Adam Forsythe / September 10, 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen, we finally made it. The NFL regular season is finally upon us. After last season ended in such a heartbreaking way, the anticipation for this season has been growing ever since. And now, for the first time since 2013, the New Orleans Saints will begin their season at 1-0 after defeating the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. Yet, in true Saints’ fashion, this game didn’t come without its fair share of nerve-wracking moments. Let’s break down those moments and some of the keys of the game that lead to a victory for the Who Dat Nation.
The first three drives of the game resulted in punts for the two teams (two for the Texans and one for the Saints). Once the Saints got the ball back after the Texans’ second punt, it looked as if Drew Brees and company were set to put the first points of the season upon the board. However, Brees underthrew a pass at the Houston four-yard line intended for newly acquired running back Latavius Murray, which ultimately was intercepted by Texans’ linebacker Whitney Mercilus.
After stopping the Saints near the goal line, Deshaun Watson and the Texans quickly got to work as he uncorked a 54-yard pass to Will Fuller who did his best Randy Moss impression to make the grab. The Texans then continued to drive down to the NO 21-yard line where the Saints were able to hold them to a fourth down and one situation. However, the defense could not stop Watson and his legs as he was able to scramble for 21 yards and a touchdown on the fourth down attempt.
Brees and the Saints got the ball right back and began carving up the Texans defense. Unfortunately, the drive stalled on the HOU 14-yard line, but Wil Lutz was able to drive home a 32-yard field goal for the Saints’ first points of the season.
On the Texans’ next possession, the Saints’ defense was unable to get off the field. Deshaun Watson orchestrated a 16-play, 7:35 drive which ended in a touchdown pass to star wide receiver, Deandre Hopkins.
Now down 14-3 with only 1:47 remaining before halftime, the Saints knew they needed to put points on the board before heading to the locker rooms. After connecting with Tre’Quan Smith for a first down, the Saints quickly found themselves in a 3rd and 17 situation. With 0:48 seconds remaining, Brees found his own star receiver, Michael Thomas, for a quick catch along the left sideline leaving 0:42 on the clock. According to the initial spot of the ball, the play did not result in a first down and the clock continued to run as Thomas was tackled in bounds. However, a review was initiated at the 0:26 mark. After the review, the call was overturned and the Saints were awarded a first down, yet the referees made a critical mistake. A ten-second runoff was set to accompany the new ruling in the field, however, those 10 seconds were taken off the clock at the 0:26 mark when the review was initiated instead of at the 0:42 mark where the previous play stopped. Instead of having 0:32 to work with, the Saints’ time was cut in half with only 0:16 to go before halftime. As horrendous as this call by the referees was, I’m sure that there’s never, ever been a horrible call against the Saints in the Superdome (insert clip of NOLA No-call here).
Despite the shortened clock, Brees was able to get the team down to the HOU 38-yard line. However, Wil Lutz was unable to connect on a 56-yard field goal attempt. The Saints went into the locker room down 14-3.
The Saints came back into the field after halftime with fire in their eyes. Brees connected with Ted Ginn Jr. for an 11-yard catch, but the aerial attack didn’t stop there. Two plays later, Brees threw a quick, short pass to running back Alvin Kamara who was able to gain 41 yards after the catch. After a failed passing attempt from Brees to Taysom Hill, the Saints got the run game involved as they handled the ball off to Latavius Murray who took the ball 30 yards for the first touchdown of the season for his new team.
On the Texans’ next drive, they continued to move the ball against the Saints’ defense. On a 2nd and 4 play at the NO 21-yard line, Watson scrambled to the right and threw the ball towards Deandre Hopkins, but Marshon Lattimore got in the way and intercepted the ball. The excitement was short-lived as the play was nullified due to an offsides penalty on defensive end Mitchell Loewen. On the very next play, Watson and Hopkins connected for a 16-yard touchdown to increase the Texans’ lead.
The next drive for the Saints was similar to the long Texans’ drive earlier in the game, as it lasted 11 plays and took 5:41 off the clock. The long series ended in a beautiful pass from Drew Brees to none other than Taysom Hill for a 9-yard touchdown.
On the Texans’ next drive, it was all about the Saints’ defense who forced an incompletion, a short gain on the ground, and finally a fantastic interception by safety Marcus Williams. After the interception, Deandre Hopkins (the intended target) body-slammed Williams in an attempt to tackle him. That resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty which made the Saints’ field position even better.
Positioned at the HOU 49-yard line, Brees got his two best playmakers involved as he connected with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara for 9-yard and 28-yard gains respectively. The 40-year old wonder at Quarterback capped off the drive with a 14-yard pass to Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown.
The next three drives went exactly as the first three did, all punts. However, on their next offensive drive, the Saints were able to build on their lead by converting a 47-yard field goal attempt.
With the score set at 27-21, Deshaun Watson and the Texans needed a touchdown to regain the lead, and that’s exactly what they got. After a 38-yard completion to Hopkins, Watson connected with former Saints’ wide receiver Kenny Stills for a 37-yard touchdown.
With the game on the line and only 0:37 remaining, Drew Brees knew what needed to be done. After a series of short passes and spikes to stop the clock, the New Orleans Saints found themselves on the HOU 40-yard line with only 0:02 left in the game. Sean Payton sent out Wil Lutz to attempt a career-high 58-yard field goal. After missing a 56-yard attempt right before halftime, Lutz more than made up for it by nailing his game-winning kick. Thanks to the right foot of Lutz, the Saints are now undefeated and sit atop the NFC South.
With a final score of 30-28, this was a rough game for the Saints as not many things seemed to go right. However, Drew Brees and Wil Lutz played phenomenally as they led their team to a week one victory.
As great as Brees, Lutz, and the dynamic duo of Thomas and Kamara were, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk was truly dominant in this matchup. He was tasked with containing monstrous defensive end JJ Watt, and he did not disappoint. Watt did not record a single tackle or QB hit in the game. When the Saints and Texans played each other in 2015, Watt told the Saints to get a new right tackle. Watt is likely eating his own words as that “new right tackle” bested him last night.
The Saints will be looking to carry this momentum into their week two matchup with the Los Angeles Rams in a game that will likely be just as intense as this one.
Be sure to follow Gumbo Sports on Twitter: @GumboSports
And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @a_forsythe1020