What a game. The first Monday Night Football matchup of the 2019 season was an absolute dandy.
Two of the NFL‘s best quarterbacks and two of the NFL’s best wide receivers delivered us a shootout that came down to the final play: a 58-yard game winning field goal coming off of the foot of Saints kicker Wil Lutz.
Yes, I did call Deshaun Watson one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, because he proved that on Monday night. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 268 yards, three touchdowns and one interception — eight of those completions, 111 of those yards and two of those scores going to superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins. The former Clemson quarterback is poised for a big year.
Let’s examine some takeaways from what may be the best game of the opening week of the 2019 NFL season.
Why the Saints won
Simply put, the Saints won because of quarterback Drew Brees. Even at 40-years-old, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league and always has ice in his veins. He completed 32 of 43 passes for 370 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in this one.
Despite having just 37 seconds left and down one point, Brees orchestrated a six-play, 35-yard drive that got the Saints in field goal range for the game winning kick. It was a tall task in what was an emotional back-and-forth game, but once again, Brees came through.
Why the Texans lost
The Saints won this game more than the Texans lost it. Despite blowing a double-digit lead, the Texans refused to back down and were in it until the final play. There were a few things they could have done better that may have secured a victory, however.
While the Texans did acquire Laremy Tunsil recently, the offensive line was still shaky. Watson was sacked six times and was pressured nearly every time he dropped back. Just like he did all of 2018, he battled through adversity, however, and almost gave Houston a statement win in Week 1.
The defense also could have helped out a little more. Houston put up more yards of total offense in the first half, but after the final two quarters, the Saints had 510 yards of total offense compared to the Texans’ 414.
Also, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt failed to register a single tackle on Monday night. Both defenses were inconsistent in this matchup, and much of that can be attributed to the play of the two quarterbacks.
There were several plays which could be considered turning points in this one. There were times where the Texans looked like they were ready to run away with the game, and there were times late in the second half where the Saints looked like they had the win locked up. Both teams refused to lay down.
The one play where people started to see the end coming came on the second to last play of the game. It was second down and the Saints were at the Texans’ 49-yard line. For whatever reason, the Texans elected to rush just two players and drop the nine others into coverage. Those in the secondary played the ball as if Brees was going to throw a Hail Mary instead of just getting close enough for a field goal attempt.
Ted Ginn Jr. caught a nine-yard pass to get to the 40-yard line, and Lutz sealed the deal with his kick.
That defensive play call is going to be something brought up in the postgame press conference, and I hope head coach Bill O’Brien is ready to explain his reasoning.
Play of the Game
It’s impossible to determine a play of the game when it comes to this matchup. There were so many moments which made this an incredible game, but this one is going to be forgotten because of the outcome.
Down six points with less than a minute left, Watson only needed two plays to get back the lead — a 38-yard catch made by Hopkins and then this 37-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills, who was playing in his first game as a Texan.
It should have been the game winning score, but you never know with Brees on the opposing sideline. Even if he has just 37 seconds.
Still, the Texans have to be encouraged with what they saw out of Watson on Monday night. His offense battled all game and they were so close to starting the 2019 season in the win column.
“I knew it was in. I’m confident in my operation, I’m confident in what I do and all I wanted was redemption after that miss to go into half, and that’s what it’s about.”
These were the words that Lutz spoke to ESPN following his game-winning field goal. He had a chance to cut the deficit to single digits at the end of the second quarter, but he missed the 56-yard attempt, which just added to the anxiety that was building the entire first half in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
These kickers live for redemption, and Lutz was able to save his name in a big way on Monday night.
According to Stats by STATS, Lutz became the first NFL player to make two field goals in the final 50 seconds of regulation since Cincinnati Bengals kicker Doug Pelfrey made two in the final three seconds on Christmas Eve in 1994.
The Saints travel out west to take on the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams (4:25 p.m., Fox, fuboTV try for free). This will be the first time the two teams face off against each other since the Saints lost at home in the NFC Conference Championship thanks in big part to a botched defensive pass interference no-call. Everyone wants to move on from that moment, but it’s something that will be talked about a lot here in the next week.
The Rams are coming off of a 30-27 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. They didn’t play incredibly well, but Sean McVay’s play calls were still very impressive, and enough to get the job done.
The Texans host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m., CBS, stream on CBS All Access) next week, a team that has already lost their starting quarterback Nick Foles. The former Philadelphia Eagle fractured his collarbone in his Jaguars debut, and will be out for at least half of the 2019 season.
Rookie Gardner Minshew will get the start for Jacksonville, and he completed 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the 40-26 loss they suffered at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. All things considered, it wasn’t a terrible performance, and the Jaguars clearly aren’t the pushovers they were in 2018.
To see how it all play out in real time, check out our live blog of the night below. You can watch the replay, including in condensed and all-22 formats, with NFL Game Pass.
Thank you for joining us.