The New Orleans Saints won their eighth consecutive game on Sunday, with a 34-31 overtime thriller against the visiting Washington Redskins. The Saints certainly didn't have an easy time of things. A defense that has risen to the league's top 10 in many categories at times looked like it's 2014-16 version while giving up 456 total yards and 31 points. Injuries to cornerback Marshon Lattimore and defensive end Alex Okafor, added onto the injury absences of A.J. Klein and Kenny Vaccaro, making this defense a mere shell of what it has been over the last two months. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins once again looked like his Saints counterpart, Drew Brees, while picking apart New Orleans coverage and moving the ball at will. Washington held a 15 point lead with five minutes remaining, in a game that they had controlled throughout.
Yet the Saints persevered, put together a historic comeback, and made another statement throughout the NFL that this team should be considered a true contender.
Here are our game balls from one of the most exciting finishes of the 2017 NFL season.
Game Ball #1 — Drew Brees
Brees was under seige all afternoon, only sacked twice but often heavily pressured. Washington played primarily a cover 2 defensive scheme, and aggressively attacked the Saints short outside routes and screen passes. This opened the middle of the field for the New Orleans passing game, to which Brees responded by completing 17-20 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown down the middle, a major part of his overall stat line that finished 29-41 for a season high 385 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception.
Brees jogged onto the field with 5:58 to go, and his team trailing by a 31-16 score. All he did in the next two drives was go 11-11, for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. The 38-yr old is undoubtedly one of the the best to ever play quarterback, but also showed that he is still one of the best playing today.
Game Ball #2 — Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara
The two star running backs held a joint postgame press conference for the second straight week, and each continue to deserve game ball accolades. Kamara had 116 yards from scrimmage on 14 touches, 42 rushing and 74 receiving, along with a late touchdown reception and game-tying 2-pt conversion to set the Saints up for their overtime win.
Kamara didn't just display his ability in the clutch, but showed toughness throughout this contest. The Washington defense, particularly defensive back Bashaud Breeland, laid some vicious hits on the 5'10 215-lb rookie, but Kamara showed the same elusiveness at the end of the game that he has throughout the season, showing zero hesitation while making plays in heavy traffic.
Ingram had an explosive game, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries, an average of a whopping 12.2 yards per carry. He continues to be decisive in his cuts, and shows speed on the second level of the defense. His 2 carries for 51 yards on the Saints overtime possession put them in position for Wil Lutz' 28 yard game winning field goal, putting the finishing touches on the most resounding comeback in New Orleans history.
Game Ball #3 — Manti T'eo
The Saints run defense was gashed on Sunday, by none other than....Samaje Perine. The linebackers were vulnerable in pass coverage all afternoon, showing that this again will be a big offseason need. This game ball is awarded based off one play, but it was one of the Saints biggest defensive plays of the 2017 season thus far. Washington faced a 3rd and 1 with a little over two minutes to go. New Orleans had just scored a touchdown to narrow the deficit to 31-23, but the Saints were out of timeouts, and a Redskins first down would have ended the game. Washington attempted a running play off their right side to Perine, who rushed for 117 yards on the day. Te'o read the play, and shot the gap between linemen to stop Perine in his tracks (with an assist from safety Vonn Bell), allowing New Orleans to get the ball back with an opportunity to tie the game.
Game Ball #4 — The New Orleans Saints
Raise your hand if you really thought that the Saints were going to win this game with five minutes left in the 4th quarter. Yeah, me either. They were outplayed for the better part of this game, but did not win because of their superior talent or game planning. The Saints had their backs to the wall in a next to impossible situation, and responded with the heart and resilience of a champion. The way the team played over the last five minutes and overtime was a thing of beauty, and the largest comeback in team history. It was the type of signature moment that championship teams point back to as a momentum boost towards an ultimate goal.
Don't annoint this group just yet though, there is still plenty of season to go, with plenty of roadblocks yet to face. Chief among them is how to overcome the loss of defensive end Alex Okafor, who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles suffered on Sunday, along with the severity of the injuries to defensive stars Lattimore, Vaccaro, and Klein, and a number of quality opponents yet to be faced. On this day, however, your Saints showed the mettle and character of champions.
Who had your top performance in the Saints comeback over Washington?
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