Saints vs Redskins: Drew Brees Struggles but Loss to Washington a Team Effort

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterSeptember 9, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 09:   Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball as he is tackled by  Ryan Kerrigan #91 of the Washington Redskins  during the season opener at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Redskins defeated the Saints 40-32.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

You have to go all the way back to Dec. 24, 2006 to find a game where Drew Brees threw the football with less accuracy than he did Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

On that date in 2006, during the Saints’ Week 15 matchup against the New York Giants, Brees connected on just 40.6 percent of his passes—5.6 percentage points lower than Sunday’s performance where Brees went 24-for-52 and threw two interceptions.

Brees and the Saints won that game back in 2006 but could not come from behind to land an opening-week win against Washington, who put up 10 points in each of the four quarters Sunday and won by eight points.

After setting an NFL single-season record by completing 71.2 percent of his passes last year, Brees opened up the 2012 season in lackluster fashion.

Maybe Brees should not have taken so long to sign that record multi-year contract. Possibly Brees and the Saints missed the potent play-calling of suspended head coach Sean Payton.

Could it be that Brees just had a bad day?

On the flip side of the poor passing percentage coin, Brees tallied up 339 yards passing and connected on three touchdown passes. But (there’s always a but) his two fourth-quarter interceptions shipwrecked the Saints.

It wasn’t just Brees making mistakes out there, though.

Marques Colston caught a pass and charged to the Redskins’ 3-yard line before the ball was stripped by Washington cornerback Cedric Griffin. That play alone could have been the difference in an eight-point loss and a tie game.

The Saints also made mental mistakes. The team was penalized seven times for a total of 55 yards. Only five of the Saints’ 12 drives went 55 yards or more.

Speaking of drives, five of the New Orleans drives gained zero yards or went backward. All of those resulted in three-and-out possessions.

As rough a day as Brees had, the Saints’ running game offered no assistance. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram combined for 10 carries for 32 yards—their 3.2 yards per carry never enough to really get a drive rolling.

Teams don’t win too many games when the quarterback lands less than 50 percent of his passes. But the Saints were still in the game late. That said, don’t tape Brees’ picture on the dart board as the goat in New Orleans for its Week 1 loss.

Instead, look to mental mistakes and freak happenings—mistakes like a 12 men on the field penalty that helped Washington keep a drive alive, or a Saints timeout because Ben Grubbs couldn’t get his shoe back on after a play had ended.

Sunday’s loss was an out-of-sync beating, a game of bad breaks and mental mistakes that crushed the Saints.

But don’t forget that New Orleans had the ball with 22 seconds on the clock and a chance to tie the game. Brees completed two passes for 41 yards and had the Saints on the Redskins’ 39-yard line. The game ended on Brees’ second interception of the day.

That game-ending interception won’t be the last Brees throws this season. But, if statistical trends ring true—the last time Brees had a game this bad was 81 games ago—Brees will bounce back.

The question is—will the Saints fix the bad breaks and mental mishaps?