LANDOVER, Md. (AP) Oh, what a charmed life the unbeaten New Orleans Saints are leading these days.
There’s surely no other way to explain the shanked punt that turned into a 29-yard gain, the Drew Brees interception that somehow morphed into another touchdown for Robert Meachem, or the fact that the Washington Redskins missed a 23-yard field goal that would have sealed a victory with less than 2 minutes to play.
Therefore, it seemed inevitable that Brees, operating with no timeouts, would lead an 80-yard, game-tying drive that took just 33 seconds and tied the game with 1:19 remaining. And, of course, in overtime, the Saints benefited from a replay reversal and won Sunday’s game 33-30 on Garrett Hartley’s 18-yard field goal 6:29 into the extra period.
The victory improved the Saints to 12-0 and clinched the NFC South, although it was a far-from-perfect performance. The defense gave up 455 yards to the Redskins, and the offense had to make up a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Washington (3-9) blew a late fourth-quarter lead to lose for the third straight week.
Brees finished 35 for 49 for 419 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Saints, who won a sub-40 degree game for the first time since 1995. Meachem caught eight passes for 142 yards and scored the late game-tying touchdown, a 53-yarder wide open over the middle that made the score 30-30.
Meachem also scored a fluke first-half touchdown by forcing a fumble after an interception.
After Meachem’s late touchdown, the Saints had a chance to win in regulation after Jonathan Vilma’s interception, but Hartley – playing his first game of the season in place of benched veteran John Carney – was well short with a 58-yard field goal attempt on the last play of regulation.
The Redskins won the toss and had the ball to start overtime, but Mike Sellers fumbled when he was upended by Chris McAlister after making a catch – a turnover that was only verified after a meticulous replay reversal – giving the Saints the ball at the Washington 37. Brees needed only seven plays to march New Orleans to the 1 before Hartley made the game-winning kick.