Best and worst moments from the Redskins’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Saints on Sunday.
Worst gut punch: The Redskins led 31-16 with less than three minutes remaining and appeared headed for their second stunning road win in the last three weeks before snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at the Superdome. Washington went three-and-out on the opening possession of overtime before New Orleans simply handed the ball off to Mark Ingram, who gained 51 yards on two carries to set up Wil Lutz’s game-winning field goal.
Worst drama: After they cut a 15-point deficit to eight with 2:53 remaining, the Saints burned their final two timeouts on Washington’s next possession. Needing one yard to all but ice the game after the Saints burned their final two timeouts, Redskins rookie Samaje Perine ran off tackle and was leveled by Manti Te’o for a one-yard loss. At the two-minute warning, Washington was forced to punt.
Best interception that didn’t count: Kendall Fuller appeared to have his second game-clinching interception of the season after picking off Drew Brees on the first play of the Saints’ final drive, but Fuller was flagged for illegal use of hands on the play. To be clear, it is not against the rules to use your hands to intercept passes, but putting your hand’s on a receiver’s facemask, as Fuller did, will draw a penalty almost every time.
Worst defense: Drew Brees had 1:53 to go 82 yards for a touchdown and the potential game-tying two-point conversion. He needed only four plays and 42 seconds to find Alvin Kamara for a juggling 18-yard touchdown. Kamara, the Saints’ dynamic rookie running back, also cashed in the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Worst decision: The Saints left Kirk Cousins too much time, or so it seemed. Three consecutive completions to Jamison Crowder had the Redskins in field goal range with 30 seconds to play, but one of Cousins’s only mistakes of the game denied Washington a chance to win in regulation. Facing a blitz on first and 10 from the Saints’ 34-yard line and not wanting to take a sack, Cousins threw the ball out of bounds. The problem was, Cousins was still in the pocket and there was no receiver in the area, so the Redskins were penalized 10 yards for intentional grounding. Cousins was sacked on the next play, sending the game to overtime.
Worst sight: Midway through the third quarter, Cousins and Chris Thompson went down on the same play, a two-yard scramble by Cousins on third and three. Cousins eventually got up under his own power after being walloped by Saints safety Vonn Bell, but Thompson wasn’t so lucky. Replays showed Sheldon Rankins, New Orleans’s 305-pound defensive tackle, roll up on Thompson’s right ankle as the running back attempted to block for his quarterback. Thompson, who has been one of Washington’s offensive MVPs this season, covered his face with a towel as he was carted off the field. (Warning: The video below is difficult to watch.)
Best gamble: Somehow, the shock of seeing Thompson’s season possibly ended on a fluke play was surpassed by what happened next. Redskins Coach Jay Gruden dialed up a fake punt — from the Washington 15-yard line — and it worked, because no one, least of all the Saints, expected Niles Paul to receive a direct snap in that situation.
Best drive: Eight plays later, Cousins, evidently recovered from the hit Bell put on him minutes earlier, stood tall in the pocket against an all-out New Orleans blitz and found Ryan Grant wiiiiiide open for a 40-yard touchdown. The Redskins were without Thompson, but after a 12-play, 94-yard drive, they had a 24-13 lead.
Worst feeling: The Saints, who can score in bunches, answered with a field goal set up by a 24-yard punt return by Tommylee Lewis and a 24-yard run by rookie running back Alvin Kamara. With 9:24 remaining, it was a one-score game.
Best response: The Redskins weren’t fazed. Cousins coolly orchestrated a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive that featured a perfect pass to Vernon Davis for a 36-yard gain, rookie running back Samaje Perine eclipsing the century mark with four carries for 32 yards and fellow rookie Jeremy Sprinkle making his first career catch an especially memorable one, a seven-yard touchdown that helped Washington take a 31-16 lead. Sprinkle celebrated the score by pretending to sprinkle something in the back of the end zone. Up until the intentional grounding penalty, Cousins could’ve bottle magic pixie dust and sold it on his website this week. Cousins completed 22 of 32 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
Worst resistance: The Redskins’ defense, which had a bounce-back performance after making Case Keenum look like Fran Tarkenton last week, allowed the Saints to go 75 yards in just over three minutes on their next drive to once again pull within eight points with 2:53 to play. Brees looked like the future Hall of Famer that he is on the drive, completing all seven of his passes.
Worst same old: Washington’s well-documented problems finishing first halves continued Sunday. After the two-minute warning, the Redskins caught a break when replay review overturned what was initially ruled a Kirk Cousins interception in Saints territory on third down. With Nick Rose prepared to attempt a 50-yard field goal on the next play, a false start penalty on Stacy McGee backed Washington up five yards and prompted Gruden to send in his punt team. To make matters worse, Josh Holsey had a chance to pin the Saints at the one-yard line, but his heels were on the goal line when he fielded Tress Way’s punt, resulting in a touchback. The Saints turned their good fortune and significantly better field position into a field goal as time expired to pull within 17-13. The Redskins have now been outscored 41-17 in the final two minutes before halftime.
Best break: The final moments of the first half could’ve been worse for Washington if Tedd Ginn Jr. hadn’t inexplicably flipped the football to D.J. Swearinger, instead of an official, after making a nine-yard catch deep in Redskins territory. With the clock running and New Orleans out of timeouts, Swearinger was in no hurry to hand the ball to the official so the Saints could line up and potentially take a shot at the end zone.
Best balance: The Redskins’ running game was clicking in the first half, with Perine leading the way. The rookie out of Oklahoma had 57 yards on his first nine carries, which was more yards than Washington gained as a team in two of its last three games. Perine capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with his first career touchdown run, a one-yard burst that gave the Redskins a 17-10 advantage less than five minutes into the second quarter. Perine finished 23 carries for 117 yards.
Best fourth-down conversion: Earlier in the drive, Gruden kept his offense on the field on fourth and six from the New Orleans 39-yard line. Cousins dropped a pass into Davis’s bread basket, and the ageless wonder held on for a 25-yard gain after taking a big hit from Saints safety Marcus Williams. More coaches should go for it in this situation.
Best play: A 30-yard run by Perine set up Washington’s first touchdown of the game, a 16-yard strike from Cousins to Thompson on a wheel route that gave the Redskins a 10-3 lead in the first quarter. It was the only catch in the first half for Thompson, who also ripped off a 16-yard run.
Worst penalty: The Saints’ offense doesn’t need any help from opposing defenses moving the ball, but they’ll happily accept it. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Preston Smith prolonged New Orleans’ third drive, and the Saints made Washington pay. Two plays later, Ingram rumbled 36 yards into the end zone to tie the game. Ingram finished with 11 carries for 134 yards.
Best offensive fireworks: The Saints and Redskins combined for 322 yards and five scoring drives before Washington forced the game’s first punt more than halfway through the second quarter.
Worst scare: On third and two from his own 16-yard line on the Redskins’ ensuing drive, Cousins scrambled for six yards and was clobbered by P.J. Williams as he slid to the turf. Unlike Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who was concussed on a similar hit by Kiko Alonso last month, Cousins immediately popped up and gestured for a flag. Several penalty flags for unnecessary roughness flew in from all directions as Trent Williams gave Williams a piece of his mind.
Best catch: P.J. Williams had a first half to forget. In addition to committing a couple of costly penalties, Josh Doctson made him look silly by snatching what could’ve been an interception out of his hands for a 32-yard gain. The highlight reel-worthy catch is an early candidate to be featured in ESPN’s “You Got Mossed!” segment before “Monday Night Football.” Doctson had four catches for 81 yards, all of them in the first half.
Best hits: Kamara will be seeing Bashaud Breeland in his nightmares after the Redskins’ cornerback popped him twice in the span of three plays late in the first half.
Best start: D.J. Swearinger, who promised a young Redskins fan two interceptions before last week’s game against the Vikings and then delivered on that pledge, expressed hope that Washington would intercept four passes as a team against the Saints. Swearinger didn’t waste any time working toward that lofty goal, ending New Orleans’ opening drive by intercepting Drew Brees’ second pass of the day at the Saints’ 47-yard line. It was Brees’s first interception in 111 passes and Swearinger’s third interception in the last three quarters.
Worst capitalizing: Gifted a short field on their opening possession, the Redskins drove 27 yards, but settled for a 38-yard Nick Rose field goal after Doctson couldn’t come down with what would’ve been a difficult catch in the end zone on third down. It was going to take more touchdowns and fewer field goals to upset the Saints.
Best pressure: A sack by Ryan Kerrigan helped stall the Saints’ ensuing drive, which ended with a 52-yard field goal by Lutz to tie the game. Washington didn’t have a single sack in last week’s loss to the Vikings.
Worst accessory: If Matt Ioannidis was going to add to the defense’s interception total against the Saints, it was going to have to come on a Maurice Harris-like, one-handed grab. Ioannidis returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a hand injury. His heavily wrapped left paw resembled a club.
Best record in the Big Easy: The Redskins entered Sunday 7-1 all-time at the Superdome. Washington had won four straight games against the Saints in New Orleans, most recently a 40-32 triumph in Robert Griffin III’s debut in 2012.