The Redskins defense got off to a rocky start against the Saints on Sunday. For a while it looked like both teams would hang up scores in the 40’s.
New Orleans scored its first touchdown the first time it had the ball following a 70-yard run by Mark Ingram. Two possessions later the Saints scored again on a 60-yard bomb from Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks. After three possessions the game was tied at 14 and the Saints had 160 yards of offense with 67 yards passing and 93 on the ground. It looked like one of those shootouts was brewing, where the last team with the ball wins.
But the Redskins defense put on the clamps after that. For the last 39 minutes of the game, Brees passed for just 134 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Ingram was injured in the first half and played sparingly the rest of the way. C.J. Spiller, Tim Hightower, and Ingram rushed for 65 yards in the last 39 minutes.
“It’s a matter of them stepping up,” said Jay Gruden of the defensive turnaround. “Like I said, the pass rush was solid enough where it made Drew a little bit uncomfortable, then guys made some plays. We were fortunate with a couple. I think they dropped one on third down and they dropped another we got for the pick. It’s good to see our guys flying around the ball making some big plays.”
The turnaround came from making some solid tackles, tightening up the defense around the Saints receivers, particularly Cooks, and the big plays that Gruden noted.
There was one play that stood out. After trailing 27-14 at halftime, the Saints took the second-half kickoff and they were threating to make it a one-score game. They moved steadily down to the Washington 31. Hightower gained nothing on third down. Sean Payton decided to go for it on fourth and one. Spiller went up the middle and was stuffed. Chris Baker and Kedric Golston got credit for the stop but it really the entire defensive front.
“I think that was a huge play,” said Gruden. “A lot of momentum swing there.”
The Redskins took the ball, drove for a field goal to go up 30-14 and the rout was on.
Early in the fourth quarter, Brees threw a pass for Marques Colston. It bounced off of the receiver’s hands and into those of safety Dashon Goldson. He had a clear field in front of him and he easily rolled in for a touchdown to put the Redskins up 44-14.
Perry Riley got the final interception and he did it in style. Brees went deep down the left sideline for tight end Ben Watson. Riley was with Watson step for step and gained inside position on him. Watson could see that the play was not going to end well so he tugged on the back of Riley’s jersey, drawing a flag. No matter, Riley made a juggling interception as he went to the ground. For a player who has come under considerable fire for his coverage skills, it was a good moment.