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Redskins blow major opportunity in embarrassing OT loss to Saints

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Redskins blow major opportunity in embarrassing OT loss to Saints

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.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

FIRST HALF

Redskins Offense

—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.

Redskins' Defense

—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.  

RELATED: CHRIS THOMPSON CARTED OFF THE FIELD

 

SECOND HALF

Redskins Offense

— 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.

Redskins Defense

— 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.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins’ narrow win over the Cardinals

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USA Today Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins’ narrow win over the Cardinals

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ 20-15 win over the Cardinals.

Turnovers are important: Part of the Redskins’ problems in their last two non-competitive games was a lack of turnovers. Their only takeaway against the Cowboys and Chargers came on an interception in LA long after the outcome had been decided. Today, the Redskins got one three plays into the game, giving them an extremely short field (six yards) and a 7-0 lead a minute and a half into the game. That proved to be critical on a day when the offense operated well only in fits and starts.

Kendall Fuller might go to the Pro Bowl: Well, maybe he won’t because not many cornerbacks on 6-8 teams with low-ranked defenses get picked. But he is very, very good. Sunday he was all over the place and finished with eight tackles, including one in the middle of the line on a running play, something you don’t see a corner do often. He also knocked down two passes. The Redskins hope that some of their players who are now rookies can take the same leap that Fuller has between his first and second seasons.

Bad call, Jay: I’m not usually one to bang on Jay Gruden for his play calling but the end around to Josh Doctson late in the third quarter was just awful. They had a five-point lead first down at their own 32. A nice steady drive to any kind of score makes it tough for the Cardinals. But instead of sticking with what was working, Gruden called for an end around the Josh Doctson. It was the wrong play call at the wrong time to the wrong player. Doctson lost 14 yards on the play, which killed the drive. The Cardinals took possession after the punt and got back within two points on a field goal. Not good, Jay.

Special teams still struggle: There were three separate special teams gaffes in the second half. The Cardinals did a pooch kick on the second-half kickoff and they recovered it after the ball took an odd bounce. Then Jamison Crowder let a punt hit the ground and roll all the way back to the six-yard line, costing about 15 yards of field position. Finally, the Cardinals hit a 54-yard field goal but AJ Francis was called for using leverage to try to block the kick, giving the Cardinals a first down. Fortunately, they survived all of the miscues. The defense held Arizona to a field goal after the kickoff, the offense managed to drive for a field goal after getting the ball at the six, and the Cardinals kicked another field goal after the penalty on Francis. Still, the special teams can’t rely on getting bailed out all the time.

A needed win: The Cardinals did manage to put a big scare into the Redskins by driving down to the Washington 21 in the last minute. But the home team held on, averting disaster in the process. Had they lost due to a late drive engineered by Blaine Gabbert, who completed 39-percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 43, things would have become very ugly. A win is a win in the NFL so the fact that a couple of passes went just off the fingertips of receivers inside the 10 on the final drive won’t matter. They will celebrate and go into the week to prepare for the Broncos in a much better frame of mind.

MORE REDSKINS: Some unexpected players lead the Redskins to a sloppy but much-needed win

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Some unexpected players lead the Redskins to a sloppy but much-needed win

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USA TODAY Sports

Some unexpected players lead the Redskins to a sloppy but much-needed win

LANDOVER, MD—Here are my observations during the Redskins’ much-needed 20-15 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

—The Redskins’ two-week issue with slow starts was cured in a hurry. On the third play from scrimmage, Anthony Lanier busted up the middle and smacked Blaine Gabbert, knocking the ball loose. After Preston Smith recovered and returned it to the six, it was Kirk Cousins to Jamison Crowder for five yards and a touchdown. It was the start that a slumping team needed.

—The last two sacks stymied a good Cardinals drive in the red zone, making them settle for a field goal.

—The Redskins moved down the field and then they scored on one of the prettiest plays you’ll see. Faking a handoff up the middle and then a jet sweep gave a nice phalanx of blockers a chance to develop on the right side. Cousins flipped to Kapri Bibbs, who was in the clear nearly all the way to the end zone. Great play design and solid execution on that one.

—The Redskins tried to challenge what was called an incomplete pass. It looked like Preston Smith had knocked the ball out before Gabbert’s arms went forward.

—But the play stood as called and a Cardinals field goal made the score 14-6.

—At halftime, the Redskins had run 15 plays, 77 yards of offense, and 6:34 of possession time. But they held a 14-9 lead.  

—The Redskins special teams found a new gaffe to commit, letting a pooch kickoff bounce and the Cardinals recovered. A field goal cut the Washington lead to 14-12.

— It’s funny how when the running game gets going even a little bit, the passing game starts to roll. On a drive from their own five, Samaje Perine got a couple of four-yard runs that seemed to unleash an offense that had been struggling. Cousins went to Crowder, Perine, and then Crowder again for big gains to the Arizona 10. But they couldn’t punch it in and had to settle for a 24-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to make it 17-12.

—The Redskins got a little too fancy. They got a first down at the 32 and they tried an end around to Josh Doctson. Wrong guy, wrong play, whatever. He lost 14 yards and that killed the drive. After the punt the Redskins punted the ball to Arizona, giving the Cardinals a chance to take the lead with a touchdown.

—The Cardinals kicked a 54-yard field goal but yet another special teams gaffe—a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on AJ Francis for leverage—gave Arizona a first down. Fortunately, the defense held again and the Cardinals ended up with the same result, a field goal to make it 17-15.

—The Redskins couldn’t wrap it up after getting great field position after a punt at their 45. They did get a couple of first downs and Dustin Hopkins kicked a field goal to make it a five-point game. But they left Arizona with 4:30 to get a TD to take the win.

—After an exchange of punts it took just two plays for the Cardinals to get into Washington territory. But on third and five, Gabbert lost the handle on the ball and the play went for a loss of 18 yards. The Cardinals had to punt, giving the Redskins a chance to seal up the game on offense. But it went three and out, giving the Cardinals another chance.

—Fortunately, key pass break-ups by Kendall Fuller, Zach Vigil and DJ Swearinger FINALLY ended this one, with the Burgundy and Gold on the right side of things for the first time in three weeks.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.