Saints rally from 15 down late, stun Redskins in OT

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NEW ORLEANS – Haven’t we seen this somewhere before? The Saints and the Redskins? The underdog ‘Skins controlling play but letting a lead slip away and losing in overtime?

You have heard this one before. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Good teams find many ways to win. Great teams sustain long win streaks.

While I am not ready to call the 2017 New Orleans Saints a great team, they are a good team, make that a very good team. Perhaps the key word of that phrase is team.

The Saints are the sum of their parts.

On this Sunday, they were missing a huge number of the key components that had taken them this far.

Without A.J. Klein and Kenny Vaccaro to start the game, they lost star Marshon Lattimore in the first quarter. Later, they lost Alex Okafor.

With a good quarterback in Kirk Cousins, the Redskins took advantage and made plays, taking a seemingly safe 31-16 lead with 5:56 to play in the game.

When Drew Brees is your quarterback, two scores with under six minutes left is not a safe lead. Washington found that out.

Brees was 11-for-11 for 164 yards and two touchdowns on the final two possessions of regulation. He is, after all, Drew Brees and he is still one of the best to ever play quarterback in the NFL.

The 15-point fourth quarter deficit was the largest the Saints have overcome in franchise history.

If you want to talk symmetry, the New Orleans Saints went to the nation’s capital on Dec. 6, 2009 in week 12 of a season with a perfect 11-0 record and were outplayed by the Redskins.

New Orleans trailed 30-20 in the fourth quarter before Garrett Hartley connected on a 28-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 30-23 with 6:52 to play in the game.

Washington had a chance to put it away with a chip-shot field goal but Shaun Suisham missed a 23-yard attempt, giving Brees a chance with 1:52 to play in the game.

Brees promptly drove the Saints 80 yards in five plays. He connected with Robert Meachem with a 53-yard touchdown pass to tie the game, sending it to overtime. Keep in mind that Meachem earlier stole the ball on a Brees interception and returned the fumble 44 yards for a score, which kept the Saints in the game.

By the way, that was the only other time Sean Payton has beaten the Redskins.

By the way, the honorary captain Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was Robert Meachem.

Want some more?

In the 2009 game, Washington won the toss, got the ball first but fumbled it away. Hartley then hit an 18-yard field goal to send the Saints home a winner at 33-30 and 12-0 on the season. You know how that season ended.

Here are my Quick Takes from the 34-31 overtime win for the Saints over Washington:

**Washington won the toss and deferred, putting the Saints on offense first.

**Brees came in having been sacked an NFL low of eight times. The Redskins pressured him throughout, recording a pair of sacks and forcing him to move and throw a bit early.

**Then, there was the issue of Saints wide receivers failing to get much separation for much of the afternoon and that rendered the passing game ordinary for quite some time. It would not stay that way.

**The strategy paid off handsomely. The Saints got behind the chains on an obvious offensive pass interference penalty on Josh Hill, who set a way-too-obvious pick.

**Two plays later, Brees tried to go deep to Michael Thomas on the left sideline and safety D.J. Swearinger read it all the way and picked it off at the New Orleans 47-yard line. Swearinger was stationed near the numbers and did not have to go a large distance to get to the ball.

**Marshon Lattimore was injured on the first defensive series of the game defending a Kirk Cousins pass in the end zone.

**That led to a Nick Rose 38-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 11:40 to play in the opening quarter. On the third down play, Cousins went deep to the end zone for Josh Doctson. Lattimore defended well and it was incomplete but Lattimore went down injured and jogged off the field with a limp. He was replaced by DeVante Harris.

**The next possession looked like a failure on a trick play that went awry. The Saints tried a reverse with Ted Ginn, Jr. that lost 12 yards but the Saints overcame it with a big third down conversion pass of 12 yards from Drew Brees to Willie Snead, who was Brees’ third-down money receiver a year ago.

**The drive stalled as Brees was sacked and then pressured, forcing an incomplete pass. Wil Lutz came on and nailed a 52-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 with 5:30 to play in the first quarter. The drive went 48 yards in 11 plays, taking 6:10 off the clock. Alvin Kamara had a 10-yard run while Mark Ingram had runs of 11 and nine yards on the drive.

**Washington answered with a seven play, 75-yard drive with Cousins hitting Chris Thompson on a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-3 with 2:11 to play in the first quarter. On the touchdown pass, the Saints blitzed and left Vonn Bell in man coverage on Thompson and he was beaten soundly for the score. In his defense, Bell was picked off on the play but it was a subtle “rub”.

**New Orleans came right back to tie it. On a third-down incomplete pass, Preston Smith delivered a vicious, illegal hit to the chin of Brees, resulting in a roughing the passer penalty and a first down.

**Brees then hit Ginn, Jr. for 23 yards before Ingram broke a 36-yard touchdown run off of right tackle to tie the game 10-10 with 35 seconds to play in the opening quarter. Andrus Peat pulled and had a huge block on the play to clear the path for Ingram to score.


**The two teams combined for 251 yards in the opening quarter.

**The Redskins promptly responded with another 75-yard drive, this time taking nine plays with Semaje Perine scoring on a two-yard run to make it 17-10 with 10:44 to play in the second quarter. The big play was a fourth-and-six from the New Orleans 39-yard line. The Saints blitzed, did not get there and Cousins dropped a perfect pass in to Vernon Davis for 23 yards and a first down at the 13-yard line.

