Redskins-Saints takeaways: Defense gives up too many big plays as offense struggles



Chris Thompson brushes off Kurt Coleman in the first quarter. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
October 8 at 11:34 PM

Here are four takeaways from the Redskins’ 43-19 loss to the Saints:

Too many big plays in the Big Easy: The Redskins allowed five plays of 20 yards or more in their first three games, while the Saints had 22 such explosive plays through four weeks. Something had to give, and in the first half, it was Greg Manusky’s defense. New Orleans had two 20-yard gainers on their first possession, including a 28-yard screen pass to Mark Ingram that set up a short touchdown run. A 46-yard pass from Drew Brees to Cameron Meredith set up the Saints’ third score, and Brees broke Peyton Manning’s career passing record with a 62-yard touchdown strike to rookie Tre’Quan Smith late in the second quarter. All told, New Orleans had five plays of at least 20 yards before halftime. Two more on a quick touchdown drive to start the third quarter broke the game open. The Saints’ 43 points were the most allowed by Washington since a 44-16 loss to the Panthers in November 2015.

Early penalties set the tone: The Saints entered the game with the league’s third-highest scoring offense, so while they didn’t need any help moving the ball, Washington’s formerly top-ranked defense was surprisingly generous in the early going. New Orleans’s first possession should’ve resulted in a three-and-out, but a Josh Norman defensive holding penalty extended the drive, which culminated in an Ingram touchdown. Ryan Kerrigan’s first sack of the year should’ve prompted a Saints punt on their second possession, but Montae Nicholson was flagged a 15-yard penalty for shoving Ingram after the play. Later in that drive, Quinton Dunbar’s holding penalty in the end zone capped off Washington’s trifecta of third-down penalties in the game’s first 20 minutes, which helped New Orleans build a 13-3 lead. The Redskins never recovered.

Offense struggles to keep up: Alex Smith had his worst game with the Redskins, completing 23 of 39 passes for 275 yards, no touchdowns and an awful interception in the third quarter when a score drive would’ve given Washington a fighting chance. Smith was pressured throughout the game and sacked three times, one of them resulting in a fumble, and he failed to get into any sort of rhythm. Jamison Crowder led the Redskins with four catches for 55 yards, while tight end Jordan Reed was limited to one catch. With Washington playing catch-up for most of the night, the Redskins’ running game never got going. Adrian Peterson was limited to six yards on four carries.

Missed opportunity: The Redskins had a golden opportunity after watching the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants all lose Sunday, but they failed to put any more distance between themselves and the rest of the division. Washington will still head into its Week 6 showdown at FedEx Field against the 3-1 Panthers atop the NFC East as the only team without a losing record, but the Redskins missed a chance to improve to 3-1 for the first time since 2011. Meanwhile, Washington’s Monday woes continued. The Redskins have lost six straight games on “Monday Night Football” since their overtime win at Dallas in 2014 and are 2-14 on Mondays going back to 2008.

Live updates and analysis

Final: Saints 43, Redskins 19

The Saints held the ball for the final 10:25 of the fourth quarter to ice away a blowout win at home. Drew Brees finished 26 of 29 for 363 yards and three touchdowns while becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards in the process.

4th Quarter

Kapri Bibbs scores Washington’s first points of the second half: Kapri Bibbs capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Washington’s two-point try failed. (Saints 43, Redskins 19, 10:25 4th Quarter)

Will Lutz adds to Saints’ lead: A 44-yard field goal extended New Orleans’ lead to an even 30 points. (Saints 43, Redskins 13, 14:10 4th Quarter)

3rd Quarter

Everything is coming up Saints: Drew Brees is 22 for 25 for 336 yards and three touchdowns. He’s completed passes to nine different receivers, including himself. That’s right. On the final play of the third quarter, Brees caught a pass that was deflected by Preston Smith at the line of scrimmage. (Saints 40, Redskins 13, End 3rd Quarter)

Alex Smith commits another turnover: Smith, who is 19 for 35 for 198 yards, might want to burn the tape from this one. Saints rookie Marcus Davenport had a sack-fumble that was recovered by linebacker A.J. Klein, giving New Orleans the ball back at the Washington 48. (Saints 40, Redskins 13, 2:15 3rd Quarter)

Saints piling on: Three plays after Justin Hardee’s long interception return, backup quarterback Taysom Hill’s one-yard touchdown run and the ensuing extra point game New Orleans a 27-point lead. (Saints 40, Redskins 13, 6:43 3rd Quarter)

