Heart. Courage. Guts. Determination. A "never-say-quit" attitude. Those were just a few of the adjectives used yesterday to describe the New Orleans Saints stunning come-back victory over the Washington Redskins in overtime.
If this is turning into a "dream season" for New Orleans in 2017, then Saints fans won't wont to be woken up until after the month of February of 2018.
The Saints were completely outplayed by the Redskins for the majority of the game, but amazingly managed to rally and win by a score of 34-31 in overtime on Sunday in the most heart-stopping and jaw-dropping fashion possible.
The Saints (8-2) trailed by 15 points with less than 3 minutes remaining, but yet still somehow managed to come back to win their 8th consecutive win.
It was the largest 4th-quarter comeback in the Saints' entire 51-year franchise history.
Additionally, the Saints are now the first team in the "Super Bowl era" to win 8 straight games after starting 0-2.
New Orleans will now travel to Hollywood to face the (7-3) Los Angeles Rams next week for a key conference game that could determine Playoff positioning when the two division leaders square off at the legendary L.A. Coliseum.
With that, let's first have a look back at the Saints News Network's 5 biggest "winners and losers" from yesterday's heart-stopping 34-31 comeback win in overtime for the NFC South division-leading New Orleans Saints over the Washington Redskins.......
THE BIGGEST LOSERS
5. THE SAINTS RUN DEFENSE (AGAIN)
It goes without saying that the Saints defense did not distinguish itself in this contest, as the Redskins gained 456 yards -- their second most this season -- against a defense that hadn't allowed more than 347 yards in any game during their now 8-game winning streak.
Busted coverages in the passing game (more on that coming up in a minute) were bad enough, but then the Saints defense's issues with stopping the run appeared to reemerge as well.
In yesterday's game, they got gashed on several huge gains by Redskins RB Samaje Perine; who carried 23 times for 117 yards, including his 1-yard TD run in the 2nd quarter.
To their credit however, the Saints run 'D' did redeem itself when it counted — by stopping Perine on a critical third-down-and-1 at the two-minute warning when a first down would have allowed Washington to run out the clock.
4. MICHAEL MAUTI, LINEBACKER
5th year veteran and back-up Saints linebacker Michael Mauti got his 1st start of the 2017 season yesterday in place of the injured A.J. Klein, but unfortunately did not distinguish himself.
In fact, his performance brought to mind the Saints home loss 2 years ago during the 2015 season against the Tennessee Titans in which he got EMBARRASSINGLY beaten in pass coverage by Titans TE Delanie Walker for a long TD reception in that game.
Yesterday wasn't nearly as bad, but it was still pretty egregious in the sense that Redskins TE and long-time Saints nemesis Vernon Davis had Mauti beaten by a good 5 yards downfield as he caught a 36-yard completion from Redskins QB Kirk Cousins in stride on a 3rd and long play that led to a Redskins TD drive.
Mauti is an invaluable member of the Saints special teams to be sure, but his capabilities as a back-up at the strong side / "Sam" linebacker spot leave a whole hell of a lot to be desired.
3. P.J. WILLIAMS, CORNERBACK
One of 2 — yes, you read that right: TWO — Saints cornerbacks on our "biggest losers" list this week, Williams was playing in place of injured starting rookie / #1 CB Marshon Lattimore yesterday; who left the game and did not return after appearing to sprain his left ankle (though the injury is not thought to be serious).
Williams failed to distinguish himself in Lattimore's absence unfortunately, and was beaten on the outside boundary on a handful of passes by Redskins WR Josh Doctson.
He also drew several penalties on the day that included a defensive holding call that kept one Redskins drive alive; as well as a late hit on Cousins that led to an eventual TD on another drive.
For Williams, it was a less than stellar performance and doesn't give the defensive coaching staff much faith in him going forward. Sadly, his play wasn't the only poor one given by a Saints CB yesterday, which takes us to the next player on this list.
2. DE'VANTE HARRIS, CORNERBACK
Harris was active this week after being kept inactive the past several weeks, to help fill-in for injured Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, who despite being a safety will often times cover opposing WR's in the slot position. But Harris is no Vaccaro, as the team was quickly reminded of yesterday.
Harris looked confused and bewildered at times, and none more so when he appeared to completely blow a coverage assignment that led to a WIDE OPEN 40-yard Redskins TD pass from Cousins to WR Ryan Grant.
He also drew a couple of pass interference and defensive holding calls that allowed several Redskins drives to continue, and seemed to be a bit "in over his head" at times, which may explain why he's been inactive so many times already this year. To his credit, Harris hung in there and almost got a key interception against Cousins late in the game, but it was ruled an incompletion.
