“It was just a total team debauchery. I am the one in charge of it. I take responsibility for it,” he said.
A Monday night game that was supposed to be a showcase for the potential of a Redskins team that went into the day as the sole leader of the NFC East turned into a humiliation. Brees’s record was supposed to be the highlight of the game, but it was just one of dozens of huge plays made by the Saints on both sides of the ball.
“Shoot, it can’t get worse than we did tonight,” said a disgusted Jonathan Allen, one of the team’s defensive linemen.
There was almost nothing the Redskins did well Monday.
Their offensive line could not hold back a ferocious New Orleans pass rush that poured in on quarterback Alex Smith, forcing him to rush pass after pass to a group of receivers that didn’t include Josh Doctson, who missed the game with a heel injury suffered in practice last week.
Their defensive front, celebrated in the season’s first few weeks, rarely got to Brees, who stood comfortably in the pocket and picked apart the Redskins’ defense for 363 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-29 passing, producing a near-perfect rating of 153.2.
Their secondary often looked lost. Star cornerback Josh Norman was left on the sideline for the start of the second half after a first half in which he struggled to keep up with the Saints’ wide receivers. His replacement, Greg Stroman, was promptly beaten for a touchdown.
And then there were the penalties. Several times the Redskins appeared to have stopped the Saints, only to commit silly penalties that gave Brees and New Orleans a second chance. Defensive holds by Norman and fellow cornerback Quinton Dunbar and an unnecessary roughness call against Montae Nicholson led to two touchdowns that helped the Saints build an early 13-3 lead in a game that just kept running away from Washington.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Allen said.
Still, after all this, the Redskins remain in first place by the grace of an early bye week that has them at 2-2, a half-game ahead of the Cowboys and Eagles, who are both 2-3.
The defeat was vaguely reminiscent of losses like a 52-7 defeat in New England on Oct. 28, 2007, and a 44-16 loss to Carolina on Nov. 22, 2015. If there is any consolation for Washington, it’s that the team made the playoffs in both of those seasons.
But there seemed little hope on the dispirited Redskins sideline, as the 73,028 fans twirled towels and parasols celebrating the record Brees had set. Careful planning had preceded the moment, as the Saints and the league worked to make the record significant while not seeming too much of a burden for the Redskins. There was even a consideration made to keep the game going if an impromptu party would give one of the teams a competitive edge.
Brees’s 62-yard scoring pass to Tre’Quan Smith put the Saints ahead 26-6, so there wasn’t much of a worry about competitiveness.
The play itself, the one that left Smith open down the sideline with Norman more than 10 yards behind in futile pursuit, seemed to signify the Redskins’ failures. And the hopelessness of it is what appeared to infuriate Gruden the most.
“Yes, there was an issue there,” he said. “That was one of the issues we are talking about and that’s something we have to get corrected. It can’t happen in pro football. You don’t see that in pro football. We’re together too long. We run the same coverage for too many times. We have to coach that better and we have to make sure that never happens again. That was an absolute embarrassment.”
Gruden said he had “cooled down” by game’s end. Norman was only left off the field for one possession, one in which his replacement — Stroman — was beaten for a touchdown. Gruden said Norman will play “the rest of the year.”
For a brief moment Monday, the Redskins looked as if they might keep this game competitive, putting together a 15-play drive in the first quarter that took them to the Saints 5-yard line. But Adrian Peterson lost two yards on first down, Smith threw the ball away on second down and was sacked on third down, pushing the Redskins back to the 19, forcing them to settle for a field goal. At the time, the score was 6-3 and the drive had eaten up 8:04, appearing to slow the game to the pace Washington wanted.
But it was the closest the Redskins would get. The Saints scored touchdowns on their next three possessions. A touchdown on a designed run by Smith after a New Orleans fumble right before halftime, and a fourth-quarter rushing touchdown from running back Kapri Bibbs kept the score from being even more outrageous.
Still, on a night that was going to introduce a Redskins team that had beaten Green Bay in its last game, two weeks ago, Monday was the disaster Washington did not need.
Brees sat on the bench and smiled. The fans roared and roared, and the big night got worse and worse for the Redskins.