- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

Even though the New Orleans Saints’ offense was humming at full capacity and his team had gotten few breaks in the first 58 minutes, Casey Rabach expected to be right back on the field after Shaun Suisham missed a short field goal that would have sealed a stunning Washington Redskins win Sunday.

“Four-and-out and we’re in the victory formation,” Rabach said.

But instead of taking game-ending kneel-downs to run out the clock, the Redskins allowed an 80-yard, game-tying touchdown drive, fumbled on their lone possession of overtime and fell to the undefeated Saints 33-30 at FedEx Field.

Their last three losses by a combined seven points, the Redskins (3-9) remain a team unable to finish what it starts.

“This is hard,” coach Jim Zorn said. “We really connected on a lot of things, but they did as well. It was a great game. It just feels awful to be the losing head coach again.”

There were plenty of players with similar emotions: Suisham, who missed a 23-yard field goal with 1:52 remaining that would have stretched the Redskins lead to 10 points; safety LaRon Landry, who was victimized on two double moves that resulted in touchdown passes of 40 and 53 yards; and fullback Mike Sellers, whose fumble set up the Saints’ winning score.

Wasted was quarterback Jason Campbell’s best game of the year (30-for-42 for a career-best 367 yards and three touchdowns) and receiver Devin Thomas’ best game of his career (seven catches for 100 yards and two scores).

“It’s bizarre; it’s hard to swallow this one,” Rabach said. “Today the best team didn’t win out there.”

The Redskins didn’t trail until Garrett Hartley’s 18-yard field goal with 8:31 remaining in overtime.

Things only got worse for the Redskins after Suisham missed a chip shot, his third unsuccessful attempt in three games.

Citing the potential 33-23 lead, Zorn said: “Ten points was going to win that game.”

New Orleans needed only five plays to drive 80 yards, tying the game for a third time when Robert Meachem got behind Landry and caught a 53-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 remaining.

“Again, when it really, really mattered, we didn’t get it done,” safety Reed Doughty said. “The only thing you can attribute that to, you need better communication and better focus on what we’re trying to stop. We knew they needed seven. We can’t give up seven. If they march it down the field and make a play with one second on the clock, that happens. But not a long shot to the end zone.”

Said Saints coach Sean Payton: “We felt like the [Redskins’] safeties were going to some of those in-cuts, and certainly they did, and [Brees] made some plays behind the defense.”

The Saints almost won it in regulation - Jonathan Vilma intercepted Campbell with 28 seconds left, but Hartley’s 58-yard field goal was short as time expired.

The Redskins won the coin toss, and on their third play, Sellers caught a pass in the flat and was hit immediately by Chris McAlister. Officials originally ruled Sellers down by contact, but Payton called a timeout to stall. The replay booth reviewed the play and said Sellers had fumbled.

Eight plays later, Hartley’s fourth field goal allowed the Saints to escape.

“When you lose one like that against a team you knew you should have beat, it’s even tougher,” Redskins running back Rock Cartwright said.

The teams combined for 53 first downs and 918 total yards. The Redskins’ 455 yards were a season high, and their point total marked the first time they had reached 30 in Zorn’s 28-game tenure.

The Redskins led early 10-0 (a Fred Davis 8-yard touchdown catch and a 32-yard Suisham field goal) and were poised to enter halftime up 17-10 only to see two bizarre plays go against them.

Forced to punt late in the first half, New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead’s effort was so poor it hit Redskins blocker Kevin Barnes in the back, and the Saints recovered. On third-and-26, Brees threw into traffic, and safety Kareem Moore posted his first career interception.

But during the return, Meachem stripped the ball from Moore and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.

“We can’t have the ball taken away from us like we did, especially against a team like that,” Zorn said.

Having already blown the 10-0 lead, the Redskins built the advantage to 27-17 midway through the third quarter on Campbell’s 13-yard touchdown to Thomas.

Seven Redskins players caught at least two passes.

“Jason was most excellent,” Zorn said. “I thought today he really extended himself down the field with his vision. He saw receivers that were wide open; in the past, he’s missed a couple of those things. We took some shots today. He made some big throws down the field. We didn’t keep the ball in 4- or 5-yard increments. It was due to our protection. It was due to Jason reading.”

Against a pressure defense, Campbell performed. Against an undefeated team, the Redskins overcame the fluky Barnes and Moore plays. But they couldn’t avoid more fourth-quarter misery.

Said Zorn: “It’s hard to explain how we lose this game when we had so many good things going for us.”

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