The NFL season opener came down to one final untimed play.
What to do? Put the game in the hands of Drew Brees, who had thrown for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, or put in the jumbo package and try to punch it in on the run?
|[Photo Gallery: Packers outlast Saints 42-34]|
New Orleans went with the run, it failed and the second guessing began. Brees had been nearly flawless during the game and was in the midst of leading the Saints on an improbable 79-yard drive with almost no time on the clock. Why not spread the field and give him the opportunity to put the game in his hands? Or at least open the formation so the line of scrimmage wasn't so bunched? Rookie Mark Ingram, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama, was met by at least five Packers at the line of scrimmage. Wouldn't he have had a better chance to get in if it wasn't so stacked?
Pick the cliche: Hindsight, retrospect, 20/20, woulda, shoulda, coulda. If the Packers defense doesn't collapse so quickly or New Orleans' offensive line got a little more push or Ingram was able to squeeze through the hole for a little more yardage, we'd be talking about Sean Payton's gutsy call. Green Bay's linebackers jumped the snap, the Saints o-line didn't get much of a push and Ingram was stopped on first contact.
In the third quarter, the Saints faced a similar situation. The team was down eight points and faced fourth-and-inches from the Packers 7-yard line. Payton called for a play-action pass and the Packers defense was all over it, sacking Brees for a change of possession.
Two short-yardage situations, one run, one pass, two failed opportunities.
You can blame the Saints, the playcalling and the execution. Or you can credit the defending Super Bowl champions for making two crucial stops and scoring 42 points against one of the best defenses in the NFC.
One play. And a whole lot more to go in an NFL season that already is living up to the hype.