In any event, this was a reminder yet again of how critical injuries are to this Saints defensive unit. They're literally one or 2 starters away (Lattimore, Vaccaro) from being a good defense, to a below average one.
1. RYAN RAMCZYK, RIGHT TACKLE
For what could be the one and only time that you'll see him on our "losers" list this year, Saints rookie offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk got "taken to school" yesterday, thanks to the presence of Redskins defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.
Ramczyk has been phenomenal up to this point; and looks as if he will become a future All-Pro for New Orleans for many, many years to come. Unfortunately, yesterday wasn't his day.
Kerrigan completely overwhelmed the rookie, who gave up a couple of sacks and allowed Brees to be hurried or pressured for a large majority of the contest.
Ramczyk will no doubt learn from what happened to him yesterday, and likely will bounce back been better than before. But as yesterday clearly illustrated: the rookie needs to still go through some growing pains along the way.
THE BIGGEST WINNERS
5. WIL LUTZ, KICKER
After ending up on our "losers" list last week, Lutz more than redeemed himself this week.
Lutz has struggled at times this year specifically on some missed extra point attempts, but yesterday Lutz was deadly accurate and downright perfect when the Saints needed him most.
Lutz tallied 16 of the Saints' 34 total points, and made all of his kicks — including a 52-yard field goal and the 28-yard game-winner in overtime that gave New Orleans its 8th straight victory.
4. COBY FLEENER, TIGHT END
In only his 2nd time all year making our "winners" list, Fleener easily had his best performance of the season so far yesterday against the Redskins.
Fleener suddenly came to life and then proceeded to come up big against the Redskins, totaling a season-high 91 yards on five receptions.
Fleener didn't have a single catch in the first 3 quarters, but made a couple of crucial grabs down the field late in the game when the Saints absolutely need him to the most; which helped the Saints eventually tie the game in regulation before going on to win it in overtime.
It was a nice indication that Fleener still has the capability to make his presence felt within the Saints offense, at least in the moments that count the most when wins and losses are ultimately being decided.
3. ALVIN KAMARA, RUNNING BACK
Of course it's no shock to see Kamara on the "winners" list once again, since he's appeared on it every single week this season. But perhaps no one performance that Kamara has had this year thus far was any "sweeter" than yesterday's.
Kamara rushed 8 times for 42 yards and caught six of nine targets for 74 yards and a touchdown late in the 4th quarter to close within two points; and then ran in a successful two-point conversion attempt that eventually would lead to the Saints victory in overtime.
The 4th quarter 18-yard catch-and-run TD came with just over a minute left and the team down 31-23, as he juggled the ball around the 10-yard line before regaining control and bursting through a host of Redskins defenders to get into the end zone. He immediately then backed that up with the successful run for the game-tying two-point conversion.
Kamara continues to be an indispensable member of this Saints team, and he's responsible for the Saints success this season as much as any one individual player (along with Brees, Ingram, Lattimore and Cam Jordan) possibly could be.
2. MARK INGRAM, RUNNING BACK
Ingram averaged 12.2 yards per carry yesterday, a staggering statistic that shows just how dominant of a runner that he was especially in overtime, when his team needed him to be.
Ingram finished with 11 carries for 134 yards, as well as three catches for 21 yards and a touchdown, But it was his PASSION and leadership — qualities that have been questioned by his biggest critics in previous seasons — that came to the forefront once again.
Ingram has emerged as the EMOTIONAL leader of this Saints team right now, and it's become infectious in a positive manner by giving the entire organization a never-say-quit attitude that could eventually take them a very long way into the post-season, and maybe (just maybe) into the month of February.
1. DREW BREES, QUARTERBACK
Unbelievably, this is actually one of the few times this season that Brees has topped the "winners" list, but he couldn't have possibly picked a better time.
Brees completed 29 of 41 passes for 385 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and led his team back from a 15-point deficit in the final 3 minutes by connecting on TD passes of 3 yards to Josh Hill and 18 yards to Kamara in back-to-back series at the end of regulation.
In those two drives alone, Brees was 11-for-11 passing for 164 yards and had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 It was a stark reminder to all of those who allege that Brees is "declining", that he still has plenty left to offer despite the fact that he will turn age 39 in less than 2 months from now.
Brees might only still have another 3 to 4 years left in him, but when he can still do the things in crucial moments as he demonstrated once again yesterday, it just goes to show why he's still one of the sport of Pro Football's greatest players......