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Barry Hirstius

With Their Backs Against the Wall, Saints Showed the Heart of a Champion

15 points behind, with only 3 minutes left on the game clock. Raise your hand if you were one of the hundreds of thousands "Who Dats" watching from all across the country today, that felt the New Orleans Saints were about to have their 7-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the visiting Washington Redskins.

And don't lie, either.

In one of the most improbable comebacks in the team's entire 51-year history, New Orleans came roaring back with their backs against the wall and their 3rd loss seemingly imminent, to defeat their long-time NFC nemesis Washington by a score of 34-31 in overtime.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

It was the first time in Saints history that they had ever come back from a 14-point deficit in the 4th quarter of a game regular season or otherwise, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Saints found themselves in that predicament to begin with due to a combination of injuries to 4 key defensive starters from both before and during the game; and a slew of breakdowns in pass coverage and run defense eerily similar to their poor defensive performances that led to 3 consecutive losing (7-9) seasons of the past 3 years.

Coming into the contest, starting free safety Kenny Vaccaro and linebacker A.J. Klein were both inactive; and then during the game itself starting #1 rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore left in the 1st quarter with an ankle injury, while defensive end Alex Okafor left late in the 4th quarter with an unspecified leg injury.

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Then to make things worse: their replacements (CB DeVante Harris and LB Michael Mauti) struggled badly in their absence, specifically when they gave up two wide-open TD passes in the 2nd half; and then made even worse after the Saints special teams were fooled on a early 4th quarter fake punt call by the Redskins from their own 15-yard line that led to what at the time seemed to be the game-clinching 94-yard TD drive for Washington.

But just when all hope appeared to be lost, the Saints defense suddenly came to life and managed to come up with three stops after the Redskins had forced them to punt with just under 5 minutes remaining.

That allowed Saints QB Drew Brees the opportunity to finally get the Saints offense rolling once again, and once they did it, the Saints offense became more like a runaway train.

Brees completed 11-of-11 passes for 164 yards and 2 TD's on the Saints’ final two TD drives at the end of regulation; and was backed up by the Saints’ spectacular running game led by RB's Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Kamara was the catalyst on the game-tying drive in regulation with a bobbling 18-yard catch-and-run TD along with the ensuing 2-point conversion; and then Ingram literally TOOK OVER the game in overtime — almost single-handedly putting away the Redskins all by himself with runs of 20 and 31 yards to set up the game-winning field 28-yard field goal by kicker Wil Lutz.

As a result, the Saints now suddenly find themselves at (8-2) and 1 game ahead of the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South Division, with 6 games still left to play in the 2017 regular season.

The Saints next will make a trip to Los Angeles to face the (7-3) Rams next Sunday, in a game that potentially will be their stiffest challenge to date; despite L.A.'s loss earlier today at Minnesota to the Vikings that did in fact see the Ram get their 4-game winning streak get snapped.

But before consuming their Thanksgiving turkey this week and then heading out to "Hollywood" on a quest for a 9th straight victory, the Saints first can take the time at some point either in the next few hours or days and reflect back on what they have accomplished up to this point.

The Saints aren't only just on an 8-game winning streak here, ladies and gentlemen.

They're on to becoming something TRULY SPECIAL.

The resiliency that was demonstrated in the final 3 minutes of regulation was the mark of a team that is destined for bigger and better things.

To have success is one thing; but to have it when the odds appear to be completely overwhelming against you and yet to still manage to find a way and a will to win, says quite a lot.

It says that in a season that continues to get better and better and even sees the team win games when they shouldn't, that this 2017 Saints team is going to be different than the ones that we've seen in the past few years.

"That's what championship teams do", Ingram told FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews after the game.

"When you don't play good, you find ways to still win — and that's what we did today".

Photo courtesy of Michael C . Hebert

And Ingram, who won back-to-back BCS National Championships with the University of Alabama in 2009 and 2010; should know better than anyone.

Today, Ingram and his Saints teammates showed the heart of champion.

And if they continue to show the resiliency that they did today while winning a game that they should have had absolutely no business doing so, then it's a heart of a champion that could be beating loud enough for the entire NFL to be able to hear, come early February..........


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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