NEW ORLEANS A couple of costly long misses won't shake the Saints' confidence in their undrafted rookie kicker after his NFL debut.
Coach Sean Payton said Wil Lutz showed the impressive leg strength that earned him a contract earlier this week after getting cut by the Baltimore Ravens. Although a 50-yarder and the potential game-winning 61-yarder went wide left, Lutz made a 42-yarder and got enough on a 20-yarder to power it through a partial block at the line.
“There are obviously going to be some bumps along the way, as there will be for any of the rookies that played tonight,” Payton said. “He’s got a bright future here. He’ll be kicking here a long time.”
The Georgia State graduate appreciated his coach’s willingness to send him out for such a high-pressure situation in front of a paid attendance of 73,028. Much like his 50-yarder earlier in the quarter, Lutz’s final kick clearly had enough leg but just hooked wide at the end.
“I thought it was in,” Lutz said. “The whole operation was so smooth. To see if I could make it from 61 yards, I got nothing to lose. It felt really good.”
Brees said he saw Lutz kick a 63-yarder during pregame, so he had no problem with the decision to take the offense off the field. The veteran quarterback still regretted missing a chance to gain a few more yards on an incomplete pass toward the sideline on the previous play.
Oakland took a timeout prior to the kick, during which Lutz said he just took a deep breath as Payton told him to have fun. Despite the miss and the loss, he still enjoyed his first NFL experience.
“It was everything I dreamt it would be,” said Lutz, who was exploring grad school options before the Saints called him. “It’s what you live for.”
Drew Brees connected with Brandin Cooks down the left sideline for a 98-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, breaking franchise records for the longest pass and longest scoring play.
“He lookoed like Usain Bolt running down the sideline there,” Brees said.
Cooks caught the pass in stride and went nearly the length of the field in just 11 seconds for the bulk of his 143 yards on six receptions. After his long touchdown, Oakland defensive backs picked up multiple pass interference or holding penalties to stop Saints receivers from getting behind them again.
“Drew and I just happened to be on the same page and thinking the same thing,” Cooks said. “He put a beautiful ball. I didn’t even know (about the record) until I got in the locker room.”
Brees alone in third all-time for TDs
New England quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension to start the season gives Brees a chance to build a decent advantage over his peer on the NFL’s all-time touchdown list. The two entered the season tied for third before Brees increased his total to 432 with four against the Raiders.
But he still has a long way to go to catch Brett Favre with 508 or all-time leader Peyton Manning with 539.
Patriotism at the Dome
The Saints’ special pregame tribute for the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks included a video message from Barack Obama, followed by a moment of silence prior to the national anthem. No players from the Raiders or Saints sat, kneeled or made any other noticeable gestures as local first responders and volunteers unveiled a flag that stretched from end zone to end zone while the Star Spangled banner played.
During the preseason, Brees agreed with Kaepernick’s protest against racially motivated police violence but objected to the 49er quarterback’s decision to sit during the anthem. Other players have followed suit by imitating Kaepernick, and the entire rosters of the Seahawks and Chiefs locked arms in a show of solidarity at their openers on Sunday.