NFL's top game: Saints extend streak to 8 with OT win
New Orleans – Alvin Kamara climbed into the Superdome stands, stood in the first row with his arms folded and soaked in the adulation of fans who were relishing their decision to stick around after all had looked lost.
Kamara’s celebration of his 18-yard touchdown reception had an air of presumption, given New Orleans still needed a 2-point conversion to erase what had been a 15-point deficit when Washington scored with 5:58 left in regulation. Then again, the Saints’ confidence was understandable; they haven’t lost in more than two months.
Kamara climbed back down in time to take a pitch into the end zone for the needed conversion, and the Saints won their eighth straight when Wil Lutz’s 28-yard field goal capped a 34-31 triumph in overtime.
“We just kind of hung in there. Guys believed,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, whose mind seemed to be racing as he labored to recall details of the frenzied final stretch. “There were a lot of things happening in a short period of time.”
Drew Brees passed for 385 yards and two touchdowns, going 11 of 11 for 164 yards and his only two touchdowns on New Orleans’ final two possessions of regulation. His first TD went to tight end Josh Hill from 3 yards out with 2:53 to go and the last to Kamara with 1:05 left.
“I tip my hat to Brees. That’s what he does. That’s what great quarterbacks do. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to make plays,” said Washington safety D.J. Swearinger, whose first-quarter interception was Brees’ first turnover in four games. “We didn’t do our job. We beat ourselves for sure.”
The unlikely comeback made New Orleans the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to win eight straight after starting 0-2.
“We haven’t encountered a game like this in a while, and it was great to watch the team rally,” said Brees, whose team won its previous seven games more convincingly. “We have the confidence to win in a lot of different ways. We have the personnel to do it and the right attitude to do it.”
The Saints (8-2) set up their final drive by stopping Samaje Perine on third-and-1 at the two-minute warning when a first down would have allowed Washington (4-6) to run out the clock.
Washington moved into winning field-goal range in the final minute of regulation, only to be pushed back by a fluky grounding penalty that appeared to result from Kirk Cousins’ miscommunication receiver Jamison Crowder, followed by a sack.
Washington received the ball first in overtime, but the Saints’ hobbled defense, which gave up more yards than in any game during its winning streak, forced a quick punt thanks in part to Cameron Jordan’s sack.
“We had a surplus of emotion and a surplus of confidence,” Jordan said. “That was the difference-maker.”
Mark Ingram capped a 134-yard rushing performance with gains of 20 and 31 yards on back-to-back carries to set up Lutz’s clinching kick.
Cousins (Michigan State) passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns, finishing 22 of 32 with no interceptions. His touchdowns went for 40 yards to Ryan Grant, 16 to Chris Thompson and 7 to Jeremy Sprinkle. Grant’s TD, which made it 24-13 in the third quarter, capped a drive extended by a successful fake punt on fourth-and-1 from the Washington 15.
Perine carried 23 times for 117 yards, including his 1-yard TD.
New Orleans entered the game without veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro and then lost top cornerback Marshon Lattimore on Washington’s first possession when he twisted his left ankle diving to break up a pass in the end zone. Leading tackler A.J. Klein (ankle) also missed his first game.
Washington gained 456 yards — its second most this season — against a defense that hadn’t allowed more than 347 yards in any game during New Orleans’ winning streak.
Cousins said he understood why the pivotal grounding penalty was called when he threw to an empty spot where Crowder had vacated, but he disagreed with officials’ interpretation.
“If he had turned and looked at me and the ball had been 10 feet over his head, I can just say the ball slipped out of my hand,” Cousins said. “That’s what I didn’t understand — how do you separate an inaccurate throw from no eligible in the area? I felt like an eligible was in the area, so I threw it in the area.”