Alex Smith throws an interception: The Redskins’ quarterback hasn’t been sharp and it cost Washington on its first drive of the second half. On fourth-and-2 from the New Orleans 31, Justin Hardee stepped in front of a floater in the flat intended for Maurice Harris and returned it inside the Redskins’ 5. Harris was open on the play, but Smith recognized it late and then tried to forced the throw anyway. (Saints 33, Redskins 13, 7:43 3rd Quarter)

Saints open second half with another touchdown: New Orleans needed five plays and fewer than three minutes to go 74 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession of the second half. The big plays were a 23-yard pass to tight end Josh Hill and the second touchdown reception of the game by Tre’Quan Smith, who burned fellow rookie Greg Stroman for a 35-yard score. Drew Brees is up to 499 passing touchdowns for his career. (Saints 33, Redskins 13, 12:23 3rd Quarter)

Halftime: Saints 26, Redskins 13

It could’ve been worse for the Redskins. New Orleans outgained Washington 285-139 in the first half and took advantage of three crucial Redskins penalties to take an early lead behind record-setting Drew Brees, but a Saints turnover before halftime could give Washington hope. That said, New Orleans gets the ball to start the third quarter and the Redskins have yet to force a Saints punt.

2nd Quarter

Redskins capitalize on a turnover: We’ve got a game again. Pernell McPhee recovered a Cameron Meredith fumble after a short reception just before halftime, giving the Redskins the ball at the New Orleans 16-yard line. Washington took advantage of the short field, as Alex Smith ran for a four-yard touchdown three plays later to make it a two-score game. (Saints 26, Redskins 13, 0:26 2nd Quarter)

Another three-and-out for the Redskins: Drew Brees will have a chance to pad his new record for career passing yards, as the Saints got the ball back with a little less than two minutes to play following a Redskins punt. There’s nothing doing offensively for Washington. Another score before the half might be too much to overcome. (Saints 26, Redskins 6, 1:47 2nd Quarter)

Drew Brees becomes NFL’s all-time leading passer, and gives Saints big lead: There’s the record. Drew Brees passed Peyton Manning to become the NFL’s all-time career passing leader with a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tre’Quan Smith, who was wiiiide open down the right sideline. After a brief stoppage in play to allow Brees to celebrate the moment with his teammates and family, the quarterback split out wide on New Orleans’ two-point conversion attempt, which failed. (Saints 26, Redskins 6, 2:36 2nd Quarter)

Washington goes three-and-out: This game is in danger of getting out of hand for the Redskins before halftime. Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense are in rhythm, and are poised to get the ball back with plenty of time to add to their 14-point lead. New Orleans’ first-round draft pick, Marcus Davenport, applied the pressure on third down that led to an Alex Smith incompletion and forced a Redskins punt. (Saints 20, Redskins 6: 2:50 2nd Quarter)

Saints add to lead on Mark Ingram touchdown: Ingram’s second rushing touchdown in his first game back from a season-opening suspension extended the Saints’ lead to 14. Ingram’s plunge capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive that featured a key conversion on third-and-short by backup quarterback Taysom Hill, who ran over Preston Smith, and a 46-yard completion from Drew Brees to Cameron Meredith. Brees is perfectly healthy, but New Orleans likes to work Hill into the game on occasion to run the zone-read. (Saints 20, Redskins 6, 3:43 2nd Quarter)

Dustin Hopkins’ long field goal pulls Washington to within 13-6: The Redskins have yet to find the end zone, but it’s a one-score game at the Superdome after Dustin Hopkins drilled a 53-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. The highlight of the Redskins’ 40-yard drive was a catch and run by Adrian Peterson, who maintained his balance along the left sideline and stiff-armed linebacker Alex Anzalone to pick up a few extra yards. Alex Smith took a deep shot with a well-covered Jamison Crowder on the play that preceded Hopkins’ kick. (Saints 13, Redskins 6, 8:36 2nd Quarter)

Saints take 13-3 lead on Drew Brees touchdown pass: The New Orleans’ offense doesn’t need any help moving the ball, but the Redskins’ defense has been happy to provide it. Washington appeared to have forced the Saints’ first punt of the game after Ryan Kerrigan leveled Drew Brees for his first sack of the season early in the second quarter, but Montae Nicholson gave New Orleans a fresh set of downs by shoving Mark Ingram after the play. Another apparent stop on third-and-goal was negated by a holding penalty on Quinton Dunbar. Brees made Washington pay on the next play, finding tight end Josh Hill in the back of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown pass. Brees is 9 for 10 for 100 yards, and is 141 yards shy of passing Peyton Manning for No. 1 on the all-time list. (Saints 13, Redskins 3, 10:38 2nd Quarter)

