NEW ORLEANS — Facing Drew Brees, the most accurate passer in the NFL a year ago, the pressure figured to be on Robert Griffin III. Even though he wasn’t going up against Brees directly, the potential for the New Orleans Saints quarterback to pile up yards and touchdowns seemed daunting.
It didn’t take long Sunday for the onus to go onto Brees. With Griffin and the Washington Redskins putting up points like this team hasn’t seen under coach Mike Shanahan, the Saints needed to match. Thanks to the defense’s strong showing that forced New Orleans out of its comfort zone, that never materialized.
“What we knew was they would make plays, but let’s make them earn everything,” middle linebacker London Fletcher said. That was really our mindset: Let’s not give up the big play. Let’s make them earn everything they get.”
Brees used late drives to finish with 339 yards, but he was just 24 for 52. That completion percentage of 46.2 was his worst since connecting on 40.6 percent on Christmas Eve 2006. It also was his first time under 50 percent since then.
Some of that was inaccuracy late, but the Redskins‘ defense deserves credit.
“We were able to create some pressure, make them make mistakes,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “I think just the way our offense played, putting up points, I think [Brees] felt like he had to make the extra play, and it caused him to make some mistakes.”
Fletcher and Bowen singled out the offense’s role in their own success Sunday, saying the potent scoring output allowed them more margin for error. That was something not present last year, when the defense was counted on just to keep the Redskins in games.
Sunday, they watched Griffin, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon and Co. go to work and backed them up.
“When you saw the way our offense was moving the ball, eating up clock making big plays from our standpoint definitely that was a sight for sore eyes,” Fletcher said.
There were moments when they were in danger, such as when Marques Colston got to the 3-yard line in the second quarter before cornerback Cedric Griffin stripped him, leading to a touchback. Or when Brees was driving to tie the score in the fourth and DeJon Gomes, filling in at strong safety for the injured Brandon Meriweather, picked him off and returned it 49 yards.
“Those are huge plays. One saves a touchdown, one sets up a touchdown,” Fletcher said. “We need all those plays.”
“We wanted to make them one-dimensional,” Bowen said.
Mission accomplished. The Saints finished with just 10 carries for 32 yards, between Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram.