The Streak is Over

(Source: Jessica Martz | WVUE)

The clock is at two seconds when Sean Peyton calls the timeout, and here comes the field goal unit led by Wil Lutz.

This would break his career-long field goal of 57 yard by one and lead the Saints to their first win in a season opener since 2013. The ball is snapped, held, and kicked straight through the uprights, giving the reigning NFC South division champs a 30-28 lead with no time remaining in the 4th quarter. Drew Brees’ game-winning drive that took 35 seconds capped off the most entertaining game in the first week of the NFL.

The Saints have a one-game lead over every team in their always-competitive division. They won! Everything is great, right? WRONG.

The New Orleans Saints played terribly in the first half, but thanks to Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Wil Lutz, they were able to overcome a rough start and salvage a win. They went into the half losing by a score of 3-14 to the Houston Texans, a team with a shaky defense due to the loss of crucial players Tyron Mathieu and Jadeveon Clowney.

The Saints had multiple opportunities in the first half to put points on the board, but a rare red-zone interception by Brees and a missed field goal showed the story of the first two quarters: Drew Brees. The 40-year-old quarterback is coming off an MVP runner-up season and set the highest completion percentage in NFL history last year at 74.4%. Although completing 32 out of his 43 passes (74.4%) Monday night, his red-zone completion percentage was under 50%.

The third quarter provided a glimpse of the full potential of this talented offense, including a 41-yard pass to Alvin Kamara to set up a touchdown, and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Taysom Hill to bring the Saints within 5 points (17-21). Even though Brees finished the game with an outstanding completion percentage, along with 370 yards and two touchdowns, the explosive offense that was feared all of 2018 came alive just in time for the Saints to barely win the game.

And, I know, I’m hating: Drew won the game! Even so, the Saints’ next three opponents are all 2018 playoff teams, including the rival Los Angeles Rams who the Saints suffered a devastating loss to at home in the NFC Conference Championship.

This offense has to start putting its pieces together, and fast, because the Rams, Seahawks, and Cowboys are far from easily winnable games that will especially matter come playoff time for NFC rankings.

Let’s transition to the other side of the ball – defense. The Saints defense on Monday night held the Texans to an average of one touchdown each quarter, which is impressive given the explosive weapons they have on offense. However, in the final minute of the fourth quarter, the Saints allowed a 75-yard drive in 14 seconds, giving them the apparent go-ahead score to end the game. The Saints defense in 2018, although being average in defending the pass, were second in run defense. On Monday night the Texans rushed for 140 yards between their second and third-string running backs – which almost doubled the average rushing yards per game allowed from the defense last year.

This defense will have to step up against the Los Angeles Ram’s rushing and passing attack, which features Todd Gurley and Cooper Cupp. Although both outstanding players are returning from injury, the Saints’ ability to manage the rushing and passing attack will decide this game.

Although the Saints had a shaky season opener, which included many flaws on both sides of the ball, I expect them to win many games this season if they can establish an offense early in the game, and not rely on a last-second kick to bring home a W.