ve heard this before. The Saints were looking to get points before halftime and Brees connected with Michael Thomas on a big 3rd down with 41 seconds left. The play was under review to determine if a first down was achieved and it was. The problem is the referees did not adjust the clock, leaving 26 seconds with a run off making it 16 seconds. The league acknowledged during the game that the call was mishandled and cost the team a better chance of getting a touchdown or closer field goal.
The second half started off like a tennis match. The Saints scored on their first drive, the Texans followed with one of their own and the Saints got one right back at them with a QB to QB connect from Brees to Taysom Hill. Watson and company were deep in their own territory and the Saints defense needed another big stop. Enter Marcus Williams. He ran across the field to make an interception which lead to another touchdown for the Saints to take the lead.
Down To The Wire
The last minute of the game is what football is all about. Lutz put the Saints up by six points with 50 seconds to go in the game. Watson was able to drive his team to a game tying touchdown in just two plays. The Saints played prevent and it hurt them. But even more costly, C.J. Gardner-Johnson was called for roughing the kicker on a missed attempt, although it was clearly the biggest flop of the season so far. Ka’imi Fairbairn would redeem himself and put them up by one point.
Brees would have only 37 seconds and one timeout to get into field goal range. What more would you expect from the GOAT? He orchestrated the drive to get enough yards into Lutz’s range. The biggest factor was the Texans defense played prevent far enough that allowed Ted Ginn Jr. to get seven yards. From there, the game winning kick was made and the Saints walked off the field victorious.