It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for the Saints as the season progresses, evident by their latest 33-30 over time win against a very game Washington Redskins team.
Apparently the absence of Saints corner backs Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Randall Gay was almost too much for the Saints defense to overcome as Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell victimized the Saints secondary to the tune of 367 yards and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the Saints, to say the least, coming into the game Campbell was averaging less than 230 yards a contest and the Redskin offense as a whole had not been able to muster much output.
However since play calling duties were stripped from head coach Jim Zorn and given to “Offensive Consultant” Sherman Smith the unit has improved dramatically.
The story of the game on the other hand was not Campbell’s performance but the series of events that lead to the Saints forcing overtime and eventually getting the win on a Hartley field goal.
Through the first half of the game the Saints offense was stifled by a tough Redskins defense that was able to keep Drew Breesoff balance while eliminating running backs Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell on the ground.
It seemed like the Saints would enter half time down by by seven when they were facing a third and twenty-six on their own 44 yard line, Brees eluded a certain sack that sent him back pedaling past the 50 yard line and in desperation he heaved the ball down field for tight end Jeremy Shockey.
Shockey wasn’t in the best position to make the catch when Redskins safety Kareem Moore came over the top and made a diving interception on the pass.
Moore began to run the ball back down the field but hit traffic, mainly Saints receiver Robert Meachem, who ripped the ball out of Moore’s possession and advanced it 44 yards for the touchdown.
The play was reviwed by the booth automatically because it was questioned that Moore was contacted by Shockey and was down by contact.
After a long deliberation the ruling on the field was upheld giving the Saints and Meachem credit for the touchdown and tying the score at 17 all going into the half.
The second half opened up much like the first did as the Redskins defense limited the Saints to only a field goal through the third quarter while quarterback Jason Campbell continued to play pitch and catch throwing his third touchdown pass coupled with a Redskins field goal.
Going into the fourth quarter the Saints again found themselves down by a score at 27-20 but it was at this point that it started to get interesting.
The Saints, in usual fashion, bounced back in a big way in the fourth outscoring the Skins 10-3 which included the game tying touchdown thrown by Brees to Meachem.
New Orleans drove all the way down the field after the Redskins field goal to the ten yard line but failed to get the touchdown and instead settled for the field goal to make the score 30-23.
Washington took over at 6:52 on their own 41 yard line after a big 39 yard kickoff return from Redskin Mike Sellers and began to drive down the field in an effort to increase the lead and ice the game.
Washington made it all the way down to the Saints four yard line but where held out of the end zone by the defense, kicker Shane Suisham lined up for a chip shot 23 yard field goal that he missed wide right.
Suisham’s missed field goal kept the Washington lead at one possession and returned the ball to Drew Brees and the Saints offense with 1:52 remaining in the game.
Brees needed just five plays and thirty-three seconds to toss the tying touchdown score when he found Meachem over the middle for a 53 yard touchdown pass.
Washington would again get the ball back with 1:13 remaining on their own twenty-five yard line and attempt once again to put themselves into scoring position.
Aided by a few short throws and a fifteen yard face mask penalty on Saints safety Pierson Prioleau the Redskins were able to advance the ball the New Orleans forty-five yard line, whoopity doo, but on the following down linebacker Jonathan Vilma intercepted a Campbell pass intended for tight end Fred Davis.
Suddenly the Saints had a shot at winning the game in regulation after taking over possession on their own forty-six yard line with :28 seconds remaining.
Brees would try feverishly to get the ball into field goal range but only manged to get the ball to the Washington forty yard line, with time expiring Saints kicker Garrett Hartley lined up for what would have been a career long 58 yard field goal but came up just short of the posts.
Washington won the toss and elected to receive the ball first in the over time period and took over possession on the Saints twenty yard line. Campbell manged to move his team sixteen yards up field before the next big play happened that would would swing the momentum back in the Saints favor.
Campbell passed short right for full back Mike Sellers, after the catch Sellers was tackled hard by Saints corner back Chris McAlister that forced what appeared to be a fumble recovered by McAlister himself.
The play was reviewed as the call on the field was that Sellers was down before the ball came out. Another lengthy review ensued and once again it was reversed and ruled a fumble and recovery by McAlister and the Saints were awarded possession of the ball.
For the second time in the game the Saints were given an opportunity to close it out, you cant write this stuff folks.
A mixture of the run and pass propelled New Orleans all the way down the Washington one yard line and for a brief second it appeared that running back Mike Bell found the end zone over the top but was called down by contact on the one yard line.
Saints kicker Garrett Hartley took the field to attempt the game winning eighteen yard field goal. Hartley lined it up and drilled straight through but in usual fashion a time out was called in a effort to ice Hartley, a few minutes later the kick was re-attempted and once again Hartley drilled it through the uprights to seal the Saints victory at 33-30.
The win marks the first over time victory for the Saints this season and the second time the team has come back from a ten point deficit in fourth quarter to win a game. Also the win secured the second NFC South Championship for the Saints in four years coupled with rival Atlanta’s loss at the hands of the Eagles, either way they would have clinched the division.
You have to consider quarterback Drew Brees who threw for 417 yards and two touchdowns here, however the real momentum changers came from plays involving young wide receiver Robert Meachem. Meachem was responsible for 14 of the Saints 33 points that both came from dazzling plays. The first was the strip recovery for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the second quarter followed by the game tying 53 yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter as Meachem ended his day with eight catches for 143 yards and one touchdown.
If you would like a complete breakdown of the Saints @ Redskins game follow this link to view the game center on NFL.com or for an entore break down of the stat line this link to view the gamebook.
The Saints will travel to Atlanta to take on the struggling Falcons (6-6) and having successfully clinch the NFC South are now playing for the elusive perfect season, a first round bye and home field advantage through the play-offs.
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