- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

With a seven-point lead, the Washington Redskins looked to be in good shape as the first half was creeping to a close Sunday at FedEx Field.

But a bizarre sequence featuring a pair of mistakes by reserves in the secondary halted their momentum and allowed the New Orleans Saints to draw even at halftime.

Saints punter Thomas Morstead had an awful day, averaging 33.3 yards a kick, but with 1:43 left in the second quarter his shortcomings provided New Orleans a gift.

Morstead wobbled one 27 yards, and Redskins return man Antwaan Randle El signaled for Washington’s blockers to scramble. But the short kick hit off Kevin Barnes’ back nonetheless, and Usama Young pounced on the live ball for the Saints.

“I tried to get out of the way like I’m supposed to, and the ball just hit me,” Barnes said. “There’s nothing I could do about it. When the returner tells you to basically scatter, you pretty much move out of the way. But it pretty much never happens on a punt that short. You don’t really ever expect a punter to kick it that short.”

That gave New Orleans first down in Washington territory, but the Redskins’ defense held firm. And on the ensuing third-and-26, standout quarterback Drew Brees threw into triple coverage and safety Kareem Moore made a diving interception.

He quickly got up and started returning it, only to have the ball ripped from his hands by Saints receiver Robert Meachem, who then raced 44 yards for a touchdown.

“I was trying to make a play, trying to go score,” Moore said. “He had me by the arm, and I tried to spin out of it, and then using my momentum just took the ball from me. He made a good play.”

By the time the sequence of Washington missteps was over, there were 22 seconds left in the half and the score was tied 17-17.

“It’s every defensive player’s dream to get a pick six,” Moore said. “I wouldn’t change nothing about it, probably just hold the ball high and tight. Other than that, I’d try to score again.”

Thomas continues growth

Overshadowed in the aftershock of another Redskins meltdown was a career day from Devin Thomas. The second-year receiver finished with seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, all career bests.

Thomas barely made an impact in a rookie season that was plagued by a nagging hamstring injury. But now healthy, he has emerged a go-to target for Jason Campbell.

“I’m starting to get the opportunities now - I had seven catches,” Thomas said. “They are starting to count on me more, and I’m trying to make plays. It feels good, and hopefully I can continue to do it.”

Thomas showed a complete repertoire against the Saints. He stretched the field for gains of 29 and 40 yards in the third quarter, was an asset in the red zone and showed promise returning kicks with a 22.7 yard average.

On both of his touchdowns, Thomas flashed the athleticism that made the Redskins choose him in the second round out of Michigan State in 2008. On his 5-yard score in the second quarter, Thomas came in motion and caught the ball in the flat, then outraced two Saints defenders to the pylon. His second touchdown was a 13-yard catch-and-run on a crossing route in the third quarter in which he tiptoed the sideline and simultaneously avoided an attempt to be pushed out of bounds by Saints cornerback Tracy Porter.

“They are installing new things and trying to get the young guys opportunities to make plays,” Thomas said. “I’m just thankful for it. I appreciate it right now, and I’m going to continue to grow off of it.”

Injury notes

Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (knee sprain) left the game and did not return. Defensive tackle Kedric Golston (elbow), defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (ankle) and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El (sprained shoulder) returned.

Fullback Mike Sellers, whose fumble in overtime doomed the Redskins, cramped up in the locker room after the game and was screaming in pain. His left leg appeared considerably swollen, and he had to be helped into the training room. He has a thigh contusion.

Cornerback Justin Tryon was inactive with the hip pointer he suffered last weekend against Philadelphia, and Byron Westbrook and Barnes saw time on defense in his stead.

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