NEW ORLEANS – It would’ve been the perfect time for the New Orleans Saints to hit the panic button.
During Monday night's game against the Houston Texas, the Saints found themselves down by one-point with 37 seconds left.
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson engineered an impressive two-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that put he capped with a 37-yard scoring strike to Kenny Stills to put the Texans up 28-27.
But the Saints still had 37 seconds, two timeouts and Drew Brees leading one final drive to win it.
So there was no panic right?
“You’ve got to have poise,” Saints offensive lineman Terron Armstead said. “You have to be confident in your ability to go down there and get points when we needed it.”
On the last drives, Brees opened with a 15-yard pass to Ted Ginn, an 11-yard pass to Michael Thomas and a 9-yard pass to Ginn to move the Saints down to the Texans’ 40 with just 2 seconds left.
It set up a 58-yard field goal attempt from kicker Will Lutz to win it.
So there was no panic right?
“I think that's the preparation throughout the week,” Lutz said. “Obviously, I'm confident in what I do. I am confident in my operation. I knew with 37 seconds left we were going to have an opportunity to get at least close to field goal range. In that situation there is not a single kick I would turn down.”
With the eyes of 73,039 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome bearing down on him and millions more watching on television, Lutz boomed a kick that sailed right through the uprights to give the Saints a thrilling 30-28 win over the Texans.
Lutz’s kick was so impressive that it would’ve been good from well beyond 60 yards. He missed a 57-yard attempt right before halftime, but he nailed it from 58 yards at the end to help the Saints start the season at 1-0.
“That was a long field goal, but I think it was a good thing that he attempted one from almost that same spot earlier in the game, so he had a look at it,” Brees said. “A ton of confidence for all of us to get back in that situation with a chance to win the game, we all felt like it was going to happen the minute we heard that ball go off his foot. It was a thundering kick and we all knew it was going in the uprights.”
It was the longest field goa of Lutz's NFL career.
“I was pretty confident in that kick,” Lutz said. “Like I said, our operation works so hard. Between Zach (Wood) and Thomas (Morstead), they make my job easy. I told them after my first miss that I wasn't going to miss again and I truly felt that wherever the ball was I was going to give it a chance and we were able to get it done.”
It all started with Brees and the Saints using their hurry-up offense to move the ball into field goal range with just 37 seconds left.
“We practice those situations all the time throughout training camp,” Armstead said. “Saints coach Sean) Payton does a great job of putting us in situations.”
Armstead said it was a great way for the Saints offense to finish. They started slow and were held to just three points at halftime, but they stormed back with 27 second half points to win it.
“We’ve got to execute better in the red zone of course,” Armstead said. “A lot of that is credit to the Texans defense. They get after it and defend every play. We knew it was going to be a challenge scoring points, but we got in a groove in the second half and was able to rack up some points.”
Monday’s win also snapped a five-game losing streak in season opening games, so after Lutz’s winning kick, the Saints could breathe a sigh of relief.
“It’s been awhile. It’s a great feeling,” Armstead said. “We have a long season ahead of us. It’s great to get that first one and just build off of it.”
Linebacker Demario Davis said the Saints players and coaches stressed the importance of starting off 1-0 this season.
“It’s about getting ‘W’s’ in this league. It’s important,” Davis said. “You want to get out to a winning start fast. That’s something that we haven’t been able to do in the past. The coaches really emphasized this week that we want to start fast. We knew it was important to come in and win at home. It’s hard to win in this league. Anytime you get a ‘W’ you got to be appreciative of it.”
The Saints will hit the road for their next two weeks with games at the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks. Sunday’s game against the Rams will be a rematch of the NFC Championship Game from last season that ended with the now infamous “no-call” play that robbed the Saints a chance of playing in the Super Bowl.
“It’s great to start the season off with a win and be in the positive,” Brees said. “Obviously, we know the stretch of games we have coming up here. Here we are with a short week and then play the Rams in LA, then up to Seattle, and back here to Dallas on Sunday Night Football. It’s kind of a gauntlet here for the first half of the season. We know what we’re up against and need to make improvements very, very quickly because we need to play our best football.”