Saints rally late, beat Redskins in OT
NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints trailed the Washington Redskins by 15 points with 5:58 left in regulation Sunday, but in what is fast unfolding as a season of magic, Drew Brees, an opportunistic defense and a bruising running attack are turning the clock back to their Super Bowl season of 2009.
Wil Lutz kicked a 28-yard field in overtime, climaxing a furious fourth-quarter rally to lift the Saints (8-2) to their eighth consecutive victory, 34-31, over the Redskins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“We’re just finding different ways to win,” said Brees, who finished 29-of-41 for 385 yards. “We haven’t encountered a game like this in a while. These are wins you can just build on and develop confidence.
“The games only get tougher and magnify in importance. But we just realize we can win anywhere, anytime, no matter the circumstance.”
When the Saints needed him most, Brees was simply perfect, completing 11-of-11 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He engineered impressive drives of 75 and 83 yards on the final two possessions of regulation to send the game to overtime.
Brees’ 3-yard toss to tight end Josh Hill made it 31-23 with 2:53 left, and his 18-yard pass to running back Alvin Kamara, which the rookie bobbled before finally clutching it to his chest, drew the Saints within 31-29 with 65 seconds left.
Kamara then took a pitch around left end for the game-tying 2-point conversion.
Kirk Cousins completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle with 5:58 left in regulation to give the Redskins a 31-16 lead. But even with the score tied at 31, Cousins had a chance to win the game in regulation.
In the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Redskins moved the ball to a first down at the New Orleans 34 — within range of a potential game-winning field goal — but Cousins was flagged for intentional grounding on first down, moving the Redskins out of field-goal range.
“We had 25 seconds left and first down and we were in position where it was the 35 (yard line),” Washington head coach Jay Gruden said. “It wasn’t quite close enough for a field goal, so I was trying to get (wide receiver Jamison Crowder’s) attention and hand-signal a bubble screen out there and get out of bounds and get another play called. Unfortunately, Jamison didn’t get it and (Cousins) just threw it away. I don’t know why it was a penalty, but it was.”
The 10-yard penalty and 10-second runoff killed the drive.
Cousins, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns, got the ball first in overtime. Tight end Vernon Davis dropped a first-down pass — “Vernon will catch that ball 99 times out of 100,” Gruden said — and defensive end Cam Jordan sacked Cousins for a 10-yard loss on second down, essentially forcing a punt.
The Saints got the ball at their 39, and this time all Brees had to do was hand off. Mark Ingram II, behind a lead block from fullback Zach Line, ripped off a 20-yard gain off left tackle and followed that up with a 31-yard burst around left end to the Washington 10.
Wasting no time, head coach Sean Payton sent in Lutz to kick the 28-yard game-winner. Payton said the Saints’ execution under pressure in the final six minutes reminded him of some of the victories in New Orleans’ Super Bowl winning season.
In winning their previous seven games, the Saints had won by an average of nearly 20 points. This was different.
“It’s unusual for any team to go as long as we have gone — with the scoring differential that didn’t put us either defending or (moving the ball) in a two-minute mode,” Payton said. “We were talking about it on Friday, and, sure enough, it came up. Enough guys did enough good things, and I was proud of how they hung in there.”
Cousins showed plenty of toughness after he was hit hard on a third-down scramble by safety Vonn Bell midway through the third quarter. He went on to cap a 94-yard drive with a 40-yard pass to Ryan Grant, added a 7-yard scoring pass to Sprinkle and a 16-yard touchdown throw to running back Chris Thompson.
In the first half, the Redskins defense put more pressure on Brees than he had faced all year, hitting him eight times and forcing him into several check-down throws. But, in the end, Brees was special.
“I’d say that with a game like this, we’re going to grow and become stronger from,” Brees said.
NOTES: The Saints lost rookie CB Marshon Lattimore in the first quarter with a left ankle injury after he broke up a pass in the end zone. ... The Redskins suffered a season-ending injury to RB Chris Thompson (broken lower right leg), and they also lost S Montae Nicholson (concussion protocol) and LG Shawn Lauvao (stinger). ... Saints RBs Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara combined for 272 yards from scrimmage. Ingram rushed for 134 yards on 11 carries and caught three passes for 21 yards. Kamara gained 42 yards on eight carries and had 75 yards receiving on six catches.