Redskins blow 15-point lead, suffer crushing loss to Saints

NEW ORLEANS — The Washington Redskins lost their top running back and maybe their season. They turned what should have been a feel-good day, one where they could celebrate their quarterback’s aggressiveness and their best win, into a loss that will haunt them for a long time.

The Redskins held a 15-point advantage over the New Orleans Saints late in the fourth quarter. Write the story: Aggressive QB! Big-time road win! Instead, it could turn out to be a big part of the Redskins’ season obituary.

They’re not done, of course. There are six games remaining. But after losing 34-31 in overtime in the Big Easy — which also could be the nickname of the Saints’ last two scoring drives in regulation — the Redskins’ playoff hopes are on life support. They’re 4-6 in a conference where it could take 10 wins to make the postseason.

Making matters worse, the Redskins lost star running back Chris Thompson to a third quarter leg injury; he had to be fitted for an air cast before being carted off. Losing their most dynamic offensive player won’t help one bit. Indeed, he might be the hardest player on offense to replace.

Even after Thompson left, the Redskins were in good position. They were aggressive and moving the ball at will. They scored two touchdowns after Thompson left, with quarterback Kirk Cousins leading the way. He finished the game 22-of-32 for 322 yards and three touchdowns. He was attacking downfield, just the way everyone wanted.

He should have ended the game accepting pats on the back for a big win: 31 points is enough to win any game. Or should be.

It wasn’t. The defense couldn’t stop New Orleans. Still, even after a two-point conversion tied the game, the Redskins drove to New Orleans’ 34-yard line where an intentional grounding not only cost Washington 10 yards but also precious time as 10 seconds were run off the clock.

In overtime, Cousins and the offense moved backwards again and the defense faltered again when it took the field. The defense had done well for much of the game, with the exception of a costly penalty (linebacker Preston Smith’s roughing penalty that extended a touchdown drive) early in the game.

There will be plenty of blame to go around in this one. But for nearly the entire game the offense did what everyone could have hoped for. It ran the ball well with rookie Samaje Perine (23 carries, 117 yards) and featured Cousins attacking down the field. Coach Jay Gruden was aggressive, going for it on a fourth-and-6 — and converting. And a fake field goal deep in their own territory worked as well.

But it all only set up a crushing loss. The Redskins have proven to be a resilient team under Gruden. They’ve been a banged-up one all season, but this time it’s the mental wounds that will be toughest to heal.

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