GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In hindsight, Drew Brees admitted, he “obviously” wishes the New Orleans Saints hadn’t punted with 1 minute, 58 seconds remaining, still trailing the Arizona Cardinals by five points.
Two plays later, Cardinals running back David Johnson took a short pass 55 yards into the end zone to clinch Arizona’s 31-19 victory.
But Brees and Saints coach Sean Payton both stood by the decision after the game.
And really, in both hindsight and real time, the only definitive thing you can say is that they didn’t have any good options when they were facing a fourth-and-6 from their own 7-yard line with two timeouts remaining.
“There’s an aggressive side of you that wants to go for it,” Payton said. “[But] I think with the two timeouts and the situation that we had, two minutes, it’s something that we would normally do. I think most people would.
"If the distance was inside of three, maybe four yards. Having the two timeouts you're going with your gut there."
Brees chuckled a little when asked if he campaigned to go for it during an extra-long chance to weigh the pros and cons during the two-minute warning.
“Yeah, that was a big discussion,” Brees said. “Hindsight, obviously, because they scored two plays later. But you know, you just feel like, ‘OK, here’s the scenario, we punt, we stop ‘em, use our timeouts, we get the ball back with 1:03, something like that.’ And you’re like, ‘OK, we like our chances there better than, all of a sudden if we miss that, then pretty much the game’s over.’
“So it was one of those tough ones that there was certainly a big part of me that wanted to go for it, but we both agreed at the end of the day to punt.”
The bigger regret for both Payton and Brees was how they squandered their much better opportunities throughout the game when they were on the other end of the field. The Saints went 1-of-4 in the red zone, which is why their 408 yards of offense amounted in just one total touchdown.