"Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good". If you're a fan of this year's 2018 New Orleans Saints football team, than certainly you've felt that way a few times already this season, and it was the case yet again yesterday as the Saints somehow managed to pull out another victory, this time on a missed extra point by the NFL's #1-rated kicker, Baltimore Ravens star Justin Tucker.
However, it can't be stressed enough: this year's Saints team keeps finding a way to win games; and with their 5th consecutive win in a row, now appear to be headed towards a very special season — and one which potentially could blossom into an unforgettable year much like their magical Super Bowl season of 2009.
Tucker's first ever miss in his 7-year NFL career allowed the (5-1) Saints to escape with a narrow 24-23 victory over the (4-3) Ravens; and allowed New Orleans to remain a game ahead within the NFC South Division over their division rival Carolina Panthers; who escaped with their own narrow victory in the final seconds against the defending World Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Until yesterday's shocking miss, Tucker had made 221 straight extra points to start his career. Following the Ravens' late score with 24 seconds left, all that he needed to do was simply kick the extra point and the game would go into overtime.
Justin Tucker can't believe Justin Tucker missed a potential game-tying XP pic.twitter.com/1wuX1W9vql
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 21, 2018
Justin Tucker missed his 1st XP of 7-year career on the potential game-tying kick
He was 222/222 before the miss pic.twitter.com/OallVtGlNv
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 21, 2018
And when you take into consideration that he hadn’t missed an extra point in his entire NFL career up to that point, the idea or notion that Tucker would automatically make the kick as he normally has for the past 7 years seemed like a given, even on a day when the winds were blowing all throughout Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.
Fortunately for the Saints, Tucker's kick seemed to be going right through the middle of the uprights, before it took a sharp right turn and missed; in a manner similar to a golfer shanking a drive off the tee into the woods.
In fact, the folks over at ESPN Stats and Info, Tweeted that up to that point, Tucker had connected on all 78 of his field-goal attempts from 33 yards or less in his career; meaning that as he lined up for that seemingly automatic extra point attempt, that he had made 300 straight kicks from 33 yards and in.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 21, 2018
But he did not — and as a result, the Saints improved to 3-0 on the road this season so far and now currently find themselves the #2 Playoff seed in the NFC after 6 games (a game and a half behind the undefeated (7-0) Los Angeles Rams) with 10 more games still left to go.
As it is, New Orleans has been one of the League's more resilient teams up to this point; and wins over Cleveland, Atlanta, and yesterday against the Ravens have been some serious "nail-biters" that no doubt have led to some uneasy moments for many Who Dats.
To borrow an old worn-out phrase from the Saints' hated arch-rival the Atlanta Falcons: the Saints this season so far appear to be "too legit too quit" (you can 'Google' it, if for some reason you don't "get" the reference).
The Saints entered into the 4th Quarter trailing by 10 points (17-7), but dug down deep once again to emerge victorious; and for most Saints fans yesterday, the thought that this season might be turning into something special along the lines of that 2009 Super Bowl run, couldn't be avoided.
Much of the credit for yesterday's win certainly has to go to Saints head coach Sean Payton, who was ultra-aggressive in his play-calling; as he allowed Drew Brees and the Saints offense to go for it on 4th down four times just in the initial opening drive alone, including a brazen fake punt from their own side of the 50-yard line,
And although the Saints #1-ranked offense ended up losing their share of battles against the Ravens’ #1-ranked defense a few times, Payton's fearlessness clearly was a key element in the victory.
Of course, it would be remiss mot to mention Brees; who at this point seemingly is the favorite to finally win the League's MVP award for the very first time in his brilliant 18-year NFL career; after having been passed over for the award more than a few times in the past decade plus.
Drew Brees This Season:
13 passing touchdowns
2 rushing touchdowns
77.3 completion % (career high)
8.5 yards per play (career high)
121.6 QB rating (career high)
— AllSaintsConsidered.com (@AllSaintsBlog) October 22, 2018
Brees FINALLY beat the Ravens, who coming into yesterday's contest was the only NFL team that he and Payton hadn't beaten in their 12th season together. With the win, Brees is now one of only 3 QB's in NFL history — along with Peyton Manning and Brett Favre — to defeat every team in the league.
And he was able to do so remarkably by not only throwing the ball, but also by escaping a few would-be Ravens sacks with his feet and buying himself the few extra milliseconds required to remain in the pocket and make plays down the field.
Remember: this was the very same tenacious Ravens defense that made 11 sacks one week earlier at Tennessee against Titans QB Marcus Mariota. But the 39-year old Brees still somehow managed to escape the suffocating Baltimore pass rush, with the lone exception of a 4th-quarter sack by Ravens LB Terrell Suggs.
Brees' stats weren't overly impressive as they normally are, and his 22 for 30 for 212 yards and 2 TD performance was a testament to that fact. However, Brees DIDN'T turn the ball over one time, and he hasn't yet (zero interceptions, zero fumbles) so far this season.
Even better for Brees was the fact that he was able to record his 500th career touchdown pass, connecting with tight end Benjamin Watson for a 1-yard score to put New Orleans up 7-3 late in the second quarter.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 21, 2018
The NFL leader in career passing yardage, Brees joined Manning, Favre, and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady and as the only quarterbacks in league history with 500 TD passes.
Make no mistake: there were a more than a few moments that caused Saints fans some major trepidation in yesterday's contest, including the play of CB's Ken Crawley and PJ Williams, both of whom seemed out of position or simply just not good enough, to cover the Ravens wide receivers on a handful of plays.
Those concerns are something that the team might look to address before the NFL Trade Deadline in 8 more days from now (October 30th); an option that we explored here at Saints News Network this past weekend (click HERE).
But for now, it's on to the next game; and a long-anticipated "rematch" with the Minnesota Vikings — the very same Vikings team that knocked the Saints out of the Playoffs last year with a miracle finish — looming just ahead next Sunday when the Black and Gold travel up north to Minneapolis.
Until that time however, the Saints and their super-passionate fan-base, can at least take the next 24 hours to enjoy what might have been one the more gratifying wins on the road at another opponent's stadium, in the team's entire 52-year history.
The New Orleans Saints appear destined at this point, to be headed towards a very special season. Not surprisingly for a team that continually keeps finding ways to win games this season — a season that's not even halfway over yet. "Too legit to quit", indeed....