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Saints Coach Sean Payton Recalls the Team’s Final Drive and Clock Management

With their season in the balance, the Saints took over from their own 30-yard line with one timeout remaining, 1:55 on the clock and needing at least three points to tie the Vikings before the end of regulation.

The primary objective was to get into field goal range on the drive, hopefully with enough time left to take some realistic shots at the end zone. The Saints ended up getting those three points with two seconds to spare, but they also finished regulation without using their final remaining timeout.

The game went to overtime, the Vikings won the coin toss and ended the Saints season with a 75-yard touchdown drive on the extra period’s opening possession.

Meeting with reporters Tuesday, Saints coach Sean Payton explained his thought process during his team’s final drive of the season, Luke Johnson of the New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate reports.

“Well, No. 1, we valued the last timeout,” Payton said.

The Saints held onto it during their final sequence of plays in case they would need it at the end. Quarterback Drew Brees completed his first five passes on the drive, moving the Saints within kicker Wil Lutz’s field goal range, but only one of those plays stopped the clock.

By the time Brees spiked the ball after a 14-yard pass to Jared Cook moved the Saints to the Vikings 26-yard-line, New Orleans had already used up 1:34, leaving only 21 seconds. And that was also when they faced their toughest decision of the drive.

The Saints were penalized for a false start on the spike, as the offense was not fully set before Brees took the snap. In addition to the five yards, the penalty also cost the Saints a 10-second runoff, because it occurred inside the two-minute warning.

New Orleans could have avoided the 10-second runoff by using their timeout, but Payton said after discussing it with Brees both preferred to have 11 seconds with a timeout to having 21 seconds without one to ensure they’d have a chance at a kick.

“(The timeout) just gives you so much more freedom relative to play-calling,” Payton said. “We knew the field goal, No. 1, was paramount. The challenge though, is when you get down to what we had left on the clock, you’re going to see a much different type of defense in the end zone.

“I would have liked to have not had to make that decision (after the penalty), and when we’re clocking the football we need to obviously be set. … There was nothing earth shattering about what we chose to do there. There were some plays you would’ve liked to have had differently, but getting into that situation without a timeout is just a little bit trickier.”

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