Saints 33, Redskins 30, OT

Oh, what a charmed life the unbeaten New Orleans Saints are

leading these days.

There’s surely no other way to explain the shanked punt that

turned into a 29-yard gain, the Drew Brees interception that

somehow morphed into another touchdown for Robert Meachem, or the

fact that the Washington Redskins missed a 23-yard field goal that

would have sealed a victory with less than 2 minutes to play.

Therefore, it seemed inevitable that Brees, operating with no

timeouts, would lead an 80-yard, game-tying drive that took just 33

seconds and tied the game with 1:19 remaining. And, of course, in

overtime, the Saints benefited from a replay reversal and won

Sunday’s game 33-30 on Garrett Hartley’s 18-yard field goal 6:29

into the extra period.

The victory improved the Saints to 12-0 and clinched the NFC

South, although it was a far-from-perfect performance. The defense

gave up 455 yards to the Redskins, and the offense had to make up a

10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Washington (3-9) blew a

late fourth-quarter lead to lose for the third straight week.

Brees finished 35 for 49 for 419 yards with two touchdowns and

one interception for the Saints, who won a sub-40 degree game for

the first time since 1995. Meachem caught eight passes for 142

yards and scored the late game-tying touchdown, a 53-yarder wide

open over the middle that made the score 30-30.

Meachem also scored a fluke first-half touchdown by forcing a

fumble after an interception.

After Meachem’s late touchdown, the Saints had a chance to win

in regulation after Jonathan Vilma’s interception, but Hartley –

playing his first game of the season in place of benched veteran

John Carney – was well short with a 58-yard field goal attempt on

the last play of regulation.

The Redskins won the toss and had the ball to start overtime,

but Mike Sellers fumbled when he was upended by Chris McAlister

after making a catch – a turnover that was only verified after a

meticulous replay reversal – giving the Saints the ball at the

Washington 37. Brees needed only seven plays to march New Orleans

to the 1 before Hartley made the game-winning kick.

Jason Campbell completed 30 of 42 passes for 367 yards and three

touchdowns with one interception for the Redskins. Campbell

frequently picked on first-round draft pick Malcolm Jenkins, and

much-maligned 2008 second-rounders Devin Thomas and Fred Davis had

big games once again. Thomas had seven catches for a career-high

100 yards and two touchdowns, and Davis had five receptions for 53

yards and a score.

The Redskins’ season-high yardage output came against Saints

defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who ran Washington’s defense

from 2004-07 and was passed over for the head coaching job when Joe

Gibbs retired. Players on both teams expected the fiery Williams to

try to punish his old team relentlessly, but his players frequently

missed tackles and couldn’t shut the Redskins down when New Orleans

was trying to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter.

Suisham’s missed field goal bailed the Saints out, but it wasn’t

the first big New Orleans break of the game. Meachem’s first-half

touchdown was an especially unforgettable play.

Facing third-and-26 at the Redskins 44, Brees backpedalled under

pressure and threw a desperation pass deep over the middle toward

Jeremy Shockey in triple coverage. Kareem Moore dived over

Shockey’s back to make an interception, rolled over, got up and ran

14 yards before Meachem simply took the ball away from an upright

Moore and started running down the sideline – high-stepping 44

yards for the team’s ninth return touchdown of the season, tying

the game at 17 with 22 seconds left in the first half.

Just as strange as that touchdown was a play that set it up. A

few plays earlier, when the Saints punted from their own 30, Thomas

Morstead shanked the kick so badly that it hit Washington’s Kevin

Barnes flush on the back near the sideline. New Orleans recovered

at the Redskins 41.