1st Quarter

Marshon Lattimore is being evaluated for a concussion: The Saints may have suffered a crucial loss on Washington’s last drive when cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the 2017 defensive rookie of the year, had to be helped off the field after making a tackle on Maurice Harris. Lattimore was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion. (Saints 6, Redskins 3, End of 1st Quarter)

Dustin Hopkins’ 37-yard field goal cuts New Orleans’ lead to 6-3: The Redskins answered the Saints’ quick touchdown drive with a methodical march of their own. Washington’s 15-play drive, which culminated in a Dustin Hopkins field goal, took more than eight minutes and included a couple of conversions on third-and-long. Chris Thompson picked up 17 yards on a catch-and-run on third-and-15. Later in the drive, Paul Richardson Jr. made a leaping, 28-yard grab inside the 10-yard line on third-and-8. A sack by Sheldon Rankins forced Washington to settle for a field goal. New Orleans’ pass rush has been disruptive early on; Cam Jordan had his fifth sack of the season earlier in the drive. (Saints 6, Redskins 3, 2:38 1st Quarter)

Saints strike first on Mark Ingram touchdown run: Mark Ingram, who was suspended for the Saints’ first four games, looked simultaneously well rested and in midseason form on New Orleans’ first drive. After a Josh Norman holding penalty gave the Saints a first down after an apparent three-and-out, Drew Brees hooked up with Michael Thomas for a 20-yard gain. Later in the drive, Ingram took a screen pass 28 yards to the Redskins’ 2-yard line and then barreled into the end zone on the next play. Will Lutz’s ensuing extra point attempt sailed wide right. The Redskins had allowed five plays of 20 or more yards coming into the game. They’ve now allowed two in the first five minutes. (Saints 6, Redskins 0, 10:41 1st Quarter)

Redskins go three-and-out: New Orleans won the toss and elected to defer, giving Alex Smith and the Washington offense the ball first. Smith went deep on play-action on first down, but overthrew Maurice Harris, who was covered down the right sideline. P.J. Williams broke up a pass intended for Adrian Peterson with a big hit on second down and Jamison Crowder was stopped short of the chains on a dump-off pass on third down. (Redskins 0, Saints 0, 13:54 1st Quarter)

Pregame

Josh Doctson, who was questionable for Monday’s game with a heel injury, has officially been ruled out. Maurice Harris will start in his place.

Washington Redskins (2-1) vs. New Orleans Saints (3-1)
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m., Mercedes-Benz Superdome
TV: ESPN, WJLA | Radio: 630, 980 AM; 92.7, 94.3, 105.9 FM
Line: Saints by 6
Box score: Updates every 60 seconds here

The Redskins return to the scene of one of their worst losses in recent years Monday night, with a chance to take control of the NFC East. Washington coughed up a 15-point lead in the final six minutes of regulation last November before losing to the Saints in overtime, an improbable defeat made worse by Chris Thompson’s season-ending injury. Thompson is healthy again, and he and his teammates, including fellow running back Adrian Peterson, are rested coming off a bye.

Washington’s defense faces one of its most difficult challenges of the year in the Saints, who are averaging 34 points per game. Quarterback Drew Brees is 201 yards shy of breaking Peyton Manning’s record for career passing yards, and running back Alvin Kamara is averaging more than 150 total yards per game. New Orleans is also set to welcome back Mark Ingram, who rushed for 134 yards in last year’s meeting and was suspended for the first four games of this season.

The Eagles, Giants and Cowboys all lost on Sunday, ensuring the Redskins will remain atop the division no matter how they fare in New Orleans. An upset win would give Washington a game-and-a-half cushion entering Week 6 and its first 3-1 start since 2011.

Pregame reading:

‘MNF’ analyst Jason Witten thinks Alex Smith brings something to Redskins that Kirk Cousins didn’t

How the Redskins’ Chris Thompson became the littlest back with the biggest role

How to tackle Saints’ Alvin Kamara? Redskins are still trying to figure that out.

Mason Foster excited about ‘Monday Night Football’

Why the Redskins have reason to feel good about their pass coverage so far

Adrian Peterson says he has no beef with the Saints

‘It’s not powder puff’: Josh Norman says roughing-the-passer rules make NFL hard to watch

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