The New Orleans Saints are 8-2 after a wild finish at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It appeared that the team was about to see its 7-game winning streak and 4-game home win streak snapped with the visiting Washington Redskins, and so did most everyone else. Once tight end Jeremy Sprinkle found the end zone after being wide open, fans flooded the exits with the score being 31-16 with just under six minutes to play.
The Redskins dominated for the most part, taking advantage of a Saints defense that was pretty aggressive and down some major players. Things didn’t start off on the right foot for the Saints, and they never seemed to recover. Apparently, the Redskins had a 98.9 percent chance to win with a stranglehold on the score.
The Saints had time, but needed a lot to happen.
And it did. If you would have told me that Drew Brees would have caught fire land Coby Fleener would have been an instrumental driving force for the Saints to move the ball down the field, then you might have been laughed at. Fleener didn’t log his first catch until the 5:58 mark of the 4th Quarter, and finished with 5 catches for 91 yards on 5 targets. It took New Orleans 3:05 to march 85 yards in 8 plays to get an important score to cut the lead to 31-23 with 2:53 remaining.
So then it was up to the Saints defense, who had struggled tremendously all day. A first down run by Samaje Perine, who gashed the defense for 117 yards and a score on 23 carries, gained six yards to open the drive. Naturally, he did his part. On second down, Perine caught another three yards to set up a 3rd & 1 for the Redskins. At that point, you could have said it was over. Manti Te’o shot through a gap and ended up stopping Perine for a one-yard loss right before the 2-minute warning.
There was a chance.
Brees and company took over, and in a ‘what you would have expected to happen-like fashion’ was immediately picked off, but a flag wiped it out and gave the Saints life. Brees then threw passes of 17 (Michael Thomas), 18 (Ted Ginn Jr.), and 29 (Coby Fleener) before Alvin Kamara made an incredible juggle and catch to take it in for an 18-yard score.
Could this actually get tied?
Josh Hill needs a ton of credit for his blocking on the 2-point conversion, because it was beyond textbook and allowed Kamara to tie the game at 31 with time remaining for the Redskins. The Superdome was louder than it was when it was at full capacity. Kirk Cousins immediately went to work, and had the Redskins in business near midfield in just two plays. After connecting with Jamison Crowder, Washington was in field goal range at the New Orleans 34-yard line.
Whether you say it was a gift or divine intervention, Cousins took an intentional grounding call the very next play to back up Washington to the Saints’ 44. On the very next play, Vonn Bell came on a blitz untouched to hit Cousins and force a fumble to end regulation. That play alone deserves a game ball.
Entering overtime, Washington won the toss. Deep down, some might have known how this was going to play out. The Saints did all this work to come back and tie only to lose in overtime.
But Dennis Allen’s defense forced a 3-and-out, and gave the ball back to a red-hot Saints offense. Mark Ingram, who had been effective all day but very quiet in the carries department, rattled off two runs of 20 and 31 yards to set up the game-winning Wil Lutz 28-yard field goal.
In recent memory, especially Saints history, I can’t recall a game like that. Sure, there have been some nice surprises, but nothing offhand that showed how resilient this team is to pick up their 8th straight victory. Needless to say, special isn’t probably the word I’d use to describe this team. This type of victory builds character like no other, and as Ingram said during post game, “That’s what championship teams do.”
You had to see it to believe it.
Oh by the way, the Saints became the first team in the Super Bowl era to win eight straight games immediately following an 0-2 start.