Following the Washington Redskins’ 34-31 loss to the New Orleans Saints, 106.7 The Fan’s beat reporter Craig Hoffman captured three need-to-know notes:
How do you process a game in which a team loses in heartbreaking fashion despite so clearly being the superior team for at least 50 minutes, if not 57, despite not having a chance on paper beforehand?
I don’t know. If someone can figure it out, please tell me. It might make for a better column than whatever I’m about to write, but since you’re already here you should read this anyway:
1. The Redskins were better for 50+ minutes. They led 31-16 with six minutes to go after responding to anything the Saints did and perhaps the biggest gut punch of their season in losing Chris Thompson. Jay Gruden deserves enormous credit for calling the fake punt inside his own 20-yard line as a way to grab momentum back. It’s as perfect of a situation as you can have, inside your own 20-yard line, and the team responded with a touchdown drive.
The Redskins are notorious for making things difficult, so there was no real thought that the game was over, but predicting the heartbreak to come also seemed impossible. First thought though is the Redskins are a good football team who play well against other good football teams and sometimes you lose those games because the other team is good, too.
2. With that said, the Redskins beat themselves down the stretch with some serious help from the Saints. Drew Brees found the weak link in the Redskins defense and that is covering tight ends. Between DeAngelo Hall and Zach Brown, the Redskins could not cover Fleener. Brees threw to him again and again with no resistance and massive success. He had 4 catches for 62 yards on an 8 play, 75-yard drive. It was awful, only matched by the Redskins failures in the succeeding two drives to stop the run. The Fleener drive finished them. They were gassed. It showed.
3. The injuries are getting to be more than this team can bear. I’ll write about Chris Thompson separately because he deserves his own attention, but Samaje Perine actually did a phenomenal job rising to the occasion. This was his best game as a pro, but let’s not pretend not having Thompson in crucial situations late didn’t matter.
As the defense got gashed late, it was clear they could have used more bodies. Terrell McClain had been out with a toe for much of the game. The linebackers had no spell the entire night and neither of them was 100 percent healthy. Zach Brown, who has had a sore Achilles this week, again left the game in a walking boot. That is for maintenance and protection, not because he absolutely needs it, but he has not been the same player the last two weeks.
The mantra is next man up. The reality is the Redskins are running out of men. They play again in four days.
Quote of the day: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Kirk Cousins is fond of this phrase and dropped it in his post-game interview with the Redskins website. Jay Gruden happened to be leaving at the same time this interview was being taped in the doorway, as was I. Gruden heard the quote and said “I like that one.” I turned to him and said, “You guys don’t really have a choice.” All he could do was smile and nod. As stated above, they play again in four days.
Stat of the day: 535 yards. That’s how many the Redskins gave up. It’s the third straight week they’ve given up over 400. Hard hitting analysis: that’s not good.
Follow 106.7 The Fan’s Craig Hoffman on Twitter.