New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas danced on the sideline, spinning his forearms around each other, as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome blasted the Big Tymers song “Get Your Roll On” during “Monday Night Football.” It was just the third quarter, and the visiting Washington Redskins were, indeed, getting rolled.
The Redskins’ defense was embarrassed on national television as the unit imploded, allowing Drew Brees to set the NFL’s career passing record in the first half of Washington’s 43-19 loss.
Things got so bad that the team started the second half with star cornerback Josh Norman standing on the sideline while rookie Greg Stroman took his spot. That didn’t go well, as Tre’Quan Smith ran right by Stroman for a 35-yard touchdown to end the first drive of the second half. Norman was back on the field the following drive.
“We talked about some things at halftime,” Coach Jay Gruden said about Norman. “Had to cool him down a little bit. Everything’s fine. It’ll be back to normal, and he’ll play the rest of the year.”
Norman said there is no need for another conversation between him and Gruden.
“I leave everything up to the head coach,” Norman said. “Whatever Jay said, that’s what we’re going to go with. I don’t have anything else more to say on the issue.
“At the end of the day, yes, I’m a fiery competitor. Never want to come off. . . . But whatever the head coach says, I’m a go for it. That’s the chain of command. He’s in charge. . . . I respect the head man in charge.”
The Saints have one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL, but the Redskins were consistently their own worst enemy in the first half.
The defense was poised to force a three-and-out on the Saints’ opening drive of the game, but Norman was flagged for holding to send Brees back onto the field. That became a trend that helped the quarterback set the passing record in the first half, as New Orleans put up 26 points. The future Hall of Fame quarterback finished the game 26 for 29 for 363 yards and three touchdowns.
Another third-down penalty negated a Ryan Kerrigan sack that would have gotten the Saints’ offense off the field on its second drive of the game, when safety Montae Nicholson was called for unnecessary roughness when he shoved Saints running back Mark Ingram to the ground after the play. Later on the possession, Brees was stopped short on third and four from the Washington 5-yard line, but cornerback Quinton Dunbar was called for a holding penalty, giving New Orleans a first down. Brees threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Josh Hill on the next play to take a 13-3 lead.
Second-year defensive lineman Jonathan Allen was seen yelling at teammates on the sideline after the series.
“I think some of the calls weren’t legit calls,” Dunbar said. “I’m out there playing. I’m not a ref. But I definitely felt like some of those calls were B.S. calls.”
Penalties weren’t the only miscues that led to the blowout.
Norman allowed Smith to run by him unimpeded for a 62-yard touchdown reception that gave Brees the record and the Saints a 26-6 lead. Norman seemed to have his eyes on running back Alvin Kamara in the flat, and no one picked up Smith as he ran past a completely busted coverage.
“There was an issue there,” Gruden said. “That’s one of the issues we’re talking about, and that’s something we have to get corrected. It can’t happen in pro football. You don’t see that happen in pro football. We’re together too long. We’ve run the same coverage for too many times. We have to coach it better. We’ve got to make sure that never happens again.
“That’s an absolute embarrassment.”