The most unique play of the game in the New Orleans Saints’ dominant road win wasn’t supposed to happen. With few open throwing windows and a New England Patriots defender wrapped around his legs, Jameis Winston flung the ball away in hopes of sending it out of bounds to buy another down. On the other end of the field, away from Winston’s sightline, a penalty flag signaled a Patriots holding penalty.
But he didn’t put enough juice behind it, and the ball fell within the field of play just close enough to Marquez Callaway for the second-year Saints wideout to secure it for six points. As he trotted off the field, Winston later related, his coaches berated him: “If you’re throwing it away, make sure you throw it away.”
And he was as impressed as anyone that the play ended on a positive note. “That was all God, I was trying to throw that ball away,” Winston said after the game. “Marquez went up there and snatched it. So, touchdown good guys.”
Sean Payton took a significantly less positive view of the play, noting that he didn’t believe Winston knew there was a holding foul on New England when the ball went airborne and describing it as a “hold your breath moment.”
That’s the correct read on it. Winston has been throwing footballs professionally for too long to put a possession in jeopardy like this. A referee’s decision and Callaway’s heads-up play prevented disaster from striking. There are some good things to take away from his first three weeks (and, in general, he’s avoided the head-scratching turnovers we’ve seen before) but he hasn’t done much yet to sell the Saints on his candidacy as a long-term fix under center.