- Washington Head Coach Jay Gruden coached this game as if it were the last game of the season, and for the most part, did an excellent job of staying aggressive in all three phases. The defense blitzed often and hit Saints QB Drew Brees numerous times, the offense went for it on 4th down, and the punt team pulled off a fake on a 4th & 1 on the Redskins’ own 15-yard line.
- Gruden’s defense even played well for the majority of the game, keeping both Saints RBs Ingram and Kamara in check.
- For the Redskins, the outcome of this game came down to two play calls.
- Key Decision #1: Ahead 31-23 with 2:34 left in the game, the Redskins faced a 3 & 1 on their own 34-yard line. The Saints had exhausted all of their time outs; a first down by the Redskins would effectively end the game. Redskins RB Samaje Perine had been having an excellent game, and Gruden went to him one more time on a running play into a stacked box. Saints LB Manti Teo made an excellent stop and forced a Redskins punt, which set the stage for the Saints’ comeback.
- Key Decision #2: After the Saints’ game-tying TD drive near the end of regulation, the Redskins moved efficiently into FG position at the Saints’ 34 yard line, with a minute left. The Redskins had a 1st & 10 with 31 seconds left in the game and no time outs, and the ball already was within K Rose’s range. This meant that notwithstanding the Saints’ furious comeback, the Redskins already were in position to win the game in regulation. But with 31 seconds left and a first down, Gruden could have decided to run the ball a yard or two closer on 1st down, collect his team for a spike, and then run the FG unit onto the field. Gruden didn’t choose this course, however. He called a pass play, but Cousins felt pressure, stayed in the pocket, and ultimately threw the ball far out of bounds, but with no receiver anywhere in the area. Intentional grounding was called, the ball was moved out of FG range, and a 10 second runoff also was assessed. This sequence caused the Redskins to essentially lose an opportunity to win the game.
- Saints Head Coach Sean Payton managed the end of game sequence perfectly, and his clock management allowed the Saints to tie, and ultimately win this game. He still sometimes burns time outs a bit too quickly early in games, but the two time outs he conserved to use at the end of regulation came in handy at the most critical juncture of the game.