Wil Lutz made a 58-yard field goal as time expired, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Houston Texans 30-28 on Monday night in a game that had three scoring plays in the final minute.
“That one’s got to be a top-one moment for me,” Lutz said, adding that as much as he tries to treat each kick the same, “I got to be honest. That one felt a little different.”
New Orleans had lost their previous five season openers. And after last season ended with a bitter loss in the NFC title game, the Saints had expressed urgency in recent weeks to start the 2019 campaign off well.
“I knew how big this win would be,” Lutz said. “There was a little more weight on my shoulders on that one.”
The moment the ball left Lutz’s foot, holder Thomas Morstead appeared to know it was good, and turned toward his kicker triumphantly flexing both arms at his side. Moments later, the crowd noise in the Superdome reached an ear-splitting crescendo as the ball split the uprights and Saints players began jubilantly streaming onto the field.
Deshaun Watson threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to former Saints receiver Kenny Stills with 37 seconds left, capping a two-play, 75-yard drive that put the Texans in front after they began their final possession down by six with 50 seconds left.
But there was just enough time for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who capped a 370-yard, two-touchdown performance by completing a 15-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr., an 11-yarder to Michael Thomas and another pass to Ginn for 9 yards in quick succession. That allowed New Orleans to save its final timeout until just 2 seconds remained and set up Lutz’s career-long kick.
“When you have Drew as your quarterback, all I cared about was getting ready for the kick, because I knew with 37 seconds left there was going to be a chance,” Lutz said.
The 40-year-old Brees completed 32 of 43 passes. He threw one interception deep in Houston territory in the first half that could have proved costly, but did enough to make up for it.
Brees appeared to have all but sealed it when he spotted Ginn deep down field on third and 2 and connected for a 41-yard gain to the Houston 44 at the 2-minute warning. Alvin Kamara, who had 169 yards from scrimmage, followed with an 11-yard run, and the Saints ran the clock down to 55 seconds before Lutz converted a 47-yarder.
One of Brees’ TD passes went to reserve QB and utility player Taysom Hill, who also subs in as a tight end or slot receiver. Brees’ other TD went to second-year pro Tre’Quan Smith.
Watson completed 20 of 30 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns — two of them to DeAndre Hopkins — and also ran for a 21-yard score on a fourth-down play.
The Texans finished with 180 yards rushing — 68 yards more than the Saints allowed in any game last season — with Carlos Hyde rushing for 83 yards and Duke Johnson 57.
at Oakland 24, Denver 16
Derek Carr threw a touchdown pass on the opening drive of the season, rookie Josh Jacobs ran for two scores and the Oakland Raiders responded to a tumultuous week surrounding former receiver Antonio Brown by beating the Denver Broncos 24-16 on Monday night.
The Raiders (1-0) took out all the frustration over the drama surrounding Brown with a convincing win over the AFC West rival Broncos (0-1). The offensive line cleared holes for Jacobs and protected Carr, and the defense harassed Joe Flacco into three sacks and kept Denver out of the end zone until 2:15 remained in the game.
The win spoiled the Denver debuts for Flacco and coach Vic Fangio and ended the NFL’s longest opening weekend winning streak at seven games.
The final scheduled home opener at the Coliseum before the Raiders planned move to Las Vegas next season began with derisive chants from the boisterous fans toward Brown. Those only grew louder after each successful pass play as both the fans and Raiders players seemed relieved to have the monthlong saga over Brown in the past.
He arrived with optimism following a trade from Pittsburgh in March. But a bizarre foot injury, fight with the NFL over his helmet, skipped practices, multiple fines, a run-in with general manager Mike Mayock and odd social media posts ultimately led to the decision to release the game’s most prolific receiver two days before the opener.
Brown agreed to a deal with New England just hours after being granted his wish to be released by Oakland on Saturday and the Raiders wasted little time proving they had moved on.
They took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 10 plays. Carr completed all five passes to four receivers, capped by an 8-yard TD to Tyrell Williams.
Oakland added another score in the second quarter when Jacobs capped a 95-yard drive with a 2-yard run to make it 14-0. Jacobs scored again in the fourth quarter, becoming the first Raider to run for two TDs in his debut.