**Then, Ken Crawley was flagged for defensive holding, setting up the Perine score.

**Safety Montae Nicholson left the game in the first half for Washington in concussion protocol and did not return.

**The Redskins got a stop and then drove to the New Orleans 33-yard line. On third down, it appeared that Harris intercepted Cousins but upon a review, the pass was incomplete.

**New Orleans drove 69 yards in 10 plays to close the half and cut the deficit to 17-13 on a 29-yard field goal by Lutz. On the drive, the official took too much time spotting the football following a 9-yard completion from Brees to Ginn to the 11-yard line. With no timeouts, the Saints had to spike the ball and kick the field goal on the final play of the half.


**Washington finished the first half with 222 yards to 218 for the Saints. Each team had 12 first downs while Washington had a slight edge in time of possession with 15:35 to 14:25 for the Saints.

**Lattimore tried to start the second half, Cousins completed a pass to Ryan Grant for 14 yards and Lattimore came off the field.

**With 5:48 to play in the third quarter, Bell made a huge hit and stop when Cousins scrambled toward the first down marker on a third-and-three from his own 13-yard line. Bell shed a block and nailed Cousins a yard short of the line to make and Cousins was shaken up but returned.

**On the same play Sheldon Rankins accidentally rolled up on the back legs of Chris Thompson and Thompson was injured and had to be carted off the field with what turned out to be a broken fibula.

**The Redskins then tricked the Saints, faking a punt as Niles Paul, the short man, took the snap and ran straight up the middle for seven yards and a first down to the 20.

**That led to a 43-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Tulane’s Ryan Grant, who was all alone against a totally blown coverage. Both defensive backs jumped the short route and left Grant completely uncovered.

**New Orleans drew closer, driving 27 yards in five plays but could not finish the drive. Lutz kicked a 43-yard field goal to make it 24-16 with 9:19 to play in the game. Kamara set up the score with a 23-yard run.

**Washington then put the Saints away – or so it seemed – driving 75 yards in six plays, taking 3:21 off the clock with Cousins hitting a wide open Jeremy Sprinkle for a 7-yard touchdown to make it 31-16 with 5:56 to play in the game. It was yet another totally blown coverage as Sprinkle was all alone in the end zone.


**New Orleans fought back, driving 75 yards in eight plays with Brees throwing his first touchdown pass in nearly two games, a three-yard pass to Josh Hill to make it 31-23 with 2:53 to play in the game. On the drive, Brees completed four passes to Coby Fleener, who hardly played until that series. The completions covered 62 yards.


**The Saints defense got a key stop late on a third and half a yard. Rather than a quarterback sneak, Washington ran Semaje Perine off right tackle and Bell and Manti Te’o stopped him for a 1-yard loss.

**Kendall Fuller then came up with what looked like a game-clinching interception but he was flagged for illegal hands to the face, giving the Saints new life.

**New Orleans then staged a great drive, going 87 yards in just four plays with Brees connecting with Kamara on an 18-yard touchdown pass. Kamara juggled the ball, somehow found the handle and outraced the defense to the end zone.


**Then, Sean Payton made another brilliant play call, making it look like a run or pass right and pitching to Kamara to the weak side. Josh Hill threw a great block, which he sustained, and Kamara scored to tie it.

**Washington had a shot to win in regulation and reached the New Orleans 34-yard line but Cousins committed a crucial intentional grounding penalty, setting the ball back to the 44-yard line, and every bit as important as the yardage, causing a 10-second runoff and the clock to start on the officials’ ready-for-play signal. On the next play, Dennis Allen called an all-out blitz and, unlike on previous occasions when he got burned, Bell got there for a sack of Cousins to send the game to overtime.


**Washington won the toss in overtime for the second time in the game. The odds are certainly not great for that occurring.

**It did not matter. The Redskins went three-and-out after Davis dropped what would have been a first down. Then, Cam Jordan sacked Cousins and an incomplete pass forced a punt.


**Tommylee Lewis then returned a punt 14 yards to the New Orleans 39-yard line.

**It did not take long for the Saints to win it. Ingram broke a 20-yard run to the Washington 41 before exploding for 31 yards to the 10. Sean Payton made the wise move to kick it then and Lutz delivered the game-winner from 28 yards, giving the Saints an improbable, thrilling victory.

The Saints faced an upper tier quarterback for the first time in weeks and Cousins played the part against a depleted defense. Washington ran the ball well, too! Still, the Redskins lost.

You can only sustain so many injuries on one side of the football and hope to survive. Remember that the Saints have also been without Nick Fairley and Delvin Breaux all season long. As we have learned over the past several years, you cannot expect the Saints to outscore people on a regular basis.

Still, they were able to do so on this day. Ingram rushed 11 times for 134 yards and a touchdown, going over the century mark yet again. Michael Thomas caught six passes for 91 yards. Kamara accounted for 116 yards and a touchdown in another splendid performance.

If you want to fully grasp the team concept, consider the curious case of Coby Fleener.

A guy whose snaps have been drastically reduced with the focus being on the running game this season, Fleener was again invisible Sunday until it mattered.

On the final two drives of regulation, Fleener caught five passes for 91 yards, playing a huge role in the comeback victory.

The end result is an eight-game winning streak and a trip to Los Angeles to play a good Rams squad before a large part of the country watching next week. If you are a believer in déjà vu and a Saints fan, here we go again.

Oh, by the way, the Saints assured themselves of a non-losing regular season, their first since 2013.

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Ken Trahan


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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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