Published 7:59 PM EDT Oct 21, 2018
BALTIMORE – Drew Brees never beats Baltimore … until now.
The Saints icon of a quarterback notched his milestone 500th touchdown (and No. 501, too) and won against the Ravens for the first time in his 18-year career as New Orleans prevailed 24-23 with the result enabled by the first missed extra point kick ever in an NFL game by Justin Tucker.
Go figure. The NFL’s best kicker can’t convert after Baltimore (4-3) drove to seemingly tie the game to Joe Flacco’s 14-yard TD pass to John Brown with 24 seconds left.
What a thriller.
The classic matchup pitted the NFL’s highest-scoring team against Baltimore’s No. 1 defense. This time, offense won ... sort of.
Brees threw for a season-low 212 yards and New Orleans (5-1) scored its fewest points since Week 2. But it was enough, as Brees connected on a 5-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas for the go-ahead points with 4:58 remaining. A 49-yard field goal by Wil Lutz provided the essential cushion for the Saints that made the difference.
Three other things we learned:
- Sean Payton is still one of the NFL’s most aggressive gamblers. It started early, with the Saints coach calling for a fake punt and going for it on three other fourth-down plays – on the first drive of the game. This mindset remained intact for crunch time as Payton opted not to try for a 35-yard, game-tying field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 18 with about six minutes on the clock. Instead, he dialed up a Brees sneak, and three plays later the Saints had the lead again. Guess this should come as no surprise when considering that Payton made one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history when he called for an onside kick (successful, at that) to open the second half of XLIV.
- The Saints have an alter ego. Of course, in entering Sunday’s game as the NFL’s highest-scoring team, the Saints embody the image of big-play explosiveness that begins with Brees. Ask Washington, victimized in a 43-19 rout in Week 5. But against Baltimore’s No. 1 defense, the New Orleans offense relied heavily on a ground attack. With a 1-2 backfield punch of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Saints have hardly lacked balance. But for the second consecutive game, the Saints had more rushing attempts than passes.
- Wildcat quarterbacks are all the rave. Both hybrid backup quarterbacks – Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and New Orleans’ Taysom Hill – continued to see significant duty in Wildcat formations. Although Brees and Flacco remained on the field flanked out wide was receivers, the approach was weird enough in red zone situations --but no mere window dressing. Jackson scored on a 1-yard run just before halftime to give Baltimore a lead. Hill helped set up Brees’ 500th TD with a 5-yard run but also helped squander a scoring opportunity with a fumble on a pitch-out from the 4-yard line.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.