Not the start the Saints were looking for. What had been touted to be a relatively easy win against a rookie QB, even with a transitioning defense and absent head coach, turned out to be too much for New Orleans to handle in the end. Of course, given that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III lived up to the hype the Redskins had built around him, even a Saints team firing on all cylinders would not have had the easy W they were looking forward to. As it were, the team couldn’t get the W at all.
The 40-32 losing score to the Redskins at home doesn’t even do justice to the letdown felt across New Orleans after Sunday’s match. You don’t just waltz into the Superdome and push the Saints around like that, but apparently no one told that to Griffin III. Admittedly, Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his Saints may not have given RGIII enough respect going into Week 1, but the Saints are not a team to take such an upset lightly and will have a response fully prepared by Week 2… does not bode well for the Carolina Panthers. However, as regretful as it is, here is a recap of the highlights/lowlights of the Saints’ recent clash with the Redskins.
The gritty recap
Brees and his Saints had a hard time connecting from the start, electing to receive at kickoff but then handing the ball over to the Redskins just 30 seconds later without a single completion. The Skins used the opportunity to push themselves down the field within range of a 37 yard field goal, taking the shot and putting up the first points of the game. Beginning to more closely resemble the team from seasons past, NOLA got their feet under them for a quick three minute drive for a deep middle touchdown to tight end Jimmy Graham, plus the extra point. The Saints’ quick response to Washington’s field goal put them 7-3 over the Redskins for the only lead they would hold all game, and a lead they had for a mere 21 seconds. Griffin III threw an 88 yard touchdown pass just seconds after taking the field, closing out the first quarter 10-7 in favor of the away team.
The first drive of the second quarter pushed the Redskins further ahead to 17-7 and the Saints were unsuccessful in their following possession, giving up a punt by the fourth down. Washington chose to capitalize on its momentum the very next chance they got, successfully nailing a 41 yard field goal before giving the Saints another shot to fight back. The Saints were still out of sync, however, and made it almost to the Washington 20 before a turnover in the form of a fumble cut their drive short. Forcing the Skins to resort to a punt on the next possession played out in favor of the Saints as the punt was not only blocked, not only recovered, but run a mere 4 yards for a Saints touchdown. Ending the half with a 20-14 score in favor of the Skins, the home team was still in the game.
Unhappy with their last couple of plays in the first half, the Redskins returned to the field hungry for more points, which they put up on the board in their first drive, following just minutes later with field goal after yet another unsuccessful possession by the Saints. The Redskins defense were not making passes easy for Brees, making his first six attempts of the half fruitless. Not to be held down for long, Brees and his team persevered, earning themselves a touchdown late in the third quarter, the last points of the quarter, totaling 30-17. Griffin III led his team into field goal range yet again to start off the last quarter, but the Saints fought back hard for a touchdown pass completion to wide receiver Lance Moore a couple of possessions later, following up with a successful two point conversion complements of running back Darren Sproles. The defense stepped up its game against the Saints, forcing a quick turnaround the very next possession, but what followed was one of the heartbreakers of the game, if not the heartbreaker. With the score standing at 33-25, the game was still well within the Saints’ reach until Brees’ next throw resulted in an interception that ran the ball all the way back to the Saints 3 yard line. The very next play gave the Redskins a 40-25 lead. Never quitters, the Saints came back for another touchdown, but it was too little too late, leaving the Saints with a disappointing 40-32 loss.
Brees’ version of a bad day… not so bad
Brees had a disappointing showing on Sunday – there is no doubt – but perhaps he has spoiled Saints fans, when you look at the fact that his statistics on Sunday still match or surpass that of many other teams’ quarterbacks. While his completion percentage for the game was a shocking 42.6, marking his worst percentage since 2006, Brees still managed to complete a solid 24 passes. That’s more passes than all but two other quarterbacks managed in Week 1. Finishing the match with 339 passing yards, Brees was only surpassed in yardage by the quarterbacks noted before: Matthew Stafford (Detroit) and Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay). Those yards also happened to include three touchdown passes, a statistic matched only by quarterback Mark Sanchez (New York Jets) on Sunday. Pretty impressive for one of Drew Brees’ “off” days.
There are several notable statistics that do not belong in this category… namely the 3 turnovers, 18% 3rd down conversion, 2 interceptions and 12 penalties; however, there is a bigger picture in play. After this first game of the regular season the Saints have a 0-1 record. Why state the obvious? Because so many times we forget it’s the exact same record of half the teams in the entire NFL. Starting the regular season with a loss has also proven to be the very motivation needed to carry the last three Super Bowl champions through to the very end, including last season’s champions, the New York Giants, who opened their 2011 season with a 28-14 to who else but the Washington Redskins. Everyone prefers to start with a bang, but if not, let’s just be sure we end with one!
As stated in this week’s preview, the Saints don’t make excuses for their performance. In a press conference following the game, Drew Brees echoed this sentiment when questioned if the off-field distractions had significant effects on the on-field results: “Not at all. It’s the NFL. You better bring it every week,” Brees said. “We knew the type of team they were. We knew the type of defense they were. They just came in and played better than we did, made fewer mistakes than we did, made more plays than we did.” He continued, “We lost the first game of year last year and finished 13-3, so there’s no doubt that we can do it and we have the mentality and the guys to do it.”
While the Saints lost their footing some in their opener for the regular season, they will use this week to regroup, refocus and reevaluate in preparation for their next match-up. The statistics were not always in favor of the Saints this week, but one still rings true… The Saints don’t need to win the first game of the season played in the Superdome to win the last. We march on!
About the Author
Written by Heather Ireland
Having worked in Div. I operations for both football and men's basketball, my love of sports is not isolated to that of NCAA competition. An avid sports fan and competitor, I follow the NFL and NCAA basketball closely, and embrace the opportunity to combine my loves of sports and writing into one.