LANDOVER, Md. - The New Orleans Saints had no business winning. Two of their biggest plays were unbelievable flukes, bad mistakes that somehow morphed into positive results. Then they needed the other team's kicker to miss a 23-yard field goal just to stay alive, and a freeze-frame replay reversal to get the ball in overtime.
But the Saints are living a charmed life these days, and the Washington Redskins are as snakebit as can be. New Orleans trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter yesterday and played more than four quarters without holding a lead - until Garrett Hartley kicked an 18-yard field goal 6 minutes, 29 seconds into the extra period for a 33-30 win.
"I don't know about the voodoo, but I definitely believe in destiny," said Drew Brees, who led a no-time-out, 80-yard drive in 33 seconds to tie the game late in regulation. "I believe in karma, and what goes around comes around. We've been on the other side of this deal probably too many times, and maybe it's our time, that we start catching some of the breaks."
Catching the breaks? That sure explains how the Saints are now 12-0 with the NFC South title in hand. How else to explain a badly shanked punt that turns into a 29-yard gain, or an interception by Brees that somehow becomes a touchdown for teammate Robert Meachem after the pick was fumbled?
"Crazy plays," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "When you're hot, you're hot. And sometimes it's better to be lucky than good."
New Orleans also showed it can brave the cold, winning a sub-40 degree game for the first time since 1995. Well, maybe. The defense, led by former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, offered minimal resistance, allowing Washington to pile up 455 yards and score 30 points for the first time in Jim Zorn's 28 games as coach.
"When we do this long enough," Saints coach Sean Payton said, "you find yourself on the end of wins maybe sometimes that you feel fortunate to have."
The biggest number for Washington (3-9) was three - as in the number of consecutive losses in which they've blown a fourth-quarter lead.
"I don't think the best team won today," Redskins center Casey Rabach said. "We had some bad breaks, some bizarre things happened."
Leading by 30-23, the Redskins marched downfield and set up the gimme field goal that would have put the game out of reach. But Shaun Suisham pushed the attempt wide right from a mere 23 yards with 1:52 to play. The Redskins had the ball to start the extra period, but Mike Sellers fumbled when he was upended by Chris McAlister after making a catch.
New Orleans 0 17 3 10 3 – 33
Washington 10 7 10 3 0 – 30
Was–Davis 8 pass from Campbell (Suisham kick), 8:11.
Was–FG Suisham 32, 2:48.
NO–FG Hartley 34, 12:14.
NO–Colston 40 pass from Brees (Hartley kick), 5:34.
Was–D.Thomas 5 pass from Campbell (Suisham kick), 2:17.
NO–Meachem fumble recovery in end zone (Hartley kick), :22.
Was–FG Suisham 28, 11:00.
Was–D.Thomas 13 pass from Campbell (Suisham kick), 7:48.
NO–FG Hartley 27, 2:35.
Was–FG Suisham 21, 12:51.
NO–FG Hartley 28, 6:52.
NO–Meachem 53 pass from Brees (Hartley kick), 1:19.
NO–FG Hartley 18, 8:31.
First downs 25 28
Total Net Yards 463 455
Rushes-yards 24-55 25-88
Passing 408 367
Punt Returns 1-(-2) 1-0
Kickoff Returns 7-145 8-177
Interceptions Ret. 1-8 1-14
Comp-Att-Int 35-49-1 30-42-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-11 0-0
Punts 3-33.3 1-51.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-3
Penalties-Yards 7-102 2-15
Time of Possession 35:06 31:23
Rushing: New Orleans, Bell 16-34, P.Thomas 6-18, Henderson 1-3, Bush 1-0. Washington, Ganther 8-46, Cartwright 13-39, Mason 3-4, Campbell 1-(minus 1).
Passing: New Orleans, Brees 35-49-1-419. Washington, Campbell 30-42-1-367.