The 3-1 New Orleans Saints host the Washington Redskins this Monday night, returning home after two straight road games for their first prime time game of the season. The defending NFC South champions come into the game as winners of three straight, while the 2-1 Redskins are coming off a bye week. This is the 27th meeting between New Orleans and Washington, with the Redskins holding a 17-9 edge. That includes a 9-4 record in games that are played in New Orleans, battleground for this game. These two teams were division rivals when the Saints first entered the league in 1967, as members of the NFL's Capitol division, along with the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. They were joined again in 1969 prior to the AFL-NFL merger, after New Orleans played one year in the Century division. In the Saints second game as a franchise, they fell to Washington at home, 30-10, but exacted a measure of revenge later that year by defeating the Redskins 30-14 on the road. The Saints were led that day by one of the early stars in it's franchise history, wide receiver Danny Abramowitz, who had 7 catches for 144 yards and a score. Washington held a 3-2 record against the expansion Saints prior to the league merger and realignment in 1970. They would meet just 12 times between 1970 and 2000, with the Redskins winning nine of the match ups, including all six meetings from 1980-90. This will be the Redskins 10th visit to the Mercedes Benz Superdome, where they hold a 7-2 record against the Saints.
Drew Brees is just 2-4 against Washington since joining the Saints in 2006, including 1-2 at home, with both victories coming in overtime shootouts. On December 6, 2009, New Orleans entered FedEx field in Washington with an undefeated 11-0 record. The Redskins kept the Saints defense on their heels most of the game, finishing with 488 total yards. Quarterback Jason Campbell performed especially well, throwing for 367 yards and three scores while spreading the ball to nine different receivers. New Orleans could not establish a running game, averaging under 3 yards per carry and finishing with just 55 yards. Leaving Brees to shoulder the load of the offense, he would match Campbell strike for strike, finishing with 419 yards passing and two scores of his own. With less than 30 seconds to go in the first half and New Orleans driving for a field goal, Redskins defensive back Kareem Moore intercepted the Saints quarterback. During the return however, Moore was stripped of the ball by New Orleans wideout Robert Meachem, who returned the thievery 44 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 17 at halftime. Meachem, who had a magnificent game with 8 catches and 142 receiving yards, played hero again when he snagged a 53-yd. touchdown strike from Brees with just over a minute remaining to send the game into overtime. New Orleans would come away with a 33-30 victory, in one of the most exciting moments of their Super Bowl championship season.
The Saints and Redskins may forever be linked for a development off the field, rather than on the gridiron. Entering the 1999 draft, then-Saints coach Mike Ditka wanted desperately to move from his team's 12th overall selection into the top of the draft to draft a running back. He finally found a suitor in the Washington Redskins, and proceeded to pull off one of the biggest, and one of the most controversial, trades in NFL history. Washington traded their pick, the 5th overall, to New Orleans. In exchange, the Redskins received the Saints 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th round picks of the 1999 draft, along with the Saints 1st and 3rd round picks of the 2000 draft. New Orleans used that pick to select Ricky Williams, the Heisman Trophy winning running back from Texas. Washington would package their picks in other trades and wind up obtaining three Pro Bowl players in cornerback Champ Bailey, linebacker LaVar Arrington, and offensive lineman Jon Jansen. Ditka would be (mercifully) fired after the '99 season, and Williams would play just 3 years in New Orleans, rushing for over 1,000 yards in two of those seasons. It wasn't the first time that the Redskins fleeced New Orleans, or Ditka, in a trade. Just years earlier, during the 1997 offseason, Washington dealt quarterback Heath Shuler, the 3rd overall pick in the 1994 draft, to the Saints in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 1997 draft, and a 3rd round pick the following season. Shuler, who had lost his starting job in Washington due to consistently poor play, is considered one of the biggest draft busts of all time. He would play just one season with Ditka in New Orleans, completing just 52% of his passes while throwing only two touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
The Saints would not defeat the Redskins in the Superdome, site of this contest, until the 1992 season. Washington came into the game as defending Super Bowl champions, while New Orleans had won the NFC West the year before. The Saints dominated the Skins that day, led by their Dome Patrol defense, which sacked Super Bowl M.V.P. Mark Rypien four times in a 20-3 win. New Orleans has not had that same amount of success against Washington quarterbacks in recent years. In the six meetings against the Redskins since Sean Payton became head coach in 2006 (he was suspended for the 2012 season), the New Orleans defense has allowed Redskins quarterbacks an average of 333 yards passing and 37 points per game, while giving up 12 touchdown passes and intercepting them just once. The last time these two teams met was in the Mercedes Benz Superdome on November 19th last year, one of the most exciting games of the 2017 season. Drew Brees and Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins combined for 707 passing yards and five touchdown passes in a classic duel. Brees fired the last shots, leading his team to two touchdowns and a 2-pt. conversion in the final six minutes of the game and an overtime drive to prevail 34-31.
The Saints will face a different Redskins quarterback this time in Alex Smith, a player who has also given the New Orleans fan base nightmares over the years. (A certain divisional playoff game in the 2012 may come to mind) Smith will have plenty of help offensively. Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, along with receiver Jamison Crowder, have caused havoc in the Saints secondary before. The Redskins also added dangerous wideout Paul Richardson in the offseason, along with former (for a brief time) New Orleans running back Adrian Peterson. Washington also has a physical and deep front seven defensively that has them near the top of the league rankings.
The Saints welcome their Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram back to the lineup this week, returning from a four game suspension. New Orleans is coming off of their best defensive effort of the season, and look to match up well against a Redskins offense that attacks opponents with their backs and tight ends moreso than their outside receivers. New Orleans will be without wideout Ted Ginn, out with a knee injury, but still have two of the top offensive threats in the game with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, now rejoined by Ingram. Quarterback Drew Brees sits on the verge of one of the most prestigious records in all of sports. With just 201 passing yards, Brees will pass Peyton Manning as the NFL's all-time passing yardage leader. Brees could hold this record by halftime, and almost certainly before the end of the 3rd quarter, with the matchup advantages that New Orleans looks to have against the Washington secondary. Coach Sean Payton's Saints normally start fast in home prime time games, and has a chance to continue building momentum as an NFC contender as they begin the second quarter of their season.
Who will catch Drew Brees' record setting pass?
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