DeJon Gomes, like the rest of the Redskins’ secondary, was expected to struggle against Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints’ vaunted air attack.
Only he didn’t.
With the exception of a personal foul in the first quarter and pass interference infraction in the third, it could be argued that Gomes was among the Redskins’ best players on defense last Sunday. He finished the game tied for team-lead in tackles (4), combined tackles (5) and returned a fourth quarter interception 49 yards deep into Saints’ territory.
Not bad for a second-year professional making just his sixth career NFL start. The 22-year-old strong safety replaced injured veteran Brandon Meriweather (sprained knee) and figures to get the call again Sunday in St. Louis.
“I thought he did a good job in a lot of areas, but there’s room for improvement like everybody,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “I thought the guy stepped in and was cool and calm. That’s kind of his demeanor anyway. He did a nice job in both the running game and the pass game.”
Gomes’ afternoon did not get off to the type of start he had envisioned.
On the Saints’ second drive of the game, he was whistled for a late hit on Darren Sproles, putting New Orleans on the Redskins’ 20-yard line. On the next play, Brees hit Jimmy Graham for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I guess it could have went either way,” Gomes said Thursday. But “I have to be smarter than that.”
It was the lowlight of an afternoon that, for the most part, only got better for Gomes.
In the third quarter, he was whistled for pass interference after breaking up a pass deep in Washington’s end. Four plays later, the Saints settled for a field goal.
Gomes then made amends for the two penalties with his clutch play in the fourth quarter as the Saints mounted a comeback bid. The home team had trimmed its deficit to 33-25, had the ball again and the Redskins were reeling.
But Gomes, in essence, clinched the Redskins’ victory when he stepped between Brees and Lance Moore on a deep pass near midfield. Gomes snatched the ball, zigzagged across the field and nearly scored before getting shoved out of bounds at the three-yard line.
Alfred Morris punched the ball into the end zone next play to put the Redskins ahead 40-25 and the game out of New Orleans’ reach.
Gomes said it was his biggest play since junior college.
“My high school running back days came out of me,” he said with a laugh. “I was just trying to get as many yards as I could.”
Told of Gomes’ running back comment, Haslett had some fun at the safety’s expense.
“Why didn’t he score then?” he cracked.