The Redskins lost a heartbreaker in the most agonizing way possible on Sunday in New Orleans, 34-31 in overtime.
The carnage, the bitterness, the disappointment and disastrous nature of a loss like this will sit with the Redskins for the rest of this year and might cost jobs, in addition to a playoff spot.
Let’s look at where it all went wrong.
The Redskins took a 15-point lead with 5:58 left on Jeremy Sprinkle’s first career touchdown catch. That was the last positive moment for Washington on the day. The Saints went right thru the Redskins defense for a touchdown to score and get within eight points with 2:53 left and it was on.
The Redskins took over the ball after the Saints eight-play, 75-yard scoring strike with with 2:53 on the clock and the Saints having two timeouts and the 2:00 warning.
Washington ran three running plays, getting six, three and then losing a yard on a 3
-and-1 play when Brandon Scherff and Niles Paul were met at the point of attack. The Redskins wasted their second timeout in the same sequence as the Saints using their final timeout because apparently Washington initially lined up wrong out of the Saints timeout and Jay Gruden felt he needed to get that right before an important 3rd-and-1 play that could have esentially ended the game.
The Skins were then stuffed and had to punt the ball to the Saints. That burned timeout would come back to somewhat haunt the Redskins a bit.
Washington punted to the New Orleans -13 and the Saints took over at that spot. The Redskins thought they won the game on a game sealing interception by Kendall Fuller but moments before the pick, Fuller committed an illegal use of hands penalty that negated the turnover.
The Saints then ripped off plays of 17 , 18, 29 and then 18 yards on a touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara, which he bobbled and re-gained possession of before marching into the end zone.
Kamara then converted on a two-point conversion to tie it up on a wide pitch shovel toss to the far corner/pylon and the game was tied at 31-31.
Washington then took over and connected three times to Jamison Crowder for 12, 10 and 19 yards with the Redskins being forced to take their final timeout with 0:39 left in between passing plays to Crowder.
Then the Redskins with a first down at the New Orleans 34 had a major miscommunication on an “intentional grounding” as the Redskins checked out of a run play, tried to throw a quick pass to the outside but Crowder apparently did not get the signal in time. Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins thought they should have not been called because a receiver was in the area.
The officials thought they didn’t have anybody in the area and I understood that element at the time. The problem was this: It was a loss of down, a loss of ten yards and a ten-second runoff with the clock then running upon the play being ready. So four negatives went against the Redskins on the same play before a final disaster, a blindside sack and fumble by a Saints safety, Von Bell.
NFL reportedly admitted to Redskins President Bruce Allen that they erred in judgement
on the intentional grounding call and application, per Mike Jones of USA TODAY. Here's a novel concept: How come the officiating crew when getting together on the field to sort out the penalty, discuss the practical application of the rule and realize that while Washington may not have had a receiver directly in the area - common sense would tell you that it was a mis-communication error as opposed to anything else. There was no pressure on Cousins, he threw the pass extremely quickly and there's no logical reason for it other than mis-communication, for the play to unfold the way it did. This is where the offiicials screwed up in my opinion.
It’s possible the Redskins would not have been able to do anything, but the ten-second runoff could have been prevented and stopped if Washington had any timeouts left
(Rule 4, Section 7, Article 1 of NFL Rulebook),
which they did not because of the timeout usage above and also a somewhat strange challenge before the Saints first of two touchdowns late in the game.
Rule 4 - Section 7. - Article 1 which is defined as "Illegal Acts" states: After 2:00 warning, illegal act “B” which is defined as intentional grounding states– “a team is not permitted to conserve time after the two-minute warning of either half by committing any of these acts.”
“When actions referred to above are committed by the offensive team while team is in, officials will run off 10 seconds from the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal unless another rule prescribes otherwise. The game clock will start on the ready-for-play signal. If the offensive team has timeouts remaining, it will have the option of using a timeout in lieu of a 10-second runoff, in which case the game clock will start on the snap after the timeout.”
In other words, the intentional grounding play started at 0:31, took three seconds to play and then the Redskins were docked a ten second run-off from :28 to :18 before the clock was wound for play and Washington got their final play off at the :09 mark.
By not having a timeout, the Redskins lost :19 of game clock time along with the down and yardage. They could have had :28 left at the New Orleans-44 instead of the scenario that played out, which gave them no chance. (Much thanks to my pal Bernie in Rockville for pointing this out and doing some research to help).
In overtime, the Redskins should have connected on first-down with their only possession for a first down to Vernon Davis but he dropped it. The next two plays were messy too, including a sack in which Brandon Scherff was beat by Cam Jordan and a incomplete off the hands of Samaje Perine.
Then the Saints returned a 60-yard punt 14 yards to the Saints-39 and then went for 20 & 31-yard runs by Mark Ingram, leading to a 28-yard game winning field goal.
Special teams were a disaster for the Redskins. As usual, they hurt more than they helped. Ben Kotwica (pictured above) is a fine coach, but mistakes are made by players that coaches only have so much control over. The 14-yard return set up the game-winning field goal. Earlier, in the second half, the Saints had a 27-yard punt return which led to a field goal.
Josh Holsey had a false start on a punt coverage and also stepped on the goal line when trying to down the ball inside the 1. Instead, the Saints got the ball at the 20 and drove down the field before connecting on a field goal to end the half.
Right before that punt, Stacy McGee had a false start on a field goal attempt of 50 yards by the Redskins, who then decided to punt, instead of trying a 55-yard attempt.
McGee’s penalty took a possible three points off the board couple with Holsey’ first of two mistakes, leading to three points for the Saints and coupled with two other mistakes which helped the Saints score six other points means the Redskins special teams contributed to nine points scored for the Saints and three potential points lost for Washington.
Yes, the Redskins special teams also came up with a huge play on a fake punt conversion by Niles Paul from deep inside Washington territory, but it wasn't enough to overcome all the bad.
Many other mistakes were made for the Redskins including Preston Smith extending a drive with a personal foul penalty for a late hit on Drew Brees after a third-down incompletion. Instead of the Redskins getting the ball back, two plays later the Saints scored a touchdown.
If you combine this killer mistake by Smith and the Kendall Fuller penalty which wiped out a game-sealing interception and ultimately led to eight Saints points, you come away with 15 points scored on drives that should have never extended or happened.
Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com). Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN