LANDOVER, Md. – Fans witnessed an amazing display Sunday afternoon when the Saints came to FedEx Field. The home team welcomed the visitors with excitement and the anticipation paid off with multiple scoring drives and prodigious yardage.
By the time the clock hit 0:00, the scoreboard read Washington 47, New Orleans 14. As the energized crowd exited with giddiness for the second consecutive home game, one conclusion made sense more than any other:
The Saints have an awful defense.
There’s a tendency to overreact in these parts when the team struggles or the quarterback throws two picks or the coach channels Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men.” One week, Kirk Cousins is the worst QB to step under center. This week he’ll rank among the greatest of all time; he literally was perfect (in terms of passer rating).
At the risk of being labeled a party-pooper, let me remind you again that New Orleans was the opponent. The Saints are like a magic elixir, good for whatever ails an offense. Washington was so-so entering Sunday but got well in a hurry, scoring on eight of its first nine possessions before punting with 3:38 left in the game.
The final statistics were mind-boggling.
Cousins led the offense to 40 points, throwing for 324 yards. He had four touchdowns, five incompletions and zero interceptions. Halfback Alfred Morris rushed for 92 yards, averaging 6.1 per pop. Halfback Matt Jones caught three passes for 131 yards, including a 78-yard screen for a touchdown. Halfback Chris Thompson rushed for 54 yards … more than the entire team rushed for in any of the last four games.
Thank God for New Orleans.
“We knew we were going to get a heavy dose of the running game,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, “and obviously we didn’t handle it well.” (By comparison, New England coach Bill Belichick knew Washington would try to force a ground attack down the Patriots’ throat, but they yielded a mere 37 yards rushing last week).
Before anyone goes overboard about the fireworks, consider the source. New Orleans lets teams can catch fire easier than match-light charcoal.
Washington netted a season-high 514 yards against the Saints. Entering Week 10, the Eagles (519), the Titans (483) and the Panthers (431) also posted season-best yardage totals when facing the Aints. Sunday marked the seventh time in 10 games that New Orleans allowed more than 410 yards of total offense.
“Teams have game plans just like we have game plans,” Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux said. “It’s all about who’s executing the most at points in the game. Teams are executing and we haven’t.”
Washington was nearly flawless in attacking the porous defense. Start a drive from the 4-yard-line to open the game? No problem. Just have Cousins go 5-for-5 for 62 yards, including a 38-yarder to DeSean Jackson and a 16-yard touchdown to Jordan Reed.
That was a precursor. Cousins led another touchdown drive and connected on another five passes before his first incompletion. The Saints couldn’t plug holes, cover receivers or make tackles. It was a wonderful afternoon to play or root for Washington.
“It’s big to see everybody get involved in the offense, and that’s the goal,” coach Jay Gruden said. “That’s the intent every week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that but today, it was a good day for our offense.”
A lot of coaches have said that after playing New Orleans. Tennessee hadn’t eclipsed 300 yards of offense or scored more than 13 points in four consecutive games before meeting the Saints in Week 9. The Titans amassed 483 yards and posted 38 points in snapping their six-game losing streak.
On Sunday, Tennessee played Carolina – which happens to be Washington’s next opponent. The Titans managed just 10 points and 242 total yards against the Panthers.
If Washington turns in a similar game-after-the-Saints performance next week, everything on Sunday will have been for naught.
“We’ve had a bad habit around here of not being able to follow-up a victory with another victory,” Gruden said. “So it’s very important for us to get our frame of mind set today. This is what we can do – we are capable of doing this.”
Yes, they have what it takes to hang huge numbers on New Orleans. And considering how Washington can play down to its opponent and blow games against beatable teams, nothing should be taken for granted.
But if they really want to make an impression, the opportunity exists against the undefeated Panthers next week. Let’s see how the offense performs at Carolina before anyone gets too carried about.
As much as Washington (and other teams) might wish for it, they don’t have New Orleans to push around anymore.