NEW ORLEANS —The Washington Redskins were in familiar territory on Sunday, on the road against a red-hot opponent.
The Redskins had been here two weeks ago in Seattle against a Seahawks team that had won four straight.The Redskins won.
In Week 11, the Redskins traveled to New Orleans to take on the Saints, winners of seven games in a row. The Redskins we're two minutes away from a win.
The Redskins did not win.
Here are my observations made during the Redskins’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Saints, focusing on the Redskins’ ability to run the ball on offense and slow down Drew Brees on defense.
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—After the Redskins got the ball at the Saints 47 following an D.J. Swearinger interception, they got a short, mixed drive for a field goal. Samaje Perine ran twice for six yards (three years up the middle on each carry) and Kirk Cousins passed three times.
— The Redskins got Perine going in their second possession. He got runs of seven and 30 yards to get them into the red zone. The rookie did a good job of breaking some tackles and following blockers on the thirty yarder. The Redskins got into the end zone on a touchdown pass from Cousins to Chris Thompson.
—The Redskins have 83 rushing yards at halftime, usually a good sign for them. Perine has 57, coming up on his career high, but he got only six in the second quarter. It would be good if they could use him to eat some clock on a couple of drives since it looks like the Saints are going to put up some more points.
—The offense has been balanced, 15 rush attempts by running backs and 14 passes.
—Brees threw a sort of desperation pass on third and 18 on the Saints’ first possession. It never had a chance and D.J. Swearinger picked it off right before going out of bounds just on the Saints side of midfield. That set up a Washington field goal.
—The Redskins were defending Brees well but a third-down incompletion negated a third-down incompletion. Then the defense broke down, allowing a 26-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr. and a 36-yard touchdown run by Mark Ingram.
—These comments are really under special teams. The Redskins had a good drive going into Saints territory but it stalled at around the 35. Then a couple of little things went wrong. First there was a false start that made a 51-yard field goal try into one from 56. Gruden decided to punt and Josh Holsey almost downed it inside the one but his heels were just on the goal line when he caught the ball. The Saints had the ball at the 20 and drove for a field goal to make it 17-13 at halftime.
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— We’re back to special teams again, although this time it’s a positive. On fourth and one at the Washington 15, the call was for a fake punt. The snap went to up back Niles Paul, who barreled up the middle for five yards and a first down. That sparked a drive that was composed of some smart passes and a few Perine runs. ON third and seven at the 40, the Saints went Cover Zero and Ryan Grant was wide open for the TD. Cousins delivered it to him despite getting pounded right after he released the ball. The Redskins had an 11-point lead at the end of the third quarter. The fake punt will go down with the plays of the year in they hang on to win.
— Redskins started a key drive from their own 25 leading by eight with about nine and a half minutes left. Cousins has time, throws a strike down the right sideline for 36 yards to the New Orleans 35. Then Perine ran for nine and 17 yards, setting up first and goal at the nine. That pushed him over 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career. Two plays later Jeremy Sprinkle’s first NFL catch was for a touchdown and the Redskins were up 31-16 with just under six minutes left.
—On third and one at their own 29, the Redskins needed one more first down to be able to kill the clock. They didn’t get it as Perine was hit for a loss. They had to punt the ball back to the Saints, giving Brees and company one last chance.
—The Redskins had 1:08 to try to win it in regulation. Two passes to Crowder picked up 22. Then came the big one, Cousins to Crowder for 19 to put them in log field goal range. But intentional grounding on a mixup make it second and 20 with a 10-second runoff. The Saints first sack of the game knocked the ball out and we go to overtime.
— The Redskins almost did the unthinkable. A tackle for a loss and a sack left the saints with third and 22. Brees threw a short pass to Kamara, who slipped some tackles and wasn’t tackled until he was just three yards short of the first down. No harm, the Saints punted. But it was too close.
— Key series for the Redskins after a 24-yard punt return put the Saints at their own 49. The Redskins had done a good job keeping Alvin Kamara under wraps up to that point with just 16 yards on five carries. But he popped one off the right side for 24 yards. That was all the Saints needed to set up a 42-yard field goal to pull within eight at 24-16.
—The Saints got the ball with 1:53 left at their own 12. The Redskins had 88 yards of field to defend. They got an interception on the first play but a hands to the face penalty negated it. They couldn’t get much of a pass rush and two throws got the Saints into Redskins territory. Brees to Fleener for 35 got it into the red zone. On th next play, Alvin Kamara bobbled and then caught a short pass from Brees and rolled in for a touchdown.
—The Saints still needed a two-point conversion to tie it. The got it on a pitch to Kamara. He skirted around the left side to tie the game at 31 with 1:05 left.
—A loss seemed inevitable after the Redskins went three and out in their first possession of overtime. It took just two plays for them to get down to a first and goal.
Chris Thompson's play had been probably the brightest spot of the Redskins' 2017 season, one that through 11 weeks had been made up largely of injuries and frustrating inconsistency.
But then, probably the worst-case scenario played out for Washington in their matchup with the Saints, as the star running back was carted off the field in an air cast after having his knee rolled up on on a Kirk Cousins scramble.
In addition to the fact that Thompson is having a sensational year, he's also regarded as the nicest, friendliest guy on the Burgundy. Those two factors made watching him leave in tears really hard, and it caused a lot of people to get pretty emotional.
Plenty of folks, from teammates to former teammates and others with ties to the NFL, tweeted about the injury after it happened. Here's a sampling:
CT 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽— Mason_Foster (@Mason_Foster) November 19, 2017
Send a prayer up for @ChrisThompson_4 🙏🏾— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) November 19, 2017
Soo sad to see. Dude is heart n soul of this offense.— Anthony Boccarossa (@ABoccarossa1) November 19, 2017
Rooting for you @ChrisThompson_4 ... you’re a warrior man. Heal fast.— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) November 19, 2017
Chris Thompson is such a great story and has become such a terrific player. I hate this for him. #WASvsNO— Michael Jenkins (@JenksNBCS) November 19, 2017
🙏🏿 for Chris Thompson.. kid can play....— Thurman Thomas (@thurmanthomas) November 19, 2017
Not gonna lie, I got a little teary eyed when I saw it 😢— LORI (@ALWAYS_LA) November 19, 2017