This year’s installment of Monday Night Football kicked off with an instant classic as two Super Bowl hopefuls needed every single one of the game’s 60 minutes to determine a winner. In the end, the New Orleans Saints defeated the visiting Houston Texans by a score of 30-28 on a last-second 58-yard field goal by Wil Lutz on Monday night.
Lutz’s career-long kick was also the longest game-winning kick in the final 10 seconds of any season opener since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Lutz missed a 56-yarder just before the half but was able to put the ball between the uprights when it counted most.
While Lutz is the hero for the Saints and his decisive kick turned out to be the most vital play of the game, it was quarterback Deshaun Watson who was just 37 seconds away from the glory.
New Orleans capped off its second-to-last drive with a field goal that put the Saints up by six with 50 seconds remaining. From there, it looked like the Texans needed a miracle to go 75 yards in less than a minute, but Watson delivered.
It took the Texans offense just two plays, the last of which was a 37-yard strike from Watson to Kenny Stills, to find the end zone and take a one-point lead.
Drew Brees used the next 35 seconds of the game to complete a 15-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr., an 11-yard pass to Michael Thomas, and a nine-yarder to Ginn Jr. that set up Lutz’s 58-yard attempt. The kick was good, and the Saints are now 1-0.
So, what did we learn about these two potential contenders after Week 1?
Can Watson Lead Houston To An AFC Title?
It’s hard to know just how much the Texans missed defensive end Jadeveon Clowney after allowing 510 yards and 30 points of offense. Why? Because the Saints have the firepower to put up 30 against anyone, and the defense was good enough to force a 58-yard field goal to determine the outcome.
Either way, it’s going to be the offensive side of the ball that takes Houston however far it goes. Watson showed more big-play grit on the Texans’ final drive of the game, especially as he took a huge hit on the touchdown pass to Stills that earned Houston the lead.
In the end, Watson finished with 268 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick through the air, and added 40 yards and a TD on the ground. If the Texans want to become a dominant force in the AFC, they’ll need to clean up the protection that allowed Watson to be sacked six times.
With Kansas City and New England leading the way, it’s hard to see Houston winning the AFC crown. However, the Texans’ 30/1 odds put them behind only the two favorites, as well as the Chargers (20/1) and the Ravens (25/1).
If Houston makes any noise in the playoffs, it will likely be due to the combination of Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, who’s one of the best receivers in football. Hopkins finished the game with eight catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
Saints Poised For Another Postseason Run
New Orleans needed every second to get a Week 1 win at home, but it was a quality win against a good opponent that displayed a sense of calm, confidence, and the all-important clutch factor. While a penalty on the Texans’ missed extra point allowed Houston to take a one-point lead on a retry, Brees and Lutz bailed the team out.
That’s the sort of late-game heroics it takes to win in December and January, and Brees certainly knows it. On 32 of 43 passing, Brees threw for 370 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Both Thomas, who caught 10 balls for 123 yards, and Ginn Jr., who caught seven balls for 101 yards, crossed over the 100-yard mark receiving. And Brees spread the ball around, completing passes to eight different receivers.
On the ground, Alvin Kamara looked nearly impossible to tackle at times, finishing the game with 97 yards on just 13 carries. Latavius Murray added another 43 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
With odds hovering around 12/1, the Saints are certainly a favorite to represent the NFC in the sport’s biggest game and take home the Lombardi Trophy. This Week 1 matchup showed they could have what it takes to give them the edge over a strong group of NFC teams that includes Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas.