Saints should have been up by 10 with two minutes left

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Monday night’s game between the Texans and Saints made history. It shouldn’t have.

It was the first game in the 50-year history of the Monday Night Football franchise that had multiple lead changes in the final minute, thanks to the touchdown scored by Houston receiver Kenny Stills with 37 seconds left and the 58-yard field goal from New Orleans kicker Will Lutz as time expired. The stage for the theatrics was set by the 47-yard field goal from Lutz with 50 seconds left, making the score 27-21.

It should have been 31-21. With the Saints facing third and two from their own 15 with 2:05 to play, quarterback Drew Brees uncorked a 41-yard bomb to receiver Ted Ginn, setting the Saints up for the eventual touchdown.

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But watch the play. Brees, who turned 40 in January, didn’t put enough on the ball. If he had, he would have hit Ginn in stride, and Ginn would have scored easily, instead of waiting for the ball and being instantly tackled.

This isn’t a knock on Brees. He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, a member of my own personal top five. But for any of these guys who continue to play after making it halfway to 80, it makes sense to look for any evidence of slippage.

Remember the NFC divisional round game against the Eagles? On the first play from scrimmage, the Saints dialed up a deep ball to Ginn. Brees, who surely knew for days that the play was coming, didn’t put enough on it, resulting in an interception that sparked a 14-0 deficit.

It worked out for the Saints then, and it worked out for the Saints last night. Brees has the brain necessary to stay calm and poised like he did when trying to get the team into field-goal position with a couple of ticks on the clock. And his numbers for the Week One game — the first season-opening victory for the Saints since 2013 — were off the charts as usual.

Still, there’s reason to continue to monitor his arm strength. His 41st birthday is roughly four months away, and very few quarterbacks have played at a high level at that age.

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