Sometimes, it happens early.
Sometimes, it happens late.
But all you really want is for it to happen, "it" being the play that turns the game in the New Orleans Saints' favor. And Sunday, against Carolina in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it happened a bit later than usual in the Saints' 34-31 victory, which helped New Orleans (9-2) widen its advantage to four games over the second-place Panthers (5-6) in the NFC South Division.
The spotlight goes to defensive end Marcus Davenport, who made consecutive pivotal plays that helped keep the score tied at 31, and gave the Saints the opportunity to construct a game-winning drive, which culminated in Wil Lutz's 33-yard field goal as time expired.
Carolina was third-and-goal from the Saints' 4-yard line with 2:10 left, when quarterback Kyle Allen took the snap from shotgun formation. Davenport, who'd been close a few times, closed the deal this time and sacked Allen for a 6-yard loss. It didn't take the Panthers out of scoring range, but it did take a touchdown out of the equation.
Worst case, the Saints would be down by three with two minutes left, plenty of time to put together a game-tying drive.
But the chip-shot field goal wasn't as chip a shot as it appeared to be.
Panthers kicker Joey Slye's 28-yard attempt was wide right and, perhaps, Davenport may have had some influence on that, too.
True, Slye already had missed two point-after attempts, so there was less of a certainty than usual that he'd be accurate. But on the field goal try, Davenport leapt through an opening on the line and launched his 6-foot-6 frame skyward in a block attempt.
Only Slye, a rookie, can say if Davenport's swooping in had an adverse effect. Whether or not it did, the miss kept open a door that the Saints previously had been unable to close, but gave them one more chance to seal it for good with a final drive.