NEW ORLEANS – The streak is over.
Somehow. Some way.
Wil Lutz kicked a 58-yard field goal as time expired as the New Orleans Saints won their season opener for the first time in six seasons, edging the Houston Texans 30-28 on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“We knew it was important to come in and get a win,” Saints linebacker Demario Davis said. “That’s something we haven’t done recently. Coach (Sean Payton) emphasized that all week.”
The winning kick came when Drew Brees guided a a six-play (including two spikes), 35-yard drive in 35 seconds just moments after DeShaun Watson had driven the Texans 75 yards to a touchdown in two plays.
“He’s Drew. I don’t know what else to say,” running back Alvin Kamara said. “He is the general. He is the leader. When he’s in there, we know we can get it done.”
The Texans’ go-ahead drive began with 50 seconds left as Watson, who ran 20 yards for a second-quarter touchdown run, connected with DeAndre Hopkins, who caught two touchdown passes, for a 37-yard gain.
Watson then connected with former Saint Kenny Stills, acquired just a week earlier in a trade with Miami, for a 37-yard touchdown.
Ka’Imi Fairbairn missed the extra point, but Saints rookie C.J. Gardner-Johnson roughed Fairbairn and the kicker converted on the second try to break the tie.
But Brees, who overcame a slow start and a first-quarter red-zone interception to complete 32 of 43 for 370 yards, still had time.
“The challenge of that drive is 37 seconds with one timeout,” Brees said. “You want to try and save that timeout if at all possible. You need to get yards in chunks to get into field-goal range.”
Brees threw a 15-yard completion to Ted Ginn Jr., then spiked the ball with 20 seconds left.
Then he threw an 11-yard completion to Michael Thomas and spiked the ball with six seconds left.
Then he threw a 9-yarder to Ginn and New Orleans called its final timeout with two seconds left.
That set up Lutz just two yards farther back from the same end of the field where he was just wide on a 56-yard attempt on the final play of the first half.
“I think it was a good thing that he had kicked from pretty much the same spot earlier,” Brees said. “He had a good look at it.
Brees said he felt good after he heard Lutz’s foot made contact with the ball on what was “a thundering kick.”
Lutz said he told long snapper Zach Wood “we’re going to get another chance” after the Texans took the lead.
“That’s what this game is all about,” Lutz said. “Things aren’t always going to go your way. There are ebbs and flows in every game and you rely on each other. This showed the resilience of this team.”
Latavius Murray ran 30 yards for a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter and New Orleans closed within 14-10.
The Texans responded on the ensuing possession as Watson threw a 16-yard touchdown to Hopkins, who finished with eight catches for 111 yards.
Brees answered with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Taysom Hill, cutting Houston’s lead to 21-17 after three quarters.
New Orleans took its first lead on Brees’ 14-yard touchdown to Tre’Quan Smith on the first play of the fourth quarter and Lutz added a 47-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining.
The Saints had two receivers with 100-plus yards as Thomas had 10 catches for 123 yards and Ginn seven for 101.
Kamara nearly had a 100-yard rushing game, finishing with 97 on 13 carries and catching seven passes for 72 yards.
New Orleans had the only scoring threat of a scoreless first quarter, but Brees was intercepted at the 4 by Whitney Mercilus.
Houston took over at its 6 and drove to a second-quarter touchdown when Watson ran 20 yards on fourth and less than a yard.
Lutz kicked a 32-yard field goal before Watson and Hopkins teamed on a 2-yard touchdown pass for a 14-3 halftime lead.
Then things escalated in the second half.
“That was two really good teams going at it,” Brees said. “It was two playoff-caliber teams from a year ago battling all game long.”