Saints by the Numbers: Lutz’s kick invokes memories of Dempsey, 2016
NEW ORLEANS – Next year will mark the golden anniversary of Tom Dempsey’s remarkable 63-yard field goal on Nov. 8, 1970, against the Detroit Lions.
Even though Dempsey’s record for longest field goal in NFL history, which lasted 43 years, has been broken by Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos, it remains the longest game-ending kick in the 100-year history of the league (Graham Gano of the Carolina Panthers tied the mark last year).
Wil Lutz’s 58-yard field goal to close out Monday night’s dramatic 30-28 victory over the Houston Texans was five yards shorter than Dempsey’s, but it may have traveled farther. Lutz’s kick hit the wall of the plaza level end zone sets, about a foot from the top of the wall.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, it was the longest field goal to win a season-opener since the 1970 merger.
This Time It Worked: The scenario for the Saints’ game-winning drive was eerily similar to the 2016 season opener against the Oakland Raiders in the Dome.
The Raiders got a touchdown and two-point conversion with 47 seconds to play, taking a 35-34 lead.
Oakland got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the two-point conversion and had to kick off from the 20-yard line. Still, Sebastian Janikowski boomed the kickoff to the 5 and Marcus Murphy brought it back to the 23, where the Saints started with 40 seconds left and no time outs.
Drew Brees had a pair of completions to Willie Snead for 21 and 13 yards, each followed by spikes to kill the clock. An incompletion directed for Coby Fleener left the Saints with third-and-10 from the 43 and five seconds left.
Lutz, making his NFL debut, was long enough on a 61-yard try, but wide left.
Brees remembered that scenario in his postgame news conference. “He had the leg for it,” Brees said of Lutz’s try against Oakland. “I just needed to get him a little bit closer (tonight).”
Rally Time: The Saints trailed 14-3 at halftime. In the last four seasons, New Orleans was 1-9 when trailing by 11 or more points at the half, with the only win coming last year at Tampa Bay – a game the Saints also trailed 14-3 at the break.
Numerology: On 9/9/19, the Saints’ No. 9, Brees, began his 19th NFL season.
Why does Brees wear No. 9? As an homage to former Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams.
Brees’ first touchdown pass, to Taysom Hill, was the 521st of his NFL career. (He would make it 522 shortly thereafter.)
Williams ended his career with 521 career home runs.
Mike Gets 10: Wide receiver Michael Thomas, in his first regular-season game since signing his record $100 million contract, finished with 10 receptions for 125 yards.
For Thomas, it’s his 10th game in three-plus seasons with at least 10 receptions. Only the embattled Antonio Brown, with 11, has more double-figure catch games since the start of the 2016 season.
Monday night was far from Thomas’ best season-opening performance, though. A year ago against Tampa Bay, Thomas set a franchise single-game record and an NFL opening week record with 16 catches.
500 Again: The last minute drive allowed the Saints to finish above the 500-yard mark in total offense, with 510.
Since Brees and Sean Payton arrived in 2006, they have 28 games of 500 or more yards, including three last season (at Atlanta, at Cincinnati, vs. Philadelphia). New Orleans is 22-6 in those games.
The next-highest total of 500-yard games in the NFL since 2006? New England, with 17.
Running Wild: The Saints played without defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins, still on the rebound from his Achilles’ injury, and David Onyemata, who was serving a one-game suspension, and it showed in trying to stop the run – one of the team’s strengths last year.
Houston rushed for 180 yards, including 83 by Carlos Hyde.
New Orleans’ season high for rushing yards allowed last year was 112 by Tampa Bay. The most yards by an individual last year was Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, with 73.
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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…