Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden had issued warnings about the perils of giving Saints quarterback Drew Brees second chances.
His words went unheeded, and a humbling lesson followed.
Having allowed an NFL-low average of 187.3 passing yards through three games, the Redskins kept the Saints’ first two drives alive with three penalties on what would have been third-down stops. Both drives ended in touchdowns, and helped the Saints build a comfortable first-half lead in what became a 43-19 rout.
Washington allowed Brees to throw for 250 yards in the first half alone and move ahead of Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time passing leader.
“This league and this game is hard enough when you do everything right,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “When you beat yourself, then you have no chance, and we did that too many times tonight.”
Kerrigan sacked Brees on third down during the Saints’ second series, but the play went for naught when teammate Montae Nicholson was penalized for unnecessary roughness on running back Mark Ingram after Brees hit the ground.
“He (Nicholson) is a better player than that,” Gruden said. “There was a lot of jabbering going on, but we have to rise above it and understand the ramifications if you get in a pushing and shoving match after the play. He deserved the penalty.”
The Redskins thought they had stopped the Saints again when Brees was tackled short of the goal line on a third-down scramble later in the drive, but cornerback Quinton Dunbar was called for holding.
Given an automatic first down, Brees hit wide open tight end Josh Hill for a 3-yard score in the back of the end zone.
New Orleans scored its first touchdown after a holding call on cornerback Josh Norman extended a drive that appeared to be a three-and-out.
“When you give Drew Brees extra snaps, he’s going to make you pay,” Gruden said. “They (the penalties) were huge. You can’t put a finger on how huge they are. We have not been a very good team when we get behind for whatever reason.”
After the spate of flags, the Redskins could not touch the Saints the rest of the way. Brees completed 26 of 29 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns, including the record-breaking 62-yard strike down the sideline to uncovered rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith that made the score 26-6 with 2:36 left in the first half.
Smith, who had one catch in the Saints’ first four games, was one of many open receivers.
“Obviously we didn’t show up today,” Dunbar said. “There were a lot of busted coverages out there. We just have to get together and work on communication.”
Washington stayed within range early on a pair of field goals from former Saints kicker Dustin Hopkins, trailing 13-6, but not for long. New Orleans scored touchdowns on six of its first eight possessions, with the only exceptions being a fumble and a kneel-down at the end of the first half.
The Redskins did not force a fourth down until the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the Saints kicked a field goal to go ahead 43-13. New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead never put his foot into the ball.
“It was a bad day all around for us from start to finish,” Kerrigan said. “I didn’t know they had a punter.”
Gruden benched Norman at the start of the second half, and Smith beat backup cornerback Greg Stroman for a 35-yard score as the Saints went ahead 33-13.
“That was my call there for the first series,” Gruden said of sitting Norman. “He finished the game and played a lot better in the second half.”
Norman did not address his brief benching directly, talking instead about the coverage breakdowns the Redskins (2-2) needed to address as a team.
Still leading the NFC East, they play host to Carolina on Sunday.
“We have to fix it,” he said. “We have six days to do it.”
Source: The Associated Press