November 20, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
When Kirk Cousins connected with tight end Jeremy Sprinkle in the end zone to give Washington a double-digit lead over the Saints with less than six minutes to play, a Redskins victory seemed all but guaranteed. That’s when things started going wrong.
After outplaying New Orleans for most of the game, in the final minutes Washington simply fell apart. Perhaps they had underestimated Drew Brees and the seven-win-streak Saints. Perhaps the defense was tired. Perhaps there was a bad call on intentional grounding. Whatever it was, the Redskins still had chances to win.
After the Saints scored a quick touchdown, they still trailed by eight. This meant they needed a stop, and another eight points. All Washington needed was a first down conversion to finish them off. Again, the odds seemed in their favor.
The Skins needed just one yard on third down, but were stopped by linebacker Manti Te’o to give Brees the ball back with under two minutes left. On the sidelines, coach Jay Gruden looked horrified.
Perhaps because he knew the momentum had shifted. The Saints moved effortlessly down the field, scoring another and then a successful two-point conversion–their first attempt of the season–to even things up.
With the game tied, there was still enough time for Washington to try and win it all with a field goal. But after a few quick plays to try and get into field goal range, their rally was stopped by an intentional grounding call on Cousins, who threw the ball to an empty spot where he thought receiver Jamison Crowder was.
“If he had turned and looked at me and the ball had been 10 feet over his head, I can just say the ball slipped out of my hand,” Cousins said. “That’s what I didn’t understand–how do you separate an inaccurate throw from no eligible in the area? I felt like an eligible was in the area, so I threw it in the area.”
The penalty stuffed the Redskins’ comeback attempt and forced overtime. After winning the coin toss and earning possession of the ball first, Washington once again had a chance to win the game.
Instead, they were unable to even get within field goal range, and handed the ball back to the Saints. Running back Mark Ingram went wild, picking up 51 yards on two carries to quickly get the Saints into field goal range. Kicker Wil Lutz capped the comeback with a game-winning field goal which extended the Saints’ win-streak to eight.
“Out of all the losses we’ve had since I’ve been here, this is by far the toughest one,” said Redskins tight end Vernon Davis. “To play so hard and not come out with a victory is brutal. It’s devastating.”
Washington’s bad day got worse with the loss of running back Chris Thompson. One of the team’s most dynamic players, he entered the game leading Washington in rushing (277 yards) and receiving (494). He was injured at the end of the third, while trying to block for Cousins. His fractured right fibula will have him out for the rest of the season.
“That hurts me more than anything, that we lost for Chris,” Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said. “I told him we’ll bring this back home for him. I didn’t keep my word. If anything bothers me, that bothers me the most. We have one of our best guys go down, and we didn’t even get the w for him. That’s tough. That’s tough.”
At 4-6, the Redskins’ season is likely over. The 9-1 Eagles are in complete control of the division, and there are several other teams with better records than Washington. While they haven’t been officially eliminated, it’s unlikely they will make it past the regular season.
While any loss is disappointing, to be so close to an important victory only to watch it fall apart, and your season potentially slip away, is nothing short of heartbreaking.