The Saints are a very good team but they are not unbeatable. They lost three times during the 2011 regular season and once in the playoffs. Can the Redskins learn anything from those games?
Perhaps they can. It would help if they were playing the Saints at FedEx Field. Not that Washington has demonstrated much of an ability to defend its home turf in recent years but all four of New Orleans’ losses last year were on the road. They were a perfect 8-0 in the Superdome.
But the schedule is what it is and the Redskins can’t do anything about the venue. They also probably can’t get to be as good as the Packers or 49ers, the teams that dealt the Saints their first loss of the year and their last loss, respectively. So let’s focus on the Rams and Bucs, two teams that finished with worse records than the Redskins last year but still managed to beat New Orleans.
On Oct. 16, the 3-2 Bucs scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter and took a 20-10 lead into the locker room. The Saints eventually pulled to within three at 23-20 in the fourth quarter but the Bucs held on for a 26-20 win.
Tampa Bay had both a 300-yard passer (Josh Freeman, 303) and a 100-yard rusher (Earnest Graham 109). Still, the Saints outgained them 453 yards to 420 but they didn’t have much balance. Drew Brees passed for 383 yards but his 21 yards rushing nearly led the team (Mark Ingram rushed for 22).
Brees threw three interceptions and the Saints lost a fumble. The Bucs didn’t turn the ball over at all.
That game was a surprise; the Saints’ next loss was a stunner. Two weeks after losing in Tampa the Saints visited the 0-6 Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford was sidelined with an injury and A. J. Feeley was at the helm for the home team.
The identity of the quarterback didn’t matter much as the Saints were fed a steady diet of Steven Jackson. The Rams running back carried 25 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams outgained the Saints on the ground 183 yards to 56.
Turnovers again were an issue for the Saints as Brees threw two interceptions. The Rams did not commit any turnovers.
One Brees interception sealed the deal for the Rams. The Saints had started to mount a comeback from a 24-0 third-quarter deficit. With the score 24-14, Brees threw a pick six to safety Darian Stewart and that was that.
So what are the common themes here? Getting some turnovers, running the ball, and building a big enough lead to survive a Saints run. That sounds like a recipe for success in most games.