Brian Allee-Walsh

All is well for Saints fans thanks to Wil Lutz. Imagine the drama if he missed.

Much thanks Wil Lutz.

Thanks for kicking the New Orleans Saints to a season-opening 30-28 victory over the gritty Houston Texans on a nationally-televised stage Monday night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Thanks for booting a career-long 58-yard field goal — one that might have been good from 65 yards — as time expired to deliver the Black and Gold from themselves and make everything right in Who Dat Nation.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I can only imagine what Who Dat-ville would be like today, tomorrow and beyond if Lutz had not kicked the Texans where it hurt the most.

Right between the goal posts!

Imagine the uproar from disgruntled, disheartened and disappointed Saints fans, knowing full well their team’s season could be in trouble what with upcoming road games against the Los Angeles Rams (3:25 p.m., Sunday, Fox) and Seattle Seahawks (Sept. 22).

Can you say lawsuit!

But with one swift kick, Lutz dismissed that wild notion.

There must be something in the New Orleans water that brings out the worst in NFL officials. The absolute worst. Saints fans are still reeling, dealing and in the process of healing from the two no-calls by officials in the NFC Championship loss to the Los Angeles Rams in January.

Fortunately for NFL referee John Hussey and his officiating crew Monday night, the Saints emerged victorious because there would have been a price to pay for their inept handling of the final seconds in the first half.

As it were, NFL Senior V-P of Officiating Al Riveron already has issued a mea culpa, though that hardly fixes the bigger problem.

To make a long story short, Hussey’s crew incorrectly applied a 10-second runoff and inadvertently wiped 15 seconds off the game clock. So, instead of having 31 seconds remaining, the Saints had 16 seconds.

In other words, the game clock didn’t malfunction. The officials did!

Consequently, the Saints offense was deprived of valuable drive time and forced to attempt a 56-yard field goal attempt as time expired. Lutz missed wide left, preserving a 14-3 Texans lead at intermission and triggering boos from the boisterous sell-out crowd of 73,039.

A few of those boos may have been aimed at the home team which was outplayed for the first 30 minutes. But much of the fans’ discontent was directed at the officiating crew that also felt the wrath of Saints coach Sean Payton as he walked off the field.

Given a chance to redeem himself, Lutz made good on his game winner, handing Saints quarterback Drew Brees his 49th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Lutz’ winning kick also bailed out a soft Saints pass defense that allowed Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson to complete consecutive passes of 38 and 37 yards for the tying touchdown with 37 seconds remaining.

Over-zealous Saints rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson also added to the last-minute dysfunction, running into Texans kicker Ka’ami Fairbairn, who missed the crucial extra-point attempt. Fairbairn took full advantage of the mulligan, giving the Texans a short-lived 28-27 lead.

Brees and friends did the rest, moving lickety-split 35 yards into Lutz range against a passive pass defense that rushed just two on the all-important 9-yard completion from Brees to wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. down to the Texans’ 40.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
